We idled, imprisoned in traffic on an anonymous stretch of expressway. Expressway is an oxymoron if ever there was one. The vista before us was a dystopian sea of rear ends, SUVs, sedans, eighteen wheelers, box trucks, and the rippling puckered air of exhaust fumes. At three o’clock in the afternoon we had run into evidence of yet another oxymoronic phrase … rush hour. We were not rushing anywhere and were taking hours to do it. Useless road signs indicated the exit we were to take was just ahead, and it was obvious we should be anywhere but where we were. Our exit was three lanes over on our right. However, directly ahead of us was a boring white panel truck with evidence of time spent in muddy waters, and on our right was tricked out semi with enough chrome to make a gangsta weep with envy. So progress of any sort was obviously moot. On a positive note, I was travelling with a good friend, the weather was fine, and the gas tank was comfortably full. We were where we were and there we were to remain until the gods of travel and exasperation agreed to terms.

However, for me to have achieved such a sanguine state was nothing short of amazing. I am not sure why it should be so, but I have always been struck with an irrational fear of running out of gas, or having my car stall and being trapped in traffic. My worry is never about an accident, but instead it is about some sort of breakdown due to neglect. One of my earliest memories is of leaning over the driver’s seat in our old green Buick, and watching the needle on the gas gauge hover over empty. In what I am sure must have been an irritating little girl voice, I would tell my father that I WAS NOT WALKING TO THE GAS STATION! And he in turn would tell me not to worry, there was still enough gas in the tank to get us there. Ha Ha. This was his form of comfort for my childish worries … at least I am sure my father felt it to be so. However, it turns out my worry was big, and his words were meaningless. But how was he to know I would cling to such an irrational anxiety well into my adult life. Let’s face it, I was born into the Great World of Worry, and he was from wherever it is the rest of you all live.

I am sure you all have seen the stickers and the posters and the wall plaques.

Don’t worry, be happy …

Worry is the interest paid on trouble before it is due …

Don’t sweat the small stuff …

Worry is like a rocking chair; it doesn’t get you anywhere …

Not to worry …

Live for today not for the future ….

Everything is going to be all right …

Yadda, yadda, yadda!

The epigrams are enough to make a nail-biter barf. We the worriers of the world have heard it all before. We know all about it. And verily I say unto you, yes you are right worry consumes time. However, worry is also a part of who we are. For those who carry the worrywart standard, to live is to fret. But it is also in our nature to get things done. In an effort to prevent the future from showing up unannounced with attendant troubles, we prepare for disaster, and anticipate its arrival at all times. Our mantra might be … Blessed be we who expect the worst for we shall not be disappointed. Instead, we are at times pleasantly surprised by positive outcomes. Perhaps we are motivated to run at trouble as it is harder to hit a moving target. Who knows? But I reckon, worry isn’t not anything like as dreadful as you might think.

At least we should acknowledge that greatest worrier of all time … The Little red Hen … and the crucial role she holds in the world of literature. Think about it … had it not been for The Little Red Hen, there would be no story at all. She might have been a false prophet about the sky-falling-thing, but she did get everybody motivated and was in fact …  … oh wait, I think I mean Chicken Little, and the Little Red Hen was the one who grew the wheat to make the bread and nobody helped, so she didn’t share. Whatever. Let us forgo the avian imagery and agree there is nothing more tiresome than worry, and nothing more irritating to the worriers amongst us than to be told, not to worry, everything will be alright. As if!


3 Replies to “RUNNING OUT OF GAS”

  1. Here’s another, ““Worry is a bully. It gives you nothing, it only takes.” Ah, yes… the old green Buick and the epic road trip from Iowa City Iowa to downtown Washington, D.C. Since Dad was already there, Mother drove “The Beast,” with her five offspring , a dog, and a cat. Talk about worlds colliding. YIKES!

  2. I enjoyed this piece. Thank you!
    “To live is to fret,” is that such a time waster/energy depleter?
    If the future is that scary, and it is these days, in general, then fretting, if it leads to action, is a good thing. Key word is action. Take it.

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