Lessons From the Road: Zen and the Art of Pumping Gas

Kat Downs - Sit Kitty Sit - Pyragraph

Photo by Kelvyn Skee.

Originally published at Sit Kitty Kit’s blog.

Prowler is our van. She’s big, black and a bad mother f’er. She’s our home away from home. When I get back from tour, I actually go through Prowler withdrawal.

But there is one tiny issue with Prowler. Probably not even worth mentioning if it wasn’t the kind of tiny issue that threw you into a blind rage.

So far, you’ve gotten only $35 worth in the tank. Only $65 more to go. Dammit.

Prowler doesn’t like to get gas. It doesn’t matter which style of nozzle you use, at most she’ll take about $10 in gas before she activates the auto shutoff. Then she starts setting it off every two gallons, or every one. Now you have to play a game with her, like force-feeding a damn baby. “Here comes the airplane! Woo! Open your DAMNED MOUTH!”

You pull the nozzle out, you put it back in—click.

Out, in. Click.

Out, halfway in. Click.

You manually hold the handle down to a slow trickle, and that works for just long enough for you to think that it’s—click.

You gush it, hoping she won’t noti—click.

So far, you’ve gotten only $35 worth in the tank. Only $65 more to go. Dammit.


It’s especially bad when it’s raining. Or snowing. Or 10 degrees out. Or really, really windy. Because of course, you have to stand there and take it. Just beg her to eat the damned gas. EAT IT!

Some days she will seriously just not have it at all. You’ll get $40 in and then it’s just click click click click (here’s where Mike starts making wild howling noises of anger and I say, “Do you want me to do it?”) click click click click FU&K IT ALREADY GAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

On days when you’re well rested and in a good mood, it doesn’t happen. Which is even more maddening because now you know for sure that she’s messing with you.

As much as I hate dealing with her when she gets like that, I have a pretty solid hunch that she’s actually watching out for us. Because I can’t help but notice that she’s forcing us to slow down. Life on the road is so demanding. Typically my brain is going 9,000 miles an hour, and multi-tasking is constant. It’s gogogogogogogogo for 17 hours a day.

But then suddenly—you just have to stop and pump gas. And you can’t pump and check your phone, because, click. And you can’t just set the hose and climb back in the drivers seat to dig that thing out of your bag because, click. And you can’t get a jump on getting dinner ready out of the cooler, and you can’t quick-dig your sweatshirt out of your suitcase, and you can’t quick reply to those emails waiting for you—all because, click.

No, says Prowler. You are going to stand here. Just stand here. Stop driving. Stop thinking. Stop DO-ing. Just stand here. Stand here. Be still. Be. Still. Pump gas.

Pump. Gas.


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About Kat Downs

Kat Downs is a musician, artist, teacher, composer and performer originally from Green Bay, WI. She began studying music at the age of 6, continuing on through high school and college earning a BA Degree in Music from St. Norbert College in DePere, WI. Now based out of San Francisco, CA, Kat’s current projects include the powerhouse Hard Piano Rock duo, Sit Kitty Sit, and the goth rock band, Saints of Ruin. She is the staff composer for Wily West Productions, the Music Consultant for Blue Scorpion Dance Theatre and has an exclusive studio of piano and flute students. Best known for her intense piano playing style and exceptional lyrical compositions, Kat tours nationally and has shared the stage with such names as LP, The Memorials, Chris Wyse, En Esch, Mona Mur, Erica Dilanjian, Shannon Curfman, Lennon, Javier Mosley and WASP.

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