Pro-tip: if you’re tired of your teenage kid hogging the family car, don’t put any gas in it.
I know this move works.
I’ve field tested it.
Earlier this week, our 17-year-old son came back into the house shortly after he was supposed to leave for school. He had an annoyed expression on his face because the car he wanted to use was short on fuel.
I was slightly surprised he even noticed. Teenage boys aren’t known for paying much attention to anything except their stomachs.
Which is why it’s a good thing gas gauges are located where even they can’t miss them.
Still, it was either dumb luck our son noticed or he is simply growing up and thinking ahead instead of learning from my dubious example.
In any case, he feared the car would be running on fumes by the time he made it to school. And when I followed him back out to the garage to see for myself, I discovered he wasn’t far off.
I told him he could probably make it, but that he’d have to fill it up before returning home. Otherwise, he might end up stranded on the side of the interstate waiting for the courtesy patrol to save the day.
Then I sensed an opportunity.
I pleaded poverty.
I made a show of checking my wallet for the cash I knew I didn’t have – because, who carries cash anymore?
I also pointed out that the clock was ticking, that he didn’t have time to pull up to a pump before school started. I suggested leaving the car with me made better sense. That way I could fill it up while he was in school in case he wanted to use it later.
I then finished with this coup de grace: I told him that he was just going to have suck it up and ride with me when I took his younger sister. Thankfully, she is not yet old enough to compete with the rest of us for the car keys.
I felt sort of guilty for depriving him of the car. After all, I could have easily handed over the plastic I customarily use to spend our money.
But here’s the thing: I wanted easy access to a car again, if only for one day.
The problem at our house these days is a simple one – too many drivers and not enough cars.
When our son takes one of our two cars to school, I’m left stranded at home because my wife needs to take the other one to work.
This arrangement generally works because of the odd hours I keep. I make my living at night and on weekends, which means I’m home a great deal during the day.
At first I welcomed being stranded. With no one around and no way to get around, I figured I could finally get my busy nap schedule back on track. Or maybe stream some old “Star Trek” episodes that I haven’t seen in a while … at least, not since the previous school year let out for the summer.
But I was wrong.
The truth is, I’ve actually been losing sleep ever since the new school year began. And streaming anything is beginning to bore me, even “Star Trek.”
All because I’m not free to come and go as I please.
In short, lying around the house isn’t quite as satisfying when it’s forced upon you.
Sometimes a guy just needs to get off the couch and drive.
Even if it means tricking your kid into leaving the car with you.