Service-less stations

We used to get gasoline for our cars at service stations. Now we fill up at convenience stores with gas pumps. “Service” isn’t part of the name. Or the product.

To me, it’s not just that I pump my own gas and — if needed — clean my windshields. I don’t mind doing this. It’s the lack of concern for anything other than collecting my payment.

People who ran service stations often would help you any way they could if you needed it. One time, many years ago, we were on an interstate, coming home from somewhere or another, when the VW van’s accelerator stuck. I threw in the clutch and coasted off the next exit, into a service station. The guy running it took a look and discovered a worn-out spring. He fished around in his stuff and found one that would at least get us home and put it on. No charge. Just glad to help.

It also used to be that if you ran out of gas and could get to a nearby station, they’d find some container you could borrow to put enough gas in your car to drive it back and refill its tank.

My most recent experience in running out of gas (in an old truck with a non-functioning gas needle) was different. I walked to the nearest convenience-store-with-gas-pumps where, no, they didn’t have any container I could borrow, but they did sell me one for what I recall was a premium price.

Another time I was gassing up at a place not far from my house. My battery was on its last days, and I had plans to replace it that week. After the fill up, I couldn’t get the vehicle started. I called my wife to come right over with the jumper cables. Still it wouldn’t start. So we called AAA.

While we waited, we got a couple of bacon-cheese biscuits and coffees — a treat for us and a little more revenue for the store. As we were partaking, the manager came over and asked if that was our truck by the pump. I explained about the battery and assured her AAA was on the way. The owner, she said, wanted customers to be able to get to the pumps. Now, let me point out that there were three two-sided islands. I was blocking one of six places you could get gas. It was not a busy time of day. At most, two other gas customers came in during this ordeal.

Outside, a few minutes later, the manager came out to complain again about my being parked next to a gas pump. She did say it would be OK to be somewhere else on their lot, but if the vehicle remained where it was, they would have it towed. This, even though I had told her: We have a tow truck coming.

I asked if there was anyone who could help us push the truck to a more acceptable spot. She said, “No, there isn’t,” just as two able-bodied employees walked by.

My wife and I were beginning a futile attempt to push the vehicle as the AAA man drove up. He was able to get it started.

As I drove away, it occurred to me that at no time did I prevent anyone from buying gasoline. I also thought about how people used to help one another out at such places and in such situations, rather than treat them like an anathema.

Well, I most certainly will never again cause them any problem, real or imagined.

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