The sun had just finished turning it’s back on a warmer than expected day. My wife’s troublesome car was flashing the low gas level warning light after picking it up from Bill’s, my friend the mechanic, who spends more time with the car than my wife does these days.
I pulled into the convenience store/gas station closest to the house to fill er’ up. The fast becoming grungy place looked like a small parking lot as people jockeyed for direction and position for fuel. I swooped like Mario Andretti toward the outside eastbound lane and took the last unused pump.
My mental celebration was immediately dashed as I noticed the yellow cover over the pump handle indicating my pump was “out of service.” I waited behind the SUV, realizing how people felt when they waited behind me when I’m filling up my truck… Annoyed is a fairly good word to sum up my demeanor at the time.
As I waited impatiently, the pumps on the other side opposite me were moving like liquid down hill. After considering trying to move over, change directions, and back into an available pump while the cars were popping in like popcorn in hot oil, I reconsidered and thought it better to try and keep my impatient meter at annoyed instead of risking sensory overload.
My internal meter was rising slowly past “annoyed” when I got interrupted – a break in the action, or lack thereof… Three kids pushing an old beat up Honda sedan into the open spot on the other side of the island up to the empty spot beside Mr. Slow Gas Pumper – the spot that I was envying.
I had to laugh inside; even the people pushing their cars were moving faster than me! I watched the kids… they were interacting with Mr. Molasses and he laughed a little, pulled his wallet out and handed the kids a few bucks. “Great”! I thought to myself, I helped another young kid with a girlfriend or wife and a small baby last time I was at the Bad Luck Market.
Mr. Turtle finally got in his car and left… Before I could even get the handle out of the dispenser the tallest kid was on me, “Sir”? I didn’t look up – I knew I was visibly grouchy. “Sir”! – “Could you help us out with anything”? – “We don’t have any money and we’re out of gas”!
I finally looked up at him and noticed he had a t-shirt with the name of the high school our oldest two attended and I coach at, “You go to Horizon”? I asked gruffly. “No – I just got the shirt – people ask me that all the time”! was his lