This is a story that has two different perspectives to it. There is my sister Elaine's perspective, and there is my own perspective of what happened. I'll leave it to the reader to decide who's perspective is the correct one (which will be mine).
The story takes place on a trip we took from Kansas City to Rapid City, Yellowstone, Seattle, San Fransisco, Salt Lake City, Fort Collins and back to Kansas City. As we left we decided that I would do all the driving to ease my nerves and to get there faster, and Elaine would fill up the car with gas while I took a breather from driving. We would also split expenses right down the middle. Sounded like a good plan and it was for the most part.
As with all siblings though, there are times that arise when one of the siblings gets on the other's nerves. We had a few of these moments along the way although not as many as one might expect who knows both Elaine and myself. Most of the friction time we did have lasted only a few minutes or at most an hour or so. The main thing that we kept coming back to, as I recall, was my driving. My driving got on both of our nerves. It got on her nerves because I was "driving too fast" and then she got on my nerves when she would express the feeling that I was driving too fast.
I was driving too fast across South Dakota because the winds blowing across the high plains was fairly strong and I should be more careful. She had seen the big trucks weaving from side to side in the wind and thought it rather dangerous of me to speed on past them. The sight of one of those big rigs blown completely off of the highway and laying on it's side did not help my argument that faster was better. I took her advice and slowed down to eighty-five while driving across South Dakota.
Then there was crossing the Rocky Mountains in Idaho. To me, this was a thrill adventure. The highway wound it's way around and through the mountains while going downhill at a very steep grade. There were emergency truck ramps for the trucks to pull off of when they lost their brakes going down these mountains. That made her nervous and the fact that I wasn't using the brakes hardly at all in the car seemed to justify her nervousness.
Well as sisters and women do, she became so nervous she started begging me to slow down as we descended from the mountains. I, being the good brother that I am, complied with her wishes and started using the brakes, which slowed us down to about the same speed that every one else was driving. She was still nervous though and asked me to slow down some more, which I did. After a few more rounds of asking me to slow down and myself complying with her wishes, I began to notice that every one was passes us at a high rate of speed and I became nervous that we may be rear ended at any time. So I finally told her that if I slowed down any more we would be run over from behind. It ended the discussion but things were a little tense between us until we hit the plain of eastern Washington. We both then put it behind us and continued on our trip in a happy manner. I decided that her nervousness was due to her age, her being older and more careful than the young free wheeling kid that I was.
It was on our way from San Fransisco to Salt Lake City where the event of the trip that we are dealing with takes place. We were making our way across the desert, faster than Elaine wanted us to and slower than I thought we could. Eventually came the time when the car began to run low on fuel. You would be surprised at how fast you can go through a tank of gasoline in the desert. And so it was that we pulled over at a little stop and gas out in the middle of the desert with not another sign of life for miles and miles around. The landscape was flat and you could see forever. It was mid-morning and so it was not too very hot yet even though the sky was cloudless and the sun was in full force.
We pulled up to the pump and I got out and went over to sit on a patch of grass in this small oasis to stretch my legs and back. Meanwhile Elaine exited the car and made her way to the pump. She took the cap off of the gas tank to prepare to fill it with gas. Elaine did make a mistake and I think she will readily admit that it was a mistake. She was holding the hose in her hand pointed upward, not in the gas tank as it should have been, when she swiped her credit card in the pump. As soon as the card was approved, the pump turned on and sprayed Elaine with gasoline for just a second or so. She was drenched with gasoline from the neck down before she was able to let go of the spout and stop the gas flow.
I immediately jumped up to go to the rescue of my poor sister who was still in shock and had no idea what had just happened. When I got to her I looked around and noticed three suspicious young men between the ages of eight and eleven sitting on the curbside in front of the store. Each of them had their mouths covered with their hands and were suppressing giggles and laughs. It became obvious to me that they had locked the trigger on the pump hoping for exactly the outcome they had received. A poor little old lady surprisingly drenched in gas while her loving brother came rushing to help her.
Now, this is where the different perspectives come into play. It is important to remember that gasoline at the time was selling for just over two dollars a gallon because the price of the gasoline is where the two perspectives are focused on.
