Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's amazing the way the mind works. When I started thinking about this post, I was only going to complain about the morals of contemporary society as it applies to gas prices, and no I don't mean corporate morality. (Like hamburger steak and military intelligence (with a tip of the hat to Gallagher)and honest politician, that's an oxymoron!) I'm talking about having to pre-pay at gas pumps.

When gas was less than a dime a gallon, there were no convenience stores, there were service stations. You pulled up to the pump, a guy in a khaki uniform and wearing a tie would dispense your gas, check your tire pressure, and clean your windshield. When gas hit a buck a gallon, those last few holdouts folded shop. All places that sold gas were self serve. (When I was 20, I had to teach my mother how to use a self-serve pump.) You would pump your gas, then go inside to pay. (There was actually a station in Fredericksburg that paid a guy to stand beside the self-serve pumps and collect money so you didn't have to go inside.)

In the 90s, I worked as a cigarette sales rep in Austin. Gas prices had spiked at $1.29 a gallon. One afternoon, I was training a part time couponer in a convenience store on East Oltorf Drive in Austin. I had worked in a convenience store. I knew some of the concerns.

While super-hot Karen put coupons on the generic cigarettes on the left side of the counter, I did my thing behind the counter. I noticed the manager look out the window as a guy in a beat up Toyota started filling up. I could tell as his spine got straighter that he knew something was up. I slipped from behind the counter, sidled up to super-hot Karen and said softly, "Keep out of his way."

Sure enough, as the manager edged closer to the door, the guy at the pump kept glancing nervously at the store. Suddenly, he put the pump back in the cradle, jumped into his car and drove off. As the car door was closing the manager was out the door and running across the lot to the pump. The guy drove off and I saw the manager watching the car.

"Just stay where you are," I said to super-hot Karen as the manager came back into the store, his lips moving a mile a minute. The manager quickly jotted down the license number he had been repeating to himself and called the police. Later, after super-hot Karen asked my how I knew to keep out of the way, I said, "Because I knew the guy was gonna drive off."

"You're so smart," super-hot Karen breathed to me. I blushed, and remembered how she had turned me down for a date a couple of weeks before. "Just make sure you keep out of the way of the manager in emergencies," I said.

Now that gas is at $2.19 a gallon, we gotta pay in advance. There are stickers on the pump warning that if you don't pay for gas you could lose your license. There's an armed guard at the each pump and, I'm certain, a sniper on the roof.


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