the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Call Box


I brought along a pile of old CDs to play in the car as we drove to Las Vegas.  I had planned on us leaving Friday morning, but Sophia had the idea of leaving Thursday night instead.  I was wary of the idea, not liking the idea of driving for five hours after a long day working.  Sophia argued that if we followed her plan, we would get another day of vacation by waking up in Las Vegas on Friday.
She won the argument, as usual.

I was driving Sophia’s Prius.  We had just left Los Angeles County.  Cake was playing in the CD player.  Sophia liked a song, and tried to sing along, but couldn’t figure out lyrics.

“What is he saying?” she asked. “I have no pants?”  “I have to pant?”  “I have an aunt?””

Sophia played the song over an over again, trying to decipher the lyrics.

And she calls me obsessive.

A collective lightbulb popped up over our heads.  We have iphones.  We have an app in which you can lift the iphone up to a speaker, and it will figure out the title and artist of any song, as well as give you links to YouTube videos and lyrics to the song.

Sophia was now free to sing songs, knowing the lyrics.  This made her very happy.  We listened to ten songs, using the iphone to bring us the correct lyrics.  Sophia’s energy was infectious.  I sang along.  The Prius was filled with our voices.  This is what life SHOULD be.  Away from the chaos of urban life, on the open desert road, the dust and darkness surrounding us, a primitive landscape as seen from the modern comfort of our musically-filled cocoon.

Because we were singing so loudly, it took us a moment to realize that the car was started to stall.  We were out of gas.  The battery of the Prius had also run out of juice.  I was assuming that Sophia was watching the dashboard, since it was HER CAR.  Sophia assumed that since I was driving, I would be smart enough to have seen the blinking empty gas light.

This is exactly what has happened over and over again in our marriage.  We would be having fun, and then realizing that no one had done the taxes, or paid the bills.  And then the fun stopped.

I slid the car to the right shoulder.  I had never run out of gas before.  We started blaming each other, but quickly stopped.  It was more important RIGHT NOW to come up with a plan.   It was midnight.  We were in some deserted stretch of the 15 Freeway in San Bernadino Country, 40 miles from the next town.

Earlier that night, our iphones saved us by deciphering the lyrics to songs.  Now, we need them to save our lives again.  But just our luck.  There was NO SERVICE!  Thanks a lot, ATT.   I stepped out of the car, carefully avoiding the trucks whizzing by, hoping to catch a signal, but nothing.  Sophia did the same on the passenger side.

“I think something bit me!” she said, as the dust made my eyes itchy.

Now we were getting a little scared.  I once saw this movie about two strangers stuck in the desert, when a sleazy looking trucker stopped, offering his help, and then —

I wanted to tell Sophia about this movie, but decided that it was not the appropriate time.  Instead, I did what any male does in a situation like this, when there is a helpless woman at his side — I worried and bit my nail.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

“You need to go find a call box.”

I walked through the darkness of the freeway shoulder until I found the call box.  I had a sudden urge to pee, but was afraid of a rattlesnake jumping up and biting my dick off.

I reached the call box.  The instructions were written in a font so small that I had to take off my glasses and use the iphone for a flashlight.  I called someone — some gruff sounding woman, I’m not sure who — highway patrol?  — who connected me to AAA.

The rest of the story is not that interesting.  It took the AAA an hour to show up.  The driver only had two gallons of gas on the truck, so we crossed our fingers, hoping we could make it to some nearby truck stop.  We luckily made it to the truck stop, where I quickly filled up the tank.  I didn’t want to hang around too long.  Everyone at the station looked EXACTLY like the trucker I remembered from the movie I didn’t want to tell Sophia.

Marital report card:

We cursed at each other, blamed each other, and exploited this experience as proof to why we shouldn’t be married, but we made it through with most of our dignity.  We made it to Las Vegas at 3AM.  We were cranky, but semi-amused by the adventure.

We didn’t freak out THAT MUCH.  We handled it.  And it made us proud.


  1. flutter

    the pieces really can be glued back together

  2. Genie

    My ex-father-in-law and his partner (that part of the sentence has its own story right there) rented a car from San Francisco to drive to Vegas and ran out of gas in the middle of Death Valley.

    They showed us the pictures they took while they waited for AAA of them stripping naked and standing defiantly in the middle of the highway because it was so deserted. That’s kinda how they rolled.

    It was at least middle of the day for them. 🙂

  3. ekramer

    at least you had a cell phone that you can recharge when you got back to your hotel

  4. AnnieH(the other annie)

    See…? Another example of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” you He-Man you.

  5. chez beziat

    My wife and I ran out of gas while driving home from our honeymoon. A harbinger of things to come.

  6. badassdadblog

    Sorry, dude, I’m with Sophia on this one. You were driving. It’s all you.

  7. Denise

    My hubby and I once owned a volvo wagon with a non working gas gauge. I would get so mad when he let the gas run out.

    Eek, rattlesnakes, desert, truckers, midnight. Eek, eek, eek!

  8. tulasi-priya

    Hey there. I found you through BHJ, and I like your blog. Just wanted to tell you that running out of gas is a necessary (sometimes repeatedly so) rite of passage in a marriage, for some types of folks, which I and my husband are/were. Hang in there, it’ll pass.

  9. churlita

    It sounds like you guys came out on the plus side to me.

  10. zeghsy

    we never ran out of gas. but my ex-husband did put a very large hole in the transmission of the only car i could drive while i was pregnant with our first child. that was an “adventure”.

  11. teahouseblossom

    Wow..I say this is an illustration of how you guys can get through the tough times and up and downs of marriage!

  12. headbang8


    It has taken me a while to post a comment, Neil. But I’ve been thinking about this story for a while.

    I’m down with the Bad Ass Dad on this. OK, the Prius dashboard puts everything in view of both driver and passenger. But what if it were a normal car?

    Some tough love, here, Neil. Is it a pattern in your life that women take care of you? Think about your mother and the cheese.

    Have you come to expect that they take care of you? Or do you see their care as a gift, given out of love, which you should treasure evry day, in every moment with them?

    It’s a delicate dance, this business of surrendering to the love and care of others, and taking personal responsibility for your loved ones.

    Most of humankind does it instinctively. Some of us (like me, and I suspect the same of you, Neil.) need to negotiate these boundaries consciously. That’s harder, clumsier, and more prone to error.

    Of course, I’ve never met you or Sophia or your charming Mother, so I could be way out of line. Then again, maybe not.

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