A Raider, a Prius and a Charger walk into a bar.

The Prius and the Charger immediately hook up, of course…

Sorry. Here’s the real story, which involves how I got to ride in all three of the above yesterday.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, sunny and cool, nobody to visit, nothing planned. I wanted to take a drive. My wife tends to take a dim view of Sunday drives, feeling that they belong to past generations when gas was cheap. But she loves me, so she assisted by generating a pretext– going to Bed, Bath & Beyond to spend a $10 rebate coupon. And buying bananas. Good enough!

We piled into our old friend, a rusty 1988 Dodge Raider, and set off for parts known. Or so we thought.

Prior to liftoff, I glanced at the odometer, noticing that it exceeded 120,000 miles by about 17. A small alarm went off somewhere in my mind because the gas log (a piece of paper taped to the dash) indicated that it should be out of gas at this point. (The log is necessary due to a bad fuel sender in the tank, causing the gauge to always read full. Which makes the dashboard a more cheerful place, in my estimation, so I’ve allowed this particular malfunction to linger a bit longer than is wise, as you are about to learn.)

I got the gas can I use for the lawn mowers, which I have been meaning to fill up for a month, and besides it would give me something to tote to the station on the miniscule chance that we actually ran out of gas.

Two-point-three miles later, we ran out of gas. The old Raider coughed and died almost as if someone had cut the ignition. You know how race car drivers sometimes zig-zag to move gas toward the fuel pickup? In the Raider it had zero effect. On the engine. My wife urgently requested an explanation, however, and I realized that she hadn’t watched enough races to have a clue what I was doing.

We coasted to a stop, and a strange calm ensued. The Precious discreetly pointed out that the nearest gas station was only about half a mile away. Later I would learn that it was almost exactly 3/4 mile. Pretty good guess. I grabbed the can and, feeling peppy and wanting to make up for my error, ran/walked/ran toward the gas station. A Dodge Charger police car came by going the opposite direction, and I thought, he’s gonna see me, then see my wife with the car, then come back for me.

When I was within a couple hundred yards of the gas station, a Toyota Prius pulled up next to me and a man who looked like a thin Kenny Rogers invited me to put my can in the back. This was my first-ever ride in a Prius. It started out silently on electric power, but after a few seconds, the engine answered a call from the computer to fire up, settling in at a steady RPM and pretending that it was completely disinterested in the fact that it was powering an automobile, as opposed to, say, an industrial-strength sump pump or a truck refrigeration unit. I admire the idea behind the Prius but can’t relate to the car-as-appliance thing. (Oldsmobiles got automatic transmissions in 1940, but I’m still waiting for people realize it’s just the wrong way to operate a car.)

At the gas station, while standing before a pump and fumbling with my credit card, I took the expected call from my wife. Soon the cop arrived and promised to take me back, so the Prius owner scrammed, after I thanked him profusely.

The back seat of the Charger was a surprise. I am not large, and the perp barrier took up most of the meager footroom that is to be found in the back seat of a Dodge Charger. Imagine an agitated, combative, claustrophobic perp being forced into that space. Can’t we all just get a longer wheelbase?

The young officer was courteous, thoroughly professional, and squeaky-clean looking. How do policemen achieve that look? When they shave, they must somehow intimidate the whiskers into retreating below the skin’s surface.

Peering through the Plexiglas with my feet pointing not straight ahead, I asked how he liked the Charger and he said fine, but it’s a V6 and he’d rather have a Hemi, which two newer ones in the fleet have. I surmised aloud that the V6 might be using less of the taxpayers’ money in gas, but he wasn’t having any of it, asserting that the mileage was about the same. I doubt it, but I can’t blame him for wanting to believe. Or is the V6 that sucky?

Back at the Raider, he parked in a protective position behind us with lights flashing while I poured in a gallon, and then we were off. Thanked him too. Good people.

Long story short (or is it too late for that?) we gassed up, drove to where my wife thought the store was, realized it wasn’t there, drove back home, switched to the old BMW 328i, drove over to York, spent the gift certificate on a measuring cup and towels for Paul, then hit a Wal-Mart for two bananas. For 24 cents. What is this, 1959?


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2 Responses to A Raider, a Prius and a Charger walk into a bar.

  1. Sunbird says:

    Here’s the deal on the Hemi. Dodge/Jeep have offered three engines–a six that gets fair mileage, an eight that is more powerful but sucks on mileage, and a 5.7 liter eigit that is much more powerful and gets almost the same mileage as the six. How does this happen? The eight runs on four cylinders when it is loafing. which is most of the time on the highway. Of course, you gotta put out substantially bigger bucks for a vehicle with the 5.7 hemi.

  2. ken says:

    Good explanation, Sunbird, I’d forgotten about the cylinder deactivation on the Hemi. So the only sticking point for taxpayers is initial cost, then, not fuel costs.

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