Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Glow of the Dashboard's Light

In a move that likely reveals volumes about the thrill ride that is my day-to-day, I did last night what I do at least one time a week. I started the 30+ mile drive from my office to my home with the needle on the gas gauge pinned on "E". I drive often in the dark (most days both my to trip and my from trip in fact) and I find the yellow light that illuminates on Skate's console when there is more vapor than liquid in the gas tank to be quite intoxicating.

Anyway, about 2/3 of the way home traffic on 287 South slowed to a crawl. The crawl is the arch-enemy of the beyond empty gas tank. One consumes fuel while one is still and still is not a state of mind one embraces when one is running on empty. So I did something I rarely do. I opted out of 287 South traffic at Exit 22, which put me in or near Pluckemin and allowed me to pop into an Exxon station located within shouting distance of the highway.

Being a creature of habit I tend to frequent the same gas stations on a regular basis. The Exxon station in Pluckemin is not among them for at least a couple of reasons. First, for reasons not entirely clear to me the good people of Pluckemin (the Pluckeminians (?) or the Pluckers (?) perhaps) pay approximately 25 cents a gallon more for regular gasoline than us peons who live down in the valley. Second, the genius who developed the property on which the Exxon station now stands placed the exit from the gas station just far enough from the exit ramp for northbound traffic to ensure that cars coming off of the highway, having momentarily paused to pay lip service to the YIELD sign, are accelerating back to highway speed or a reasonable facsimile thereof just in time to make attempting to exit the gas station after filling up into a real FROGGER moment.

Last evening I pulled into the super sized Exxon station - where the one harried attendant was trying to serve customers waiting at six different pumps simultaneously - and pulled in directly behind another gent who appeared to be simply oozing cool. I sensed his cool immediately as he was driving the vehicle of choice for cool dudes everywhere: a red Toyota Corolla. If Skate has a twin (and I suspect that she indeed has several hundred thousand) then it was parked at the pump directly in front of the one I pulled up to. I am not sure if the other Corolla was indeed an identical twin. It too had a couple of initials next to the word Corolla on its trunk. However, I am not sure whether its initials are the same as Skate's. I can never remember if Skate is identified as an "SL", which I believe is shorthand for "Stop Laughing" or an "ES" ("Enough Snickering").

Anyway the fellow in front of me was not from 'round here - as borne out by the Maryland plates on his car. He hopped out of his car, credit card in hand, and prepared to go a-pumping. I suppose that the station's 19 signs reminding customers that New Jersey law forbids self-service of gasoline are indecipherable to someone from another state. Sadly, the instructions for how to use one's credit card in the pump were equally incomprehensible to my fellow car enthusiast. Just what an attendant on the verge of apoplexy did not need was someone hurling a monkey wrench directly into the spokes of his wheel of joy. Yet that as exactly what he got. All that plus the opportunity to inhale toxic fumes for minimum wage plus a nickel an hour.

And yet he did it. In a station full of customers anxious to get their fuel and get on their way, he juggled well enough to ensure that all of the balls remained airborne and none of us spent more time in his company than was absolutely necessary.

Well, all of us except for the idiot from Maryland. When I left he was still trying to make heads or tails of the gas pump. I know not how far he was from Grandma's house when he pulled off of the interstate to stop at the Exxon station but he made no progress at all from the time he arrived there. Good thing it was only Tuesday night. Presuming that he ever figured out how to get his tank filled, he just might be in time for mince pie.

-AK

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