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Locked Out, Out of Gas, and a Date With Bubba




Last Friday I wrote about how we’ve certainly had some blips on our driving record, but today I thought I’d share my most embarrassing car story ever. I’m not sure how it relates to personal finance, but there has to be some lesson on being prepared and not stretching yourself too thin. Anyway, think what you like, but I hope you enjoy the story.

Watch Out for Grandpa!

I believe it was the summer after my first year of optometry school. I decided to stay in Memphis because there were more job opportunites for the summer, and well, it was lots more fun than rural Kentucky. My Grandpa had backed over my car in the driveway while I was home for a visit, so it was being repaired. I was driving my sister’s car for a few weeks because she was living at home and didn’t really need it.

I had a low wage job in the Walmart Vision Center. Life seemed much cheaper back then, but I guess I used student loan money to fund my lifestyle. I generally worked the noon to 9PM shift. I would usually sleep in a bit and go to the gym before work. One morning, I noticed the gas gage was close to E. In my car, you could drive around for a while when the tank was on empty, so I assumed I was OK. All cars are alike, right?

A Funnel, Who Knew?

Wrong! I ran out of gas about a mile from my house. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, so I jogged the mile back home. My roommates weren’t there, but my neighbor was leaving for work. I grabbed the lawn mower gas can, and she took me back to the car.

As a note to anyone who ever runs out of gas on the side of the road, you need a funnel to get the gas from a can into your tank. We realized that a bit late, but my neighbor was nice enough to go back and get a funnel from her garage. She dropped me off once again but had to get to work. I thanked her and put the half gallon or so of gas into the car.

The Forbidden Citgo

Now, Memphis is a great city, but like any metropolitan area, it has good and bad neighborhoods. There was an imaginary line at a street called Walnut Grove that marked crossing from the ‘hood into the nice section. The house I rented with two other roommates was about a block from the nice section, so technically still in the ‘hood. However, our street was not bad. Aside from the one neighbor who used to get drunk and play with chainsaws in the back yard, it was a wonderful place to live.

A few blocks down down the road, it was very sketchy. Of course, this was where the nearest gas station was located. We called it the forbidden Citgo and didn’t stop there unless it was an emergency. I would have never stopped there after dark. Thankfully, it was broad daylight, and I needed to get some gas before I ran out again. I stood up tall and tried to look intimidating.

I alarmingly realized that I did not have my purse with me. I scraped up a little over a dollar in change from the console and got a gallon of gas. (It was much cheaper back then!) I thought that would hold me over, and I’d stop somewhere safer on the way to work.

After paying for my gallon of gas with loose change (the clerk just loved me, and I’m not intimidating at all), I realized that in my haste to get away from the Citgo, I had locked the keys in the car. Stranded at the forbidden Citgo with no phone, no money, and a clerk who was ready to throw darts at my head. Maybe the gangbangers could just shoot me!

Hangin’ in the ‘Hood on My Hood

I mustered all the resolve I had to go back in and ask the clerk for a phone book and a local call. You would have thought I was robbing the store, but I guess he didn’t want me there all day. He let me make a call. I was going with the first locksmith in the book. It was called Bubba’s Locksmith. I’m not making that up.

Now all I had to do was wait for Bubba. For an hour, I sat on the hood of my car, in my sweaty clothes, at the Forbidden Citgo, trying not to make eye contact with any of the sketchy looking people. Although in hindsight, I guess I looked as sketchy as anyone. If only I’d had enough money for a quart daddy of malt liquor!

Bubba: a Love Story

Finally, Bubba showed up. I’m not sure what comes to mind when you think of the name Bubba, but the guy who got out of the locksmith van could have had his picture by Bubba in my dictionary. He was about 6’5” and looked like he could have been a linebacker in the NFL.

Now, I had to convince Bubba to unlock my car, knowing that I had no money to pay him. He agreed to follow me home where I’d write him a check. I was really hoping that I wasn’t inviting Bubba in to rob my house or kill me, but at that point, it would have been par for the course. He actually was very nice, and I owe him a kindness for helping me out. Bubba, wherever you are, I hope you’re having a nice day.

