Life in our mountain town: Just how low can that gas tank go? |

Life in our mountain town: Just how low can that gas tank go?

I think we live among many risk-takers here in Truckee.

We have all read about the local firefighters who spent countless hours battling the wildfires that raged around our community this past summer. Other local risk takers include those who rock climb, wakeboard, snowboard, freestyle ski, backcountry ski and all the other adventurers who test their limits against nature, scaling sheer walls of granite, or doing twists and turns and flips in our lakes and on our slopes.

I too am a risk-taker, but of a very different sort. My risk-taking inclination is far more subdued. It has less to do with pushing myself against the odds of nature, and more to do with the amount of gasoline I keep in the tank of my car. I put off the job of filling up my tank until I absolutely have to – a tendency that drives my husband crazy.

One thing he has complained to me about over the years is that apparently when I occasionally borrow his vehicle, I return it with an empty gas tank. Or every time he uses my car, he claims the tank is always on empty. The reason for this is not so much that I am an inconsiderate spouse, but that it never occurs to me to go to the gas station and fill up the tank until it’s empty. So maybe what appears as near empty to my husband is more like a quarter full to me.

Because I am generally an optimist in life, when I see that I have a quarter of a tank of gas, I never think, “Oh, I’d better get some gas.” Instead I think, “I have a whole quarter of a tank left.”

I do realize that this isn’t exactly responsible behavior, because I actually have run out of gas twice during the time I’ve lived in Truckee, but, in my defense, it’s not happened since I had children.

It’s clear that no matter how many times my husband and I revisit this issue, we just think differently.

For instance, I have seen him fill up his tank when he still has half a tank of gas left. He calls this “topping off.” I don’t understand that kind of expenditure of time when it’s not necessary right that moment. He says, “Why not fill up when you pass the gas station?”

I think what it comes down to is that we have a different perspectives on time, thinking ahead, and worrying. I understand that our time is valuable, but I don’t tend to be much of a worrier.

Just recently I learned that my husband has a policy in which he requires every driver on his paving crew to fill up their gas tanks each morning before they set out for the day. I asked him, “They have to get gas even if they don’t need it?” The answer is yes.

This makes perfect sense to my husband, as he is always thinking ahead. It strikes me as a little excessive, but then again, it’s not me who has to go out and fetch broken-down paving crews who are stuck somewhere because they’ve run out of gas.

I once had a friend during the years when I worked down at the University of Nevada, Reno who did an experiment to see just how far he could drive after the orange warning signal lit up on his dashboard indicating a near-empty tank of gas. He filled up a gas can and stored it in his trunk, and then set out driving east out of Reno. If I remember correctly, he got almost to Fallon, Nev., a nearly 50-mile drive, before he ran out of gas.

I enjoy referring to this story whenever my husband points out to me that I really need to fill up my gas tank because he notices that I am driving around with that annoying orange light. Actually, it annoys him, but I don’t let it bother me, at least not for several days.

“Oh, that light has only been on a few days,” I will tell him, “And besides, I could drive nearly to Fallon before I would actually run out of gas.”

So after passing the gas station all week, I will finally stop. And while the friendly folks who work there probably have a pretty good idea that I am one of those customers who waits for the orange light to come on before I pull in to fill up, they don’t seem to mind a bit.

Katie Shaffer has lived in

Truckee since 1981.

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