June 6th, 2017
“The world is still a weird place, despite my efforts to make clear and perfect sense of it.” – Hunter S. Thompson
We were driving north on US 97 toward Bend, Oregon. Karin and I had spent the afternoon at Crater Lake National Park, gazing at water so blue that it made my eyes hurt. Some of the roads leading into the park were still blocked by drifts of snow, and this was in the middle of June. Now we were going through hilly country, dry and studded with tall pines. We had a hotel room waiting for us in Bend, but we needed to stop for gas and a poddy break.
I pulled into a tiny filling station on the left side of the road. As I stiffly got out of the driver’s seat, I noticed some guy with a baseball cap trying to pry open my gas cap. I was at the brink of screaming, “Get the FUCK away from my car, Bitch!”, when the man smiled broadly at me and asked, “Can I fill it up for you today?”
The man’s smile wilted a bit, and he said, “Would you like me to put some gas in the car, Sir?” I suspect he was starting to think that I was not an English-speaker.
“Uh, yeah…sure. Go ahead. Where’s your bathroom?”
He smiled again, and said cheerily, “Right around back!”
I noticed a woman in front of the car, busily scraping insect corpses off of the windshield. I walked toward the restroom unsteadily. It was all somehow unnerving.
I was having a flashback to my childhood, sitting in the back of my dad’s white Ford station wagon. It was sometime before 1970, at a gas station in Milwaukee where the sign advertised fuel at 29.9 cents a gallon, and they gave you dishes just to buy the stuff. People pumped your gas for you and checked your oil. They cleaned your windshield. I hadn’t experienced this sort of thing in nearly fifty years.
Upon my return, the man was explaining to Karin how no other service station in Oregon had service like theirs. We later found out that this was an out and out lie. People pumped gas for us throughout Oregon and Idaho. I don’t know why they do that, but they do. Actually, it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. These guys just get in the way.