Natural Light

Bullshit, complete horse puckey, stink to hell bullshit. This is what I imagine my favored gas station attendant utters every morning when he starts his shift. I am fairly certain that his epithets are like micro tragicomedy plays. He has an extravagant way of expressing himself which makes going to the only full service gas station in town a remarkable experience. It’s a job and pays the bills, but there’s a lot of grief related to filling strangers’ gas tanks. First, one has to tell customers the final tally. For awhile, my attendant used to announce it with a sort of drum roll as if telling you the winning lottery number. That must not have gone well with certain folks, and lately he has been handing me the paper receipt. It causes me to look for my glasses which are more often than not unavailable. I ask him to just read it to me. He kind of turns his head away and mumbles.

He became known to me a few years ago when I watched him running down Western Avenue waving his arms and shouting at a car that had just pulled out of the station Stop, you didn’t pay. Stop you asshole. He gave up after a few yards, turned around and walked back. He looked over and saw the police car parked and waiting for speeders. Get him as he pointed to the truck, he didn’t pay. The blue lights went on and the police car took off after the truck. I wasn’t in a hurry and enjoyed watching the whole episode. The attendant apologized. I told him it was a nice reprieve in my day to see him try to catch the truck. Well, he said, I get reamed real good at the end of the month when the receipts don’t add up. I asked him how often people drive away. He said a couple of times a week, more since gas prices went up. We both shook our heads.

A few years ago I started giving tips to the attendants. I realized that although the actual time spent filling my tank was minutes and there was usually no special services like cleaning the windshields, they were doing something that I did not want to do. I do not want to get out of my car in sub-zero temperatures. I do not want to get out my car in the rain. And, I certainly do not want to get out of my car in the blistering heat. For that matter, I don’t even want to get out of my car in beautiful weather. Not at the gas station. For all those reasons, it makes sense to give these folks a tip. I settled on three dollars. It goes up a dollar every year.

I get my tank filled up every week and he is my attendant nine times out of ten. He’s a talker and I have pieced together a snapshot of his life from the snippets of information shared while waiting for the tank to fill. I know that he is an eclectic reader, has interesting political views, lives with his girlfriend and aspires to own a home someday. I think he is in his mid-twenties. He may or may not vote. He is fairly cynical about the way the world is running itself, but his life is joyful. He is one of the happiest people I have ever met.

Last week, he told me that he was buying a guitar from a friend. He said the money is coming from tips I saved. Actually, from the tips you gave me. Wow, I said,  that is so cool. My kids are all musicians and play the guitar. I’m so glad you’re getting a guitar. Electric or acoustic? Electric, he said. Way easier to play. I shook my head in agreement even though I have never played the electric guitar.

Last spring, he told me that he had been playing his guitar and using an on-line teaching course. Said something about busting his chops on Nirvana, until he gets to the good stuff. I like to woo the ladies with my base chords. Then he played the air guitar and I drove away.