Fill ‘Er Up!
As I rolled on up, the bell did ring. Ping! Went the bell. Twist went the hand. Off went the key. The motor went from loud to quiet. I listened to the silence around me. It sounded good. I had been on the road all day. I looked to the West. The sun had already started setting. The air was still warm.
The fluorescent lights hummed overhead. Hmmmmmmmmm. I studied the pumps. They were rectangular with glass faces, chrome trim and hoses that coiled like corrugated snakes around the side. The pumps looked like old ice chests. I knew I liked them right away.
I read the tops. There was UNLEADED for some and SUPER UNLEADED for others. I parked next to SUPER UNLEADED. There was a little yellow sticker that said 91. That was good. A cardboard sign was stuck to the pump with clear tape. It said “Cash Only.” I didn’t mind.
As I stood there, an older man in a dark blue shirt and matching hat walked towards me. He worked there. He must have heard the bell.
“Hello,” he said in a cheery voice.
“Hello,” I replied, reaching for the nozzle.
“We usually pump the gas for you, but that’s OK. What how much would you like?”
“Enough to fill the tank,” I replied, handing him a few bills from my wallet.
My gaze shifted to the office. Through the big glass windows, I could see more hand-written signs, advertisements for road maps and a cooler filled with cold drinks. A dreamcatcher dangled near the doorway, and a variety of hats and T-shirts hung from the rafters. A pair of blue and red neon signs confirmed that they were indeed open.
The man turned on the pump and I started pumping. The black and white numbers rolled like an odometer on the highway, spinning slowly as my tank filled. When I was finished, I returned the nozzle. I smiled at the attendant and gave him a wave. Just like that, I was back on the road.
Even though I pumped my own gas that evening, I felt at-ease knowing there was someone there who cared about me and my vehicle. I can’t remember the last time I talked to a service station attendant while getting gas, let alone have them offer to help. With credit cards and pay-at-the-pump convenience, so much of the service has been eliminated from the modern service station. Hell, gas pumps have T.V.’s in them. That’s just how it is.
Self-serve pumps hit the scene in the summer of 1964, but it I’m still happy to see the occasional standout. Aren’t you?