I was supposed to meet Seth at 11:00am for coffee at a Starbucks in Tukwilla, a suburb south of Seattle near the airport. As far as I could recall I had never met Seth. He wasn’t in the band when As Cities Burn toured with Emery in 2005 or 2007. My trip to Seattle had been a breeze thus far. I had met with Josh the night before to eat, drink, and interview. Josh let me crash on his floor in his tiny Capitol Hill apartment and when I mentioned that I needed to make the 20 minute trek south to meet Seth the next morning, Josh offered up his van as a means of transportation. “I never even drive it” he said. Do you believe in omens?
I was going to take an Uber. I should have taken the Uber. It wasn’t a matter of budget. I had the money to take an Uber. I flew all the way to Seattle to interview Seth and the expense of a $20 Uber ride was not an obstacle at this time. I said yes to the van. I said yes to that piece of shit van. Josh was just being nice. He is a nice guy, whatever that’s worth. He mentioned the gas gauge didn’t work but that I should be good to go on fuel. He recommended I put some fuel in the tank before I headed back from Tukwilla just to be safe.
It was cold on this fateful morning. Cold and wet. A typical December morning, perfect for a meeting at Starbucks, which by the way is a local joint in Seattle. I support local business. I made it to the exit for Tukwilla in the piece of shit child molester van and as I am pulling off the interstate under an overpass I feel the steering wheel go stiff. The van shuts down and now I am cruising under the overpass with a shoulder about 2 feet wide. As I pull over I am still basically in the middle of the road. The van will not restart. Panic sets in. I struggle badly with anxiety and being late to a meeting is about the worst thing I can imagining happening. Late to a meeting AND stranded on the side of the road in a brown child molester van is anxiety overload.
It would have been nice if this was one of the many thousands of interstate exits in this country that had a strategically placed gas station mere feet from the off ramp. Tuckwilla has no such gas station. I believe it was a third of a mile to the nearest gas station with no sidewalk. Well out of sight of the van, this gas station was up and over a hill on the road leading towards the mall - the mall with the Starbucks.
It’s raining - not too hard - but raining nonetheless. I am sporting somewhat fashionable boots with the soles having been worn down because I typically wear the same pair of shoes everyday until they fall apart and I get a new pair of shoes. I’m wearing jeans, a hoodie, a flannel, and a knitted red cap (like the one Bill Murray wore in “The Life Aquatic”) none of which respond well to rain. I decide I have no choice but to run - the best I can in my hip boots - to the gas station, buy a gas can, and load up on some fuel. I left the hazards on in the van and set off.
With the gas station being over the hill and out of sight, I’m not going to be able to see what’s going on back at the van. I’m very worried about it getting towed or worse, an inattentive driver plowing into it. I’m trying to run but I am a fat piece of shit. So out of shape that I can only make it about 100 yards per jogging attempt. My lungs are burning, my head is throbbing and now I’m sweating under my flannel and hoodie despite the fact that it’s probably 39 degrees outside. Also I’m slippin' and slidin' due to my fashion boots and the worn down soles because like I said, I’ve worn them every day for 2 or 4 years.
I get the gas can and the gas. I start fat running back to the van, slip and fall a few times, lungs basically collapsed. As I pass over the slight hill shielding my view of the van from the gas station, my stomach drops. Blue lights are flashing. Cop SUV is pulled up behind the van. The officer is kind of walking around it inspecting and wondering what the hell is going on. I start waving frantically. Fat running and waving. I hold up the gas can as if to signal to the cop my misfortune. I’m not sure what I was worried about happening. Yes the van had no windows on the side and was shady as fuck, but I’m sure the officer would be quite reasonable when I explained that I simply ran out of gas in a van with a broken fuel gauge. I don’t think it’s illegal to run out of gas.
Maybe my #whiteprivilege played in my favor with this encounter with the law, but the officer was very gracious and gave me no troubles. Apparently somebody that worked at city hall had called it in as they passed the van and at that point he was more concerned with keeping me safe from passing vehicles while I tried to refuel. Now I just had to get the fuel tank cap open. Easy enough right? Nope. This one uses a key. I have a key chain with like 7 old keys and none of them are working. I come real close to breaking one off in the gas cap. The officer gives it a try, to no avail. There was a trick to it where you had to push in while turning and eventually we figured it out. Gas cap off.
