Rural Gas Station (Photo credit: fables98)
After 7 months of no blog posts, I break the silence with a true story from before 6 AM this morning.
So there I was, standing at the cash register of a little mom and pop gas station in the middle of nowhere. I had just pumped my gas, and I had gone inside to pay before getting back on the road. The gray-haired guy behind the register said kindly, “What pump?” Heck if I remembered. Usually I pay attention, but I must have been tired or something. My mind was just blank. Finally, he said, “Oh, you must be up on #7. That’ll be $5.” That should’ve been the first clue to me that something was not right. Who the heck buys $5 worth of gas these days? But again, mind checked out, I simply reached into my pocket and pulled out a $20 bill. Never mind that I usually pay with credit. We can get hung up on details, or I can tell a story here. So let’s get on with it.
Without any hesitation, pops took the $20 bill and grabbed 3 personal checks from the register tray, each written out for $5 to the gas station. He handed them to me for my $15 change and, KA-CHING, closed the register. Perplexed, I stood there looking into my hand, completely incredulous, wondering what had just happened. Who on earth would give personal checks as change from a cash register? Cripes. He hadn’t even endorsed them over to me, and why would I want a fist full of third-party checks anyway? Surely, the old guy must have been losing his marbles.
“Sorry, but I want cash, not personal checks,” I said. He looked at me just as bewildered as I was feeling, as if to say, “In my day, we trusted one another and took personal checks as change.” After a moment of silence, it was clear that he really didn’t know what to do about this situation. He might have been 80 years old, but these were uncharted waters, it seemed.
“Well, I am just going to have to tear up the checks, then,” he said. This made absolutely no sense to me, but I had given up hope of making sense of this debacle. However, just before he tore them up, he stopped.
“I’ll have to call the manager to resolve this,” he said. I first wondered how a store of this size could have a management structure. So, this guy was not the owner himself? Well, okay, I thought. I wasn’t leaving without $15 in cash. I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, an impatient lug walked in to pay for his gas and grew frustrated by the hold up. He started muttering something, and I hoped it wasn’t about me, because I wasn’t going to take any flack from somebody who had no idea what I was dealing with at the moment.
The longer I stood there, the more I started thinking. I really didn’t think that I was on pump #7. As long as things were taking so long, I decided to go out there and see for myself. I wandered around, as if lost in a parking lot wondering where I had parked my car. It was a gas station, for crying out loud, and I could not find my car.
It was just then that I remembered this gas station was an odd one. There were two pumping areas, and I was in the distant one, not the one next to the building. I wandered to the more distant one, and I still could not find my car. You mean now somebody has stolen my car?!? BUT WAIT! How had I forgotten that I was driving a rental car, not my silver Lexus? No wonder I was having trouble finding it. Good heavens! Somebody get me out of this place, I thought. But, finally, I spotted it–a white nondescript car, but unmistakably the rental car I had been driving. And, as I had thought, I was NOT on pump #7.
Back into the station I went, determined to get this mess cleared up so that I could get back on the road. I found the old guy still spinning his wheels waiting for management to fix the first problem with the personal checks. I told him that I wasn’t even on pump #7, but rather pump #6. He gave me the deer-in-headlights look, and I somehow knew this mess was going to take forever to get fixed. So I waited, and waited, and waited. I think we were still waiting for the manager. Like where could the manager be, exactly, in a place the size of a log cabin?
Just then, I had a strange feeling hit me. Something told me that I needed to get out to the car. I don’t know why, but I knew something bad was about to happen. Call it Divine intervention or whatever, but I heeded the call and proceeded promptly to the nondescript white rental car. When I got there, I only saw it in the distance speeding away. It ran over a curb as it left the parking lot. This day had just gone from bad to worse, and I hardly knew what to do. Finally, I realized that I must call 911 immediately to report the theft.
“Your car has been stolen?” the 911 operator repeated to me. “YES!” I confirmed.
“Where are you located?” the 911 operator inquired. Conveniently, as I stood at the phone booth, I noticed that the address of the gas station was on the side of the building. Further, the gas station had a name that was something like Red Roof Inn. Yes, like the hotel. Heck if I knew why the gas station was named after a cheap hotel. I just gave the information to the operator and waiting for the next question.
After much back and forth, I suddenly realized I was talking on a pay phone. A PAY PHONE?!? THIS PLACE STILL HAD A PAY PHONE, and why hadn’t I thought to just use my cell phone? It was then that I felt my left front pants pocket for my cell phone. DOH! I had left the phone in the rental car that just got stolen. To make matters worse, I had also left my WALLET in the rental car. I hated carrying my wallet and often left it behind. My wife had warned me about that. When she found out that the rental car had been stolen with my cell phone and wallet inside, I was going to be a dead man.
Just then, I heard somebody playing a harp. A HARP?!? Why would somebody be playing a harp at a gas station at this hour in the middle of nowhere? Was I at the pearly gates? Was this heaven, where rental cars get stolen with cell phones and wallets inside? Seems to me there are always angels playing harps in heaven.
No. It wasn’t heaven, but it was a harp–the harp sound that plays when my alarm goes off on my iPhone. It was 5:45 AM. Time to get up and work out before showering and heading to work. This whole wacky story, while retold entirely as I remember it, was a dream. It’s been years since I had a dream this vivid.
Wow was I glad that I hadn’t lost my iPhone.