A few years ago Char and I were in Illinois for a visit and to take a road trip with our future daughter in law, Desiree. Char and Desiree were in the back of the van watching a movie on the DVD player. I was driving along I-80 when I noticed the ‘low fuel’ light came on. No worries I’ll get off at the next exit and get gas. The next exit came and no gas stations were in sight so I continued driving. Another exit appeared but no gas stations so I stayed on the highway.
I was getting a little uncomfortable when I looked down and noticed the low fuel warning light was not only on but now it was flashing. I got off at the next exit and there was nothing except a sign which read, “Marne 3”. No worries, we’ll just drive into Marne and fill up.
Arriving at Marne the first thing I noticed was there were no gas stations! I parked my van in this spot because I noticed two women talking. Getting out of the van I asked where the nearest gas station was. One of the ladies told me it was about seven miles down the road. I thanked them and headed back to the van.
That’s when the woman said, “Do you have enough gas to get there?”
I turned and answered as honestly as I could, “I don’t know.”
She looked at me for a minute and told me she would be right back. A few minutes later she showed up with a five gallon container of gas and a nozzle. I dumped half the gas into the tank, sealed the container and started to take out my wallet. She just waved her hand side to side, while saying, “No you don’t owe me anything.” Back then gas was over four dollars a gallon and I told her I would really like to pay for it.
She looked at me and said, “No that’s not how we do things around here. Not too long ago a young college girl was traveling through with her cat and she almost ran out of gas. She wanted to pay me as well but I told her ‘Honey you don’t owe me anything. That’s not how we do things here.’ I told her just give me a hug and we would call it even.”
I looked at the lady and replied, “Well, I’ll give you a hug.”
She smiled and said, “No. No I’m all hot and sweaty.”
Now don’t read a lot into this because I was under a lot of distress from almost running out of gas but I relied, “I like hot and sweaty.” And with that I reached over and gave her a hug. To her credit she hugged me back while giving me a few pats on the back for good measure.
Then the lady and I stood there talking for a minute while unbeknownst to me Char was coaching Desiree inside the van. “Now when he gets in the van DON’T say anything. DON’T laugh. He’ll just get mad.” I’m sure we all know that’s not true and Char was giving her future daughter in law some bad advice.
Getting into the van, I headed down highway 83 to the nearest gas station located in Walnut when I noticed the movie had stopped and there was silence in the van. I looked in the rear view mirror and asked a simple question, “How you doing Desiree?” She burst into laughter.
Somewhere along highway 83 she caught her breath long enough to say, “I can’t believe you said ‘I like hot and sweaty!’” More laughter ensued not only by Desiree but by Char as well.
I got to the first gas station I could find in Walnut and asked if they needed anything. They were both laughing so hard I just assumed the answer was no.
I filled up with gas, bought a bottle of water then got back into the van where they were both still laughing. Getting onto I-80 they were both still laughing. Fifteen miles down the road they were both still laughing. Finally, I said, “Okay that’s enough.” My words are powerful so they got themselves under control within the next thirty miles.
Yet, every few miles either Desiree or Char would just burst out in uncontrollable laughter. It was a long trip.
So what about my second trip to Marne? Char and I drove through there on a recent road trip. I took some pictures but more importantly I left thinking how we could use more towns, and more people like those in Marne, Iowa.