an encounter with the washington state patrol

I have a new item to file under "Lessons Learned The Hard Way".

When your gas gauge reads 1/4 full before you embark on a trip to Seattle, you should probably just go ahead and fill up before you leave town.

Thus begins the harrowing journey that resulted in the faces you see in the photo above. 

Are you the type who likes to flip to the end of a book before you read it so you know how it ends in case you die before you can finish it? (When Harry Met Sally? Anyone? Anyone?)

Well then I'll tell you the gist of this story.

I ran out of gas on I-5 somewhere between Portland and Seattle.

The end.

For you more ambitious readers though, grab some sort of beverage treat and prepare for an entertaining situation (and the full extent of my written loquaciousness).


So Robin and I went to Seattle last week just for the hell of it. We're young, we've both got the wanderlust and we both had the day off. That's all the backstory you need.

Early in the morning, coffee in hand and pastries filling our tummies, we had Chuck Ragan wailing through the speakers and  we were good. to. go. 

And yes, like I mentioned, the gas gauge read 1/4 tank left so I figured we'd fill up once we were out of town a little ways and the prices were more reasonable (this has nothing to do with the fact that I am lazy and hate taking the time to get gas) (and never mind about the fact that in Oregon you don't even have to get out of the car because you aren't allowed to pump your own gas) (also never mind the fact that I was apprehensive about waiting until we got to Washington to fill up because I feared I wouldn't remember how to pump my own gas... MOVING ON). 

So we're plugging along, stopping just once at a rest stop across the border because in Washington the rest stops offer free coffee (yeah, free coffee, no strings attached) and clean bathrooms.

This is not the case in the California rest stops I'm used to.

There, you pretty much just hope to use the facilities, not make eye contact with anyone and not die.

Anyway, we were pretty impressed with what good time we were making. We were less than an hour away from our destination and we'd been on the road barely two hours.

We start talking, get into some really good conversation and then... Then... 

We were slowing down... 70mph... 50mph... Oh god, 40mph...

*note: I was not slowing down - the car was slowing down*

Yeah. That little glowing "E" on the dash? Should have been paying attention to that. Also should have been using our indoor voices so that we might hear the clever chime alerting me to our situation.

Neither of those things happened. 

And so with surprising wherewithal in a situation ripe for panic mode, I pulled off to the left shoulder and just made it out of the carpool lane to safety. I turned off the car. I decided it might be a good idea to pull of a little more, just in case. 

Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. I couldn't even get the thing started again. 

So Robin popped out for a smoke while I called Allstate and hoped to find myself in those "good hands" Dennis Haysbert is always going on about.

After about 10 minutes of automated phone tree hell, I get some voice on voice contact which goes something like this:

Allstate: Hi, what seems to be the problem?
Me: I'm out of gas on I-5 just south of Seattle.
Allstate: What town are you in?
Me: Not sure exactly, all I know is that I'm 21 miles south of Seattle, on I-5 heading north.
Allstate: Do you know what zipcode you're in?
Me: (thinking to myself) How the hell do you expect me to know the bloody zipcode when I don't know the town? (speaking) No, I don't, sorry. I think the last major town we went through was Tacoma.
Allstate: OK, well let me transfer you to a company near there and we'll get you squared away.

Cool. Thank you ma'am, I appreciate it. The transfer was made:

Pop-a-Lock (or whatever the name of the company was): Thank you for calling, what can I do for you?
Me: (explaining the situation)
PAL: Uh huh. Well, ok, it seems there's been a glitch in our system with Allstate and we can't access your information so if you'll just hang up and call back so the system will register everything.
Me: (who would rather die than go back through an automated phone tree for 15 minutes) You know what, time is of the essence so I'll just pay out of pocket for gas delivery.
PAL: OK, well where are you exactly?
Me: 21 miles south of Seattle on I-5 North. Sorry, that's all I know. I wasn't paying attention to road signs.
PAL: Well what exit are you near?
Me: I don't know, I wasn't looking at exit numbers. Oh, wait! I am directly across the road from mile marker 145!
PAL: OK, well, we need to get an idea of where you are exactly so what was the last exit you passed?
Me: Not sure, but I am directly across the road from mile marker 145.
PAL: (clearly unsure about life in general) Well, all right, we'll send someone out and find you. 30 minutes or less. Thank you for calling Pop A Lock!

 A few minutes go by. We kill time laughing at this pickle we're in. Then my phone rings...

PAL: Hi, this is Carlos from [We-Will-Be-Absolutely-No-Help-To-You-Auto-Care]! Now where are you exactly?
PAL: Well, hmm, what's the next exit ahead of you?
Me: .....
PAL: What's around you, like, are there any landmarks? I'm just trying to figure out where you are so I can bring some gas.
Me: ......

And at this point, an angel appears.

In the form of a Washington State Patrolman named Sergeant J.M. Ross.

Sgt. Ross: Are you ladies okay?
Me: (explains situation)
Sgt. Ross: Oh no! No light on the dash? No bell ringing?
Me: There was, but we were talking and didn't notice and now I feel like an idiot!
Sgt. Ross: (honest-to-god forehead slap) Haha! Well, who are you on the phone with now?
Me: Allstate and whaynot.
Sgt. Ross: Ah, don't worry about that. I'll call DOT and see if we have anyone in the are who can bring some gas out!
Me: Really? So should I hang up with this guy?
Sgt. Ross: Oh yeah, I wouldn't want to pay them to do it! Haha.

So I hang up with the stupidest man alive the Pop A Lock guy and wait for Sgt. Ross to return.

Which he does, with good news! A DOT worker will be there in about 10 minutes! And he'll wait with us and make sure we get back on the road safely!


Sure enough, a gal from DOT shows up (and like Sgt. Ross, is as nice as can be), fills up the tank with a couple gallons and we were off!


When I got home that night, I did some sleuth work around the web and found an email address for our hero. I sent him a immense dose of gratitude, thanking him for rescuing us and restoring any bit of lost faith in the goodness of humanity.

This was his response:

Good morning Lauren,

You did a great job of detective work!  (Have you thought of a career in law enforcement?) I am glad I was able to help you and your friend.  It is coincidental, I actually had planned on patrolling the south end of the county but when I got to the freeway on-ramp, I turned and went northbound.  In fact I said to myself, "Why did I go north?"

All things do happen for a reason!  In fact, you can consider us even, my shift started early this morning and shall we say, I have had better starts to my days.  But then I opened your email and read your kind words and appreciation.  You have put a smile on my face and NO ONE will ruin the rest of my day.

Thank you very much and please pass along my thanks to your friend.  I will ensure that your kind words reach the DOT worker was there.  Have a great day!


So to anyone who thinks the world is going to hell, I say HA!

There is a lot of good in this world.

And I've got proof. 


  1. oh good.. I needed some proof. ;)

  2. Yaaaaay! So glad you got rescued, what a wonderful story to pass along!

    p.s. this is not a surprising circumstance given our history ;)