My sister Mary and I have traversed the state of Texas many times. Each time we travel peculiar things happen. The first time I noticed was when we took a trip to the central part of the state. We arrived, ate dinner, watched television, and then settled in for the night, she by going to sleep in her bed immediately while I did my nightly reading in my bed.
After an hour or Mary raised her head from the pillow and, while completely asleep, asked, “How far is it?”
I answered, “We are in Austin in a hotel.”
“But, how far is it,” she demanded to know.
“We arrived in Austin and now we are in bed.”
“But, how far is it?” she asked indignantly this time.
“Twenty miles,” I answered.
Surprisingly enough she went right back to sleep and I went back to reading my John Grisham book, although I must admit, at that moment, our hotel room seemed more interesting than whatever John Grisham offered. The next day she remembered nothing.
On another trip to Austin Mary slipped on her nightgown immediately after dinner while I, still fully dressed, read in my bed. A ringing occurred and it wasn’t the telephone. “What is that?” I asked.
“A fire alarm.”
I spoke to my sister, “Let’s go. This might be a real fire.”
“I’ve got to get dressed.” She explained.
“Just throw on a sweater or raincoat. Nobody cares.”
She comments, “I need my shoes.”
“You don’t need shoes,” I say.
Another bell rings and my sister states, “That means it was just a false alarm. You see there was no need to get excited.”
Recently we took a trip to Houston in a new car. On our way back Mary says, “Don’t forget to remind me to buy gas.” I thought only of the delicious barbeque restaurant in Wharton.
After we ate our barbeque we drove on. Before long we passed Victoria and entered a long, lonely stretch in which no businesses of any kind can be found. Several miles later a small buzzer went off. “Ohhhh,” we both groaned remembering the gas we needed.
A word with the number twenty-six appeared on the dashboard. “Why, is the word DIE and 26 miles showing?” I calmly asked my sister. Surely, the car wasn’t telling us we were going to die 26 miles up the road.
“Look it up.” Sure enough, I found the manual and what it indicated was ‘Distance To Empty.’ DTE not DIE. We drove on.
She reached over to the dashboard and I quickly said, “Don’t touch anything. It’ll use up more gas.” We drove with no heating, no air conditioning, no lights, etc. The car kept showing the decreasing miles until the numbers disappeared completely and an asterisk appeared.
“What does that mean?” We asked each other as she drove on.
“I think we are on fumes.” She added.
We went down a small hill and there nestled at the bottom was a service station. We rolled in and began breathing normally. No wonder Mother always said, “En el nombre sea de Dios,” (in God’s name) before she ever entered a vehicle. Come to think of it…she only said it whenever my sister or I drove.