We were driving around on a shopping trip on Saturday and finally I had to suffer the painful process of purchasing gas for my Trialblazer. Yes, I drive an SUV but come on, I live in the mountains of West Virginia, if I can’t justify it who can, and every trip to the pump makes me reevaluate the wisdom of that choice. Believe it or not though, this is not a rant about gas prices, or pollution or any of that stuff, this is a piece on plain old embarrassment, not everyday embarrassment but the mortification so terrible that you have to look around and see if anyone you know has seen what happened. Alas, I am happy to say I was only a witness, not the subject of this experience.
So, there we were, having used the pay at the pump, we were in our car, freshly fueled and ready to go. We were on the self service lane just outside of the first line of pumps. The inside lane, the one between the first line and the station, I noticed, was that ever rarer echo from the past, a “full service lane.” We were checking out list and deciding where we needed to go next when someone pulled into the full service lane. These days one might expect someone to pull in there to run into the station to buy something, or get out to check a tire, but they just sat in their car and waited. This in itself caught my attention, but only as an odd thing. We continued to check off our list to see if the “shopping” experience could come mercifully to an end and we could begin the two hour trek home. In the door appeared the station attendant coming to pump our neighbor’s gas, but this was not some fresh faced young high school kid, in the door stood a tall withered octogenarian. Yes folks, here was a man so old he probably remembered when transportation ran on hay, eager to serve what I now noticed was a woman of about 30. Then I noticed the old man’s walker, and as he moved toward the car, his odd gait drew attention to his lack of a left leg.
Now, imagine if you will, a thirtysomething woman pulls up to the full service pump at an unfamiliar gas station and an ancient, one legged man with a walker, spends an eternity negotiating the distance to and around your car to pump your gas, check your oil, and wash your windows, while you, a healthy woman it the prime of your years are now trapped in you car, force to endure his services. He is in the way now, you can’t back out and move to self service. You can’t even remember whatever impuse led you to choose full service today. All you can do is endure and tell yourself, “I AM a good person, I am NOT a calous insensitive creton.” As the man slide-hopped around her car, I had a good view between the pumps, of her deer in the headlight eyes looking more trapped by the minute. For a long time I couldn’t leave, finally, we had to go because after 15 minutes he was still working to fulfill his tasks faithfully. As we were leaving the woman became aware she was not alone with her faithful attendant. She noticed us watching and put her head in her hands, I think she was weeping.