30 August 2005

the top off

So if I was smarter, I would've topped off my gas tank before Katrina barreled through the Gulf, but instead I'll settle for filling it up before the price gets jacked up even more. $2.64/gallon, and that was with the five cent discount!

Of course, I picked a pump that wouldn't let you scan the discount card directly. I considered driving around to another pump, but I'd already waited through an old, casually dapper man pumping his gas. A blonde lab/retriever mix had looked out the passenger window of a neighboring car with the same bored, resigned look I felt I displayed.

A note taped to the pump said I could prepay at the cashier or go up and get the discount retroactively if I paid at the pump. I was going to pay cash anyway so I shut off the engine, resigned to endure the extra hassle.

The cashier sat in a 5' x 7' rectangular booth surrounded by cartons of cigarettes and packs of gum. There was just enough room for one person to walk in and sit down. I waited patiently for another customer to finish as water from the gutter splashed my calves. They finished their friendly exchange, and the obese woman ahead of me waddled off.

I held my card and twenty under the plexiglass and told her, "Hi, I'd like to fill up on regular at pump one."

"You want to put twenty in?" she asked while she scanned my card.

"I don't know if it'll take that much," I answered with some concern as my twenty disappeared in the register.

"Well twenty's what I punched in," she said with finality. Now, I've bought a lot of gasoline over the years paying cash, credit, or debit, at the pump or inside, but her demeanor said, "At my pumps, you do things my way, and if I want to screw you over, I will."

I thought there might be time to salvage things before I walked away, so I asked, "Can I get change?"

She looked at me as though I was an idiot, and said, "What? Do you think I'm going to steal from you?"

I gave her a headshake-shoulder shrug reply and went to pump my gas. The meter read the correctly discounted price, so that was something. At $15 even, the pump shut off. I knew my tank had been half-full, but I'd thought it was going to take a couple more gallons to fill. I wondered if the cashier had only entered $15, because I couldn't remember the last time a pump had stopped on the dollar. I decided to trust the pump and returned to the cashier's hut to get my change.

Barely any time had passed, and though I smiled I could tell my return was too soon for her temperament. Without a word, she handed me a five from her plexiglass domain. "Thanks," I said. She continued to scowl at me.

Wow, she really hates me, I thought to myself as I walked back to my car. Oh well.

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