As I got to Elaine and realized the situation, I looked at the gas pump to SEE HOW MUCH GAS SHE HAD BEEN DOUSED WITH. My mathematical brain saw that fifty cents had clicked off on the pump which means she had between a quarter and a half of a gallon of gas on her. I realized this was not a good situation and decided to tell her how much gas was on her so we could figure out how to deal with the problem. And so out of my mouth came the words that would haunt me the rest of that day and beyond.
"That's fifty cents of gas you poured on yourself". She shot me a look and said she couldn't believe that she was covered in gasoline and I was worried about how much it costs. "Well." she said with great control over her emotions at the time,"I will pay for the fifty cents!"
Okay, at this moment in time I was stunned. She gave me another look and said she was going to go try to wash the gasoline off of her. I told her she should do that and do it quickly before it started to burn her skin. I took the gas nozzle and filled up the tank for her while she went off to try to clean up.
When she got in to the car it was obvious that her clean up was not good enough. The gas had soaked into her clothes and filled the car with the distinct smell of the fuel. As we headed on down the road I heard about how she couldn't believe that I was so concerned about how much the gas had cost us that had been spilled on her. Pretty soon her skin became to burn and the smell was starting to get to me, so we stopped at the next gas station and she went and changed her clothes as well as wash herself off in the tiny bathroom while I waited patiently for her to get clean enough so that she could continue the day in comfort. The rest of the day every now and then I would hear about how she couldn't fathom the idea that while she was covered in gasoline, I was concerned how much it was going to cost me.
As for me, I was terribly concerned with the volume of gas she had gotten on herself and the fastest and easiest way to relay that message was how much the gas was worth that she had spilled on her. I had not even looked at the number of gallons pumped because the biggest numbers on a pump are the cost of the gas you are using. I saw fifty cents and so that was how I relayed to her how much gas had been poured on her. I could care less about the money. My whole concern was with the safety of my sister. I probably could have expressed it better, but does anyone think that a loving brother as myself could care less about twenty five cents being poured on my wonderful sister and the ground? Of course not. I was concerned with the effect the gas would have on her. I knew it would start burning her skin before long and the fumes from the gas was going to make the both of us sick if we didn't get her cleaned up in a proper way.
I immediately asked her if she had a change of clothes ready to be put on. When she answered in the affirmative I insisted we stop at the next station and she would wash herself off as best as she could and change her clothes. I would not had even given a second, third or fourth thought to the cost of the gasoline that she had spilled on herself. To me cost equaled volume. And that volume of gas that my sister had sustained made me very concerned about her.
So there you have it dear reader. Two perspectives of the meaning of one sentence. My sister perceived it as myself being shocked at how much money she had wasted by pouring gas on herself. My perspective of that same sentence was that 50 cents represented a lot of gasoline that was dangerous to my dear sister. Being the loving brother that I am, I showed concern and worry about what had happened to her.
So far the conflict between the two perceptions has not been reconciled. She still thinks that I was such a tightwad as to be worried about losing twenty five cents while she was covered in gas. I still know that I looked at the pump, saw fifty cents clicked off, converted that to volume in my head and made sure she knew how much gas she was dealing with.
She didn't talk to me much the rest of the day after she had finally cleaned up and changed her clothes to make the rest of the day more comfortable for her, and myself as well.
I still find myself apologizing to her for using the language I used in an very short amount of time in an emergency situation. That is okay. I can understand how she may have taken it the way she did since she was upset anyway by the fact of being covered in gas. For a second she seemed to forget how loving of a brother she has and how I could never care about money more than her. It's okay with me though. At least she is okay. She didn't get too much skin irritation from the gas due to my diligence in getting her to a place where she could clean up and change clothes. All I care about is that she was okay after the incident.
Well, It is for you to decide which perspective seems more probable. That of a woman just being doused with gasoline and being extremely upset about it or that of a loving and caring brother who did everything he could to get the situation under control and get her more comfortable and safer.
I love you Elaine. I wouldn't trade that trip for the world, even with the gasoline incident.