Needless to say, I ended up being late for work and had to tell that story to my boss. It was too crazy to be made up, and he ended up laughing. If I’d gotten fired, that would have been the cherry on top.

Since that day, I’ve rarely let my gas gage get below a quarter tank. I always look at people named Bubba with fond nostalgia, and I make sure all my neighbors have a funnel!

What’s your funniest automobile experience?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Vectorolie

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Yikes. My fuel gauge doesn’t work any more – it is perpetually stuck on Empty – so I fill it after I drive a certain number of kilometers.

    Not funny, just stupid. When I was a teenager, I was going to pick my parents up at the airport, and reversed directly into my brothers truck. He never parks behind my parents car so I just reversed without looking. Only a tiny dent in my parents bumper but my brother chewed me out, going on about women not being able to use rear-view mirrors, etc.

  2. Wow Kim, that is one doozy of a story!!! I don’t think any of my vehicle adventures *knockonwood* We got stuck in the snow when we got our Christmas tree, only from pulling to the un-tracked out part of the road… and we still don’t know if the attempt to have someone pull us out made the situation better, or worse!

  3. haha, that is too awesome. I crashed a rental car in Delaware once, and I had no idea where I was. But I needed a police report for the car rental company even though I was totally insured. So I pulled off on the nearest highway exit and sat waiting for the police to come for over 2 hours! And it was a totally sketched out neighborhood… and apparently on the route to the local dump since garbage trucks kept driving past and asking me if I was okay and needed help. =)

  4. Great story. It seems to happen that way, doesn’t it? A little thing like stretching the gas tank turns into a comedy of errors that screws up an entire day. All you can do is laugh, I guess.

  5. Oh goodness, I hate times like that where the shit keeps piling on. I definitely tempt fate with my gas gauge sometimes.

  6. I think I would have put diesel instead or regular with all that stress, and paid $500 for the car equivalent of a stomach pump. We’ve been out of gas only once on the bike, thankfully in Mexico, where many small shops sell gas because the pump is too far so there is always some gas walking distance from you.

  7. Oh boy, what a crazy story. It’s like Murphy’s law…whatever can go wrong will go wrong. My automobile experience that is somewhat similar was when I left the lights on and the battery died. Simple…get a jump right? Well, the car was used and the prior owner never told me that it was in an accident and the doors were replaced. So my ignition car key DID not open the door. I was locked out. It was a little after 10p.m and I was on a school campus. I walked all the way to the security office and the guy came with me to jimmy the lock. He tried but couldn’t unlock it. I realized that my key still opened the trunk….(there was a small hole that opens up…like the ones you fit skis through. I climbed into the trunk, used a bar from my car jack and reached to unlock the backseat door with some guidance. Oh and I was wearing a shirt, tie and dress shoes…

  8. This is an awesome story!!! I will now be equally paranoid about always having at least a quarter of a tank. My parents are funny about this. My mom will run down to almost empty while my dad can’t stand going below half a tank. Do you keep spare gas in your garage now? I probably would after that incident.

  9. Back then You probably didn’t think this would be a great funny story. Did you name any of your kids Bubba after that? Happy Thanksgiving Kim

  10. Hi Kim,
    that’s really a great story. Its funny. The locksmith was really helpful to you. You had a great time there.

  11. Oh my gosh, when it rains it pours, doesn’t it? Glad it turned out ok!! The one and only time I ran my car out of gas, the fuel pump somehow went out too, and it happened to be in a car where the fuel pump is part of some bigger module and expensive to replace. Long story short, running out of gas that day cost me over $700 and I have NEVER run out of gas since then. Learned my lesson!!!!

  12. OH man talk about going from bad to worse! I think I would have broken down and started sobbing. Thankfully Bubba saved the day…you think that was his real name? 🙂 I don’t have any “funny” car stories, but breaking down on the 405 freeway was definitely an interesting story!

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