Fact Check

Minister and Gasless Car

About a minister, a car run out of gas, a piss pot full of gasoline, and bemused passersby.

Published Dec 26, 2000

Claim:   Minister refueling his car from an unusual container attracts comment.


Example:   [Healey & Glanvill, 1996]

A friend of a friend, who was a venerable old cleric, was driving through the summery Yorkshire dales when his car sputtered and conked out.

The padre was distraught; he had a wedding to officiate in an hour and

now he'd run out of petrol. Then remembering that he'd passed a garage a short while back, he praised the Lord and, gathering his cassock about him, set off.

Upon reaching the garage, he enquired whether there was a receptacle into which he might put a gallon or so to alleviate his predicament. A pump attendant shook his head glumly, then pointed to a scrapheap out the back. "'Appen yowl fand summat over yon', reverun'."

The vicar scrambled about on the rubbish tip, but the only thing he could lay his hands on was a child's enamel potty. Filling it to the brim, he set off back to his stranded motor.

As he stumbled along the lane, the vicar built up quite a sweat, especially when he realised that the yellowy liquid was rapidly evaporating from his open receptacle.

He reached the car with but a little left and was just pouring the dregs into the petrol tank when a gleaming Bentley purred up. A dowager in the back, all wrapped up in mink, saw the red-faced clergyman administering the saffron-coloured fluid from the potty and wound her window down.

"Oh parson," she sighed, "I wish I had your faith."1


Origins:   No one quite knows how old this story is, but its central theme appears in another auto tale:

[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

This fellow owned a Mercedes Benz, and when he needed a container for holding water to put in the radiator in case of an emergency the best he could find was an empty champagne bottle. One night he noticed his engine getting fairly warm, so he pulled over to let it cool. Then he went to the trunk, fetched the champagne bottle, and started to pour water into the coolant reservoir. A couple people noticed him, and one said "These Mercedes owners really pamper their vehicles, don't they?"


Nothing but the best for my car!

again, the sight of an auto's needed fluid being administered from an unusual receptacle is misconstrued and commented on by a passerby, even though the "punch lines" of each tale are quite different. In the first example, a shining-eyed dowager assumes the vicar is working a miracle by transforming urine into gasoline. One can picture her driving off with her own faith reaffirmed by the sight of what she perceives to be another's, possibly even to write a large check to the vicarage. In the second, two jaded sorts gain the opportunity to make a telling comment about what are often seen as the ridiculous lengths luxury car owners will go to in caring for their cars. In this instance, a commonly-held point of view is aired, one that paints the automotively affluent as fools even as it affirms the basic common sense of those who lack the money to afford such machines, proving Aesop's "sour grapes" fable is still very much on the vine.

Yet there's something about clergymen, urine, and misfunctioning vehicles — the three keep turning up in a variety of tales:

[Dale, 1984]

My grandmother used to bomb round the Surrey lanes in her old Minerva. One particularly cold night she was all wrapped up, and quite a long way from her home at Weybridge, when her acetylene lamps ran out of water. Along came the local Rector on his Dursley-Pederson. Having ascertained the nature of the problem, "That's easy," he said, "we can use the water with which the Good Lord provided us." Making sure that the coast was clear, he stood on tiptoes on the running board, and peed into the container. "That's all I've got," he said. "You'd better do the other side." Granny removed her goggles. "I'm awfully sorry," she said, "the Good Lord forgot to furnish me with the proper provision."2

Barbara "under equipped" Mikkelson

Last updated:   12 April 2011


    2.   Dale, Rodney.   It's True . . . It Happened to a Friend.

    London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1984.   ISBN 0-7156-1759-1   (p. 36).

    1.   Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.

    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 19-20).

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