A dollar stretches at pump

Let me make a confession… I was broke just a few weeks ago. I’m not talking about not having a place to live or food to eat but I was “20 below,” there wasn’t enough money in my bank account to make an ATM withdrawal.

Being broke this summer was not just a personal issue. The economy created a headache for students I knew. They were concerned about things like paying rent or struggling to get enough hours of work on the job.

It’s hard to decipher how we were able to maintain. We were making less money than the bills and expenses we had to pay. We all struggled through the summer.

But toward the second half it got worse. My gas tank was on “E” and had been for a few days; for those who are familiar with having low tanks, you know there are different categories of “E.” My car was on the lower level of “E” and continued to creep even lower. Things were about to get critical.

Most of you know the limit of your car. I drive a 2001 Dodge Stratus that holds 12 gallons of gas. This year my car and I made a holy agreement. It promised never to run out of gas as long as I made a quick run to the local Petro station before it was too late. Well, the promise was kept. However, this particular week, I didn’t have enough money to feed the tank.

The first week of despair occurred in the middle of the summer. My account’s balance was low and this only allowed me to fill it with $15. For my baby, it was barely one-quarter. The end of the summer arrived and I was still broke.

Friday came and on this historical evening, the unthinkable happened. One dollar worth of fuel trickled in my tank. It took only nine seconds to fill up.

Of course my Stratus was still on “E,” but at least it moved from the bottom of the “E” to the middle. I had several trips planned for that day, and I still drove back and forth to school at least twice.

The miles add up when you’re driving seven miles, two times a day. But I was still able to make it to all of my destinations with $1 in my tank.

The next day more gas was needed. My tank was suffering and the check to rescue me from it all was late in the mail. In other words the disease “brokeness” was ravaging my life. The only thing on my mind was making it to Circle K for another $1 pump of that gas.

I had to slide my plastic outside at the pump, because honestly, I was too embarrassed to enter the station and pay cash. The courage it took to walk into a station and say “Hey, Can I get one on one?” was not there.

This pattern continued for four days straight and I traveled over 40 miles on $4. No kidding, the same amount of driving as a person with a full tank of gas!

So to all of my kindred broke souls, don’t panic if you get low on “E.” Just remember, press the gas pedal as seldom as possible and roll down the hills.

And if you plan your trips in advance try to make only right turns. I heard this on TV. It worked for UPS and apparently saves a lot of gas.

If it worked for me, and one of the largest postage delivery services, it can work for everyone out there on the road riding on “E.”

Jermaine Fletcher is a senior broadcast student from Richmond, Va. He can be reached at famuanopinions@gmail.com