Gas Stations, Bringing Us All Together
Driving to Greensboro from Cary each day, I’ve learned a lot about gas stations, exit ramps and my car. In the past five months, I have pumped more gas than the average truck driver, and have seen more blacktop than Mark Martin. I’ve learned a lot so far. Things like: my Honda Accord can economically make the Triad to Triangle trip two and one-half times before a fuel fill up. I also know that when my fuel light comes on, I can go on for about 25 miles before coasting into the station on fumes.
I can probably name every exit between I-40’s Harrison Ave. exit and the Koury Blvd. exit (there won’t be a quiz later). I know which lanes are exit only, where the 5-0 like to sit for a speed stake-out and the best exit with a quick reentry after re-fueling.
I’m the road queen of pay-at-the-pump, and would like to proclaim it one of the top 20 inventions of our time. I hardly ever go inside the gas station anymore. I’m always a little afraid that the station store I go in will have the unfortunate fate of being robbed while I’m inside. If the station doesn’t have the pump payment option, then I move onto the next one.
Also, there are always shady-looking men inside the gas station. I’ve learned to try not to make eye contact with anyone if I need some munchies. I see very few women in the store. Why is that? I know women like to shop, and there is always a ton of options in the convenience store. Maybe it’s because women like ‘deals,’ and there are very few of those in the convenience store. My largest complaint is I can buy a cold 20 oz. soda for $1.05, or I can buy the warm two-liter of soda for the same price.
Are you telling me the price of electricity to cool 47.6 oz. less of soda makes the two comparable in price? I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid, sorry.
People have been pretty friendly on the road; I’ve only been flipped off a couple of times. Yes, I’m that girl on the cell phone. I’ve had people strike up conversations; strangers making idle chatter at my pit stops. Maybe it’s Southern hospitality at its best, or maybe it’s the higher price of gas that has brought us all closer together on the road.
I hear lots of explicit language muttered at the pumps, not just from rough construction workers, but from the soccer moms, too. One man proclaimed at a gas station that he was going to have to take on a second job if the gas prices didn’t go down. I just laughed in agreement.
Another man, who was pumping gas next to me at a station on High Point Road went on a 15-minute soliloquy last week about the price of gas. What set the man off was he couldn’t get the gas pump to work. This requiring a ‘“they used to pump your gas for less than this and now I have to go in the damn place to get them to turn on the pump’” comment. Apparently he had worked in the fueling business prior to this experience: ‘“Rain or snow I was pumping people’s gas.’” He said it was only 25 cents per gallon back then and he even had to check the oil, washer fluid, and wash the windows.
I went on pumping my gas and nodding in agreement at his rant (I was sort of afraid not too). I finished pumping, and he was still going on about how, back in the day, his Reliant ‘K’ car used to fill up for $4 and some change, and that $25 could get him and his sweetheart through an entire weekend of dates.
‘“I’d have $25 on Friday, take my girl to the movies, eat at the movies. Go to the movies on Saturday, eat at the movies, then eat brunch on Sunday and still have money left over,’” he said. Meanwhile, back at Pump 7, I’ve got my receipt, opened my door, and was half way in the seat. I thought I was giving the appropriate body language for him to shut up, but he kept right on.
As I was driving off from the angry pumper, I started to laugh. Never before has someone at a gas pump been so enlightening. Aside from the occasional: ‘how you doin’?’ or catcall, I’ve never had anyone actually cause me to think at the pump.
Maybe it’s the high gas prices that are a common denominator between all people – there are more conversations at the pump. No matter your origin, race or financial status, all our wallets are feeling a little lighter these days. Maybe this is our chance to wipe the slate clean, to become one people united, to stop war, poverty and hate’…Okay, maybe not. But now we all know there is one common thread between you and the person grumbling on the other side of the pump.