Some people tell me that, every once in a while, they “treat” their cars to 89- or 91- or even 93-octane gas. That concept is ridiculous. It’s like saying, “I usually wear a size 9 shoe, but once a month I treat my feet to a pair of size 12.”

That is the thought that flits through my mind as I stand at the gas pump.

The naked sun is causing beads of sweat to drip into my eyes.

I push the “87” button. Nothing happens. The numbers don’t reset. Nothing. I’m confused.

I walk to the small building—you know, the one where you can purchase vices while paying for your gas. The door is locked. I peer inside. Nobody. Finally, I realize that the Vices-R-Us is closed, but for some reason I keep staring inside—as if somebody might magically appear to turn on the pumps.

In my peripheral vision, I see two guys approaching the gas station on foot. One is a tall black man wearing a gaudy suit. The other is a stocky Latino in filthy overalls and a used-to-be-white T-shirt.

The black man is holding a golf club.

It’s a driver.

I picture several potential scenarios that could start this way. Most of them are not good.

Oh, and just so you can picture this a little better: I’m 37, of Indian descent, no accent or turban, bald, with glasses, skinny but pot-bellied, with dark legs that could best be described as sticklike.

I am wearing shorts and a tank top in which I look terrible, and which I could never ask a woman out while wearing.

The golf-club-brandishing man says to me: Stand back, brother.

He repeats: I said, stand back, brother.

Now he is annoyed.

I must have a sharp case of brainlock. Because before I know what has happened, somehow the whole world except for me has taken three large steps forward, so I now miraculously find myself about six feet out of range of the likely arc of his swing. I stand there, frozen, and watch as he grips his golf club, executes a high backswing, and then swings the club low and hard into the door of the vice mart, shattering the glass.

The sight and sound of the smashing glass snap me out of my stupor.


I do not wish to attract the attention of the Black and Latino Coalition for the Advancement of Breaking and Entering. I walk to my car slowly. Nonchalantly. In a cartoon, I would be whistling.

As I approach my car, I am a swimming duck—my calm exterior hides the fact that below the surface my little webbed feet are paddling like crazy to get me out of here. I fumble with the keys and finally get the car door open. I insert the key into the ignition and turn it.

The car sputters to life. In a crazed moment of reckless abandon, I decide not to wear my seat belt. I shift the car into DRIVE and coax it to exit the gas station grounds slowly.

In a cartoon, my car would be whistling.

I am a man! I have single-handedly achieved victory over a black man, a Latino man, and a perilous golf club! O! let the honks of a thousand car horns sound their extolments to the Victor as He makes His triumphant return to His kingdom!

I reach my apartment complex. I turn at the Briarwood Manor sign (“A friendly place to live!”). I pull into parking spot number 32 and get out of the car.

I notice the gas nozzle from the gas station. It is still inserted in my tank. With about 20 feet of hose attached to it.


Perhaps that explains all that honking.

I enter my apartment. I call the police station and tell them what I saw. They take my name and number. I never hear from them again.


Three days later I spot a blurb, buried on page 23 of the local newspaper:

Graham’s Gas-and-Go, at the corner of Eleventh Street and Chapman Road, was vandalized and robbed on May 17. The glass door was destroyed, some items were stolen from the mart, and a hose was ripped from a pump and is still missing.

I am now an accessory. An unwitting member of the Black, Latino, and Indian Coalition for the Advancement of Breaking and Entering.

Ranjit Souri (rjsouri@yahoo.com) manages a theater school and teaches writing classes in Chicago.