E is for Empty
I’ve lamented to you before, dear readers, about the condition of my vet truck. One of its eccentricities is a gas gauge that does not work. To gauge my fuel level, I go by odometer alone: I have two tanks and I know I can get about 200 miles from both tanks before I need to fill up. I’m not sure how much over 200 I can go. I’ve pushed it once — and lost.
But for every "Got stuck on the highway with my dad on a Saturday afternoon running to an emergency" story, there’s a silver lining. Here is mine.
It was a Saturday. My parents were in town. I was on-call. Never a good situation to begin with, as I would always prefer to hang out with my favorite people without the stress of the phone ringing, but some days you’re the bug (or on-call vet) and other days you’re the windshield (the free-as-a-bird not on-call vet). So it goes.
Anyway, that particular Saturday was crazy as I was getting emergency call after emergency call and ended up out all day. However, my dad volunteered to go with me (I have found that parents get a kick out of riding with their children who are vets). First we started with a coughing cow, then a goat not eating, then a horse with laminitis. As we were then heading up north to yet another call, in the back of my mind I knew something was amiss. No, we hadn’t had lunch yet, and yes, I had a bunch of clients to call back and some invoices to fill out. But yet there was something else …
And then on a downhill on a fairly busy local two-lane highway, the truck conked out and suddenly I remembered: In my rush to get from call to call, I pushed my gas tank beyond its limit of 200 miles and we were out of gas.
Marching down the shoulder of the highway in my coveralls with Dad in tow, I took out my GPS and found a gas station about two miles down the road. Not wanting to think if they were open, or sold gas tanks, or the fact that we then had to walk back to the truck, I was quickly turning sour at the whole world.
When we were no more than 100 feet down the road from the abandoned, lifeless truck, a horn beeped behind us. Then it beeped again. As I was about to give this person the one-finger salute, the car pulled up along side of us and a woman asked me politely, "Are you a vet?"
After I answered her question in the affirmative, she said, "Well, get in! We love to help vets!"
Incredulous, I looked at Dad and then down at my manure-covered boots and coveralls. The truth was I really and truly wanted nothing more than to hop into this stranger’s car at that very moment. And so we got in.
Thankfully the gas station down the road had gas tanks. So we filled up and were driven back to the abandoned truck. As Dad was filling the tank for me the woman asked if I practiced on large animals, because she had a goat. I said, "Why yes, I know a little something about goats," and the next thing you know, I’ve just made an appointment for vaccines and a hoof trim at this lady’s farm. How’s that for networking!?
I don’t really know the moral to this story. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have one and maybe even sends the wrong message that goes something like: If you are rushed and try to push things too far, you get rewarded with new business opportunities. Sort of sounds like a misleading and malevolent fortune cookie, doesn’t it?
Let’s just say I haven’t been tempted to repeat the experiment to see if I get the same results twice.
Dr. Anna O’Brien