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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?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. grace

    I would stay calm by asking myself, what really is the worst thing that could happen if there was no gas? I'd have to stay in the office, or stay at home, or ride a bike, or walk. Or ride a bus, train, or find a ride from someone with an electric car or one that runs on biodiesel.

    In the meantime, knowing there is a gas shortage, I would definitely at least find a neighbor to carpool with, and start studying public transit routes.

    September 29, 2008 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Dr Edward Shuherk

    I am shocked and fascinated that the gas situation in Atlanta has turned so dire. I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a small town here in the northeast. We're very fortunate to have ethanol fuel available here, controversy aside, as I embark on a future job/commute 30 miles to my clinic in Grundy Center, Iowa starting January 1, 2009. I, too, own a hybrid vehicle and the dealership is very clear that one best not ever let the car run out of fuel (it ruins the calibration of the electric and gas engine interface). Edward D Shuherk, MD Family Medicine

    September 30, 2008 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Craig Maltby

    I guess my way ot staying calm during this wild ride is to not even look at my 401(k) or other long-term financial vehicles I'm invested in. I also try to keep pleny ot cash in the checking account that normally should be going into mutual funds, etc.

    I live in Iowa and we haven't had a gas crunch here. Price per gallon of ethanol is now $3.19. Amazing! Who would have thought we'd be celebrating $3.17 gas!

    I guess my only advice is what every other advisor would tell you: do not fixate on bad news, get good exercise and sleep, engage with your family and friends, eat right and know that this whole thing is cyclical and will morph into something better. I'm also confident we have a lot of innovataive, smart people out there working on long term solutions to energy, finance, and leadership issues that all seem to be converging. New opportunities and ways to doing business will emerge. Just gotta hang in.

    And, keep your immune system balanced, so your body can better handle physical symptoms of mental stress we all experience from time to time.

    September 30, 2008 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lauren

    This gas thing kind of reminds me of when a blizzard comes to town; neighbors you don't see all year long suddenly find themselves shoveling the walks at the same time, smiling and being neighborly. In a bizarre way, I think times like these bring people together. We all panic together, and it's like a surge of some primordial community-building that draws us all together making us all care about each other as people, and as a group. We all realize how important the notion of cohesiveness is.

    October 1, 2008 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. T.

    An omen of things to come if we don't invest in alternative energy. I don't think that we can simply drill our way out of an impending energy shortage. Russia, India, and China are just a few countries competing for the world's remaining oil. A vote for John McCain and his brilliant running mate will insure that we remain mired in an old ideology exacerbating our energy woes.

    October 1, 2008 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Michelle in Kansas City

    People are so stuck on their cars, it's sad. I understand that some people have very little choice in the matter. Our public transportation in all but the biggest cities is horrible. (I live in a large metro area, and we have a pitiful public transportation system.) Some people live a very large distance from where they work, from grocery stores, and from other necessities.

    However, I like to think that people are responsible for themselves, and for thinking ahead. I'm sorry if you weigh 500 pounds, have asthma from smoking, and haven't ridden a bicycle in years: if you live less than five miles from work, you have no excuse not to get there under your own power. There are so many ridiculous people who are convinced they can't survive without a car, yet they try to pretend their all about self-reliance. I find it laughable.

    With the price of gas rising, my wife and I made a decision. We sold my car, consolidated behind hers, and moved within walking distance of the place where we both work. We can walk to the bank, to the vet, to the dentist, to the doctor, and to two grocery stores. There are even several restaurants and a pub within walking distance. That's what you call active decision-making. If our area runs low on gas, we'll just not go on any trips for a while.

    We all make decisions in life. I'd suggest to our panicky friend in the article... decide to purchase a bike. On another note... no, I'm not heartless. If any of my older neighbors who can't walk as easily found themselves stuck for gas, I'd bring them on grocery trips with me, or do the grocery shopping for them. But really, this reminds me of the debt-crunch. I've never owned a credit card and have no debt – those were my decisions in life – so why should I feel bad for (and bail out) the people who made decisions that got them into debt? People make decisions for "now" without giving any heed to the future.

    Oh, and no, I'm not rich. I'm lower-middle class. I've never made more than $40K per year, and my average since college has been barely $23K. I guess I just know how to manage my money better.

    October 5, 2008 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.