September 29th, 2008
11:25 AM ET

Out of gas trauma

By Karen Denice
CNN Medical Senior Producer

I like to think of myself as a calm person. So when people began panicking in Atlanta about there not being any gasoline I didn't pay any attention. I kept driving my gas-efficient car and figuring the fuel situation would resolve itself by the time I needed to go to the pump. Wasn't I smart? Well that was until one morning when leaving my house, my gas light popped on and glared at me.

Arriving at work, I told my colleagues about the gas light. A guard we passed grunted with a sad smile, other co-workers told me of searching for gas days and nights in a row. I admit, the anxiety started to invade my psyche. Next thing I know, we were all grouped around my computer searching for any available gas in the Atlanta metro area. We found a station that was up and running close to work and I dashed out of the office with people yelling, "Call if you run out of gas.”

I arrived and was the upteenth car in line. I tried not to block the Burger King entrance as I waited on a busy street trying to get into the station.

                  Victory is near at the gas pump

Victory is near at the gas pump

Once I was almost in the lot, I took a photo – victory! But note the big bus in front of me. My mind was racing. What if he sucks up all the gas?!

When I finally made it to the pump, I hurriedly swiped my credit card, wanting to make sure I got gas before the woman on the other side of my pump. What was happening to me? So much for rational! Then, she started yelling that her pump wasn’t working. "Are you out of gas?” she asked. My heart lurched, and sure enough my pump was dry. Luckily, I switched to the most expensive option - "Ultimate" - and started pumping. I have never in my life put anything other than regular grade in my car, but at that moment it didn't matter.

I left the station with a full tank of "Ultimate,” my car purring and confused over this ultra-deluxe fuel flowing through its engine.

I returned to work triumphant and my fears in check, but boy what a lesson about how public anxiety can wreck anyone's calm in the right situation.

Have you become wrapped up in public panic or anxiety and if so, how did you stay calm?

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