I know Jane. She's careful. And I don't think she will put diesel fuel into a gasoline engine again.
Late this morning I started the car for a trip to the SM Mall to get a Zark's burger for myself and a supply of mackerel and sardines for the cats. The tailpipe gargled dryly and spewed out quite a bit of smoke. I didn't think too much of it, but I did become concerned on the drive when the engine seemed out of sync with what my foot was doing to the accelerator. I worried that I had bought a lemon, that the car was destined to spend two or three weeks in a shop somewhere.
It was while I was chewing my Zark's and watching a basketball game on the TV there that I remembered Jane, while using the car the previous afternoon to attend a Triskelion meeting in Sta. Rosa, had put 300 pesos worth into the car, thinking the tank was getting too low. Worth of what? I quickly started wondering. This had been Jane's first experience fueling a car, there is a diesel pump for every gas pump at a fueling station (diesel engines are as common as gas engines here), and diesel fuel mixed with gas would account for the symptoms the Avanza was presenting.
It took me twenty minutes to start the car in the mall parking lot. During that time a couple of lads walked over from a kiosk selling an automotive cleaning solvent, commiserated with me over my inability to start the car, and made their pitch: for P600 they would remove the scratch marks on the rear fender with their amazing solvent. I said I would pay P500 and they were soon at work. And by golly, they removed all the scratch marks!
The engine finally caught, and another huge cloud of smoke exited the tailpipe. A gas station was two blocks away, and I pulled in. It took me a while to get the manager to understand my concern, but when he finally did he went to the back of the car, got on his knees, and put his nose to the tailpipe. He said he smelled diesel. Can you get it out? I asked. How much was put in? he asked. I said P300. Just fill it with gas, no problema, he said. Sigurado ka ba? I shot back. Are you sure? Gas in diesel engine very bad, he said. Diesel in gas engine hindi (not) very bad.
I had the tank filled and shook hands with a manager who must have felt as if his nose bled profusely; and back on the road the Avanza acted, well, normally. Prior to the fill-up the diesel/gas ratio must have been close to 50/50. Now it was about 1/12, I guessed. The car acted fine all the way back to Fred's. Googling, I found that what the manager had said was basically right . . . and Jane was suitably distressed on the phone . . . and I told her it seemed there was no harm done . . . and now, after pecking away at this, I will put together an English lesson for my Chinese pal Jerry, whom I see tonight.