I had informed Seth via text by now that I had run out of fuel in Josh’s shitty van and I would be a little late. Little did I know that I don’t know how to operate a gas can. I installed the spout incorrectly somehow. It isn’t penetrating the fuel tank and instead I am just spilling gasoline all over my hands, fashion boots, hoodie, flannel and the road. This is a nightmare. The officer - bless his heart - tries to assist but he can’t figure it out either. Since when did gas can get so complicated? Every time I think I have penetrated - I’m really going to take advantage of using the word “penetrate” because I’m immature and sex - anyways every time I think I have PENETRATED the gas tank I continue to spill fuel all over my hands and fashion boots. Now I’m just going to smell like gasoline for the rest of the day because there is no washing it off. It has to wear off over the course of a few days. And I didn’t even bring extra clothes on this trip. Was only planning to be in Seattle for two nights. One pair of jeans. One pair of shoes. One flannel and hoodie. Now with the distinct aroma of 87 octane fuel.
We could not get this van to work. No fuel was reaching the tank. It was all going straight to the road beneath us. The gas can was only 2 gallons and now at least 1 of those gallons was wasted. I finally took the spout apart and tried to reassemble. I couldn’t even tell you specifically what I did right that time, but I made it work. If I had to do the same thing right now I wouldn’t have a clue. The Good Lord had intervened. That extra gallon of fuel that I spilled on the road would have really come in handy because the fuel I was able to get into the tank was not enough to start the van. The cop didn’t look mad at me…he just looked disappointed. I explain that I will run back up to the gas station and have my “friend” Seth meet me there and drive me back so it won’t take as long.
I call Seth to inform him of the plan. I apologize profusely. When he meets me at the gas station - myself covered in gasoline, reeking and flammable (hoping to avoid any open fires or cigarette smokers) - it will be the first time we have ever actually met. “Hi, I’m Aaron. I’m covered in gasoline. Can I ride in your car?”
It took every ounce we could get out of that can to start the van. I thanked the officer and instructed Seth to follow me to the gas station so I could put more fuel in then we would head over to our Starbucks rendezvous for what I assumed would be a shortened interview due to Seth’s schedule for the day. But at least everything was good to go with Josh’s creepy brown hide a body van. Except…
Now the van won’t start. It’s not the fuel. We have fuel now. It just won’t start. Seth gives it a try, pumping the gas and jiggling the steering wheel. It starts. Crisis avoided. I get as far as the exit of the gas station parking lot and the van dies again. I was following Seth and he didn’t notice me not pulling out behind him so I have to call to inform him that I’m not moving. He doubles back and we spend the next 20 minutes looking under the hood (not sure what we were looking for as we both verbalized that we know nothing about cars) and attempting to turn this piece of shit over. We got nothing. My day keeps getting worse. What hell am I supposed to do with this van. I have things to do. I need to interview Seth, then I need to eat ramen and then I’m meeting with a local food writer before I eventually meet up with Matt for dinner and his interview. And now I have a broke down van at a random gas station in Tukwilla, Washington. I call Josh to give him the rundown of all the problems. He tells me that the van “has never broken down before.” I sure do have a way with automobiles. Actually this is all further proving the theory that my ex-mother in law was an advocate of - “Aaron, I think you have a black cloud following you everywhere you go.”
I decide that my only option is to leave the van there. I have too much to do and too little time to do it. I didn’t break Josh’s van. It serves no logical purpose for me to sit around and wait for a tow truck or wait for Josh to get down there and try to fix it. I text Josh my decision because I’m a wuss and I don’t do phone calls to tell someone something they may not want to hear. I know Josh and I know he won’t fight me on it. Also non-confrontational. Still, I contend this is correct decision regardless. You gotta leave the van. Josh says he will figure something out. I’m so relieved to get in the car with Seth and drive to the Starbucks, leaving the piece of shit van behind at the gas station. I’m never borrowing a car from Josh again. You may be asking yourself why I have thus far spent almost two thousand words recounting this story. Well I think it’s a funny story. I think it’s a funny way to meet someone. And while this isn’t Josh’s chapter, something Seth said when we got in the car to go Starbucks says a lot about the relationships between members of Emery. After I apologized for the sixteenth time, Seth- having been out of the band for a decade and maybe not seeing Josh for years despite living in the same city - said something to the effect of, “Dude don’t worry about it. I’m not that surprised. That’s just a typical Josh situation…unreliable.”