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The Gas Cap Girl

During a summer break when I was home from college, I went with my parents to their church. While on our way back home, we pulled up to a line of cars at a stoplight. Two cars ahead, there was an SUV with its fuel door open and the gas cap just hanging there.

Nothing irrevocably catastrophic will happen if you drive around with the gas cap open, but it’s not a great idea for a number of reasons (your check engine light might come on; the loop holding the cap in place could break and you could lose the cap; you could get some random crud in your gas tank; etc.). I was sitting there wondering how best to signal this state of events to the owners of the SUV, when something happened I will never forget.

A young lady got out of the car in front of us, walked up to the SUV, closed the gas cap, shut the fuel door, and then ran back to her car.

I have a habit of making things really complicated. What if the light changed while she was out of the car? What if the people in the SUV freaked out and did something unfortunate? What if someone in the next lane over hit her with their car? There are so many ways that situation could have gone poorly. And for what? To just close the fuel filler cap on a stranger’s car?

But the reason I will never forget this incident is that she did something. She did not allow herself to be paralyzed by any of the above considerations. And she took action — at some personal risk — to make the world just a little bit nicer for one person. Sometimes I wonder if they even realized. Or what they thought. Perhaps, hearkening back to the CD Binder story, the car’s occupants were terrified that a possibly unhinged motorist was running toward their car. Maybe there’s a version of this story out there with the girl as a villain.

I will say that her actions resonate with me. I want to be a doer. I’m not saying it’s always the right answer or that those who disagree are wrong.

I would make a tag for “Nathan mulls moral quandaries using banal scenarios as thought experiments”, but I think that’s too long for WordPress.

(This story is becoming less and less relevant, as the last two cars I’ve owned have both had electronic fuel filler latches rather than a traditional gas cap. Between this and electric cars, I was going to muse about a hypothetical future where readers wonder what exactly a gas cap is. But then I realized it was an exercise in hubris to assume that this blog would be relevant — or even around — long enough for this to be an issue. If you are reading this in the far-flung future and have no idea what a gas cap is: Google it.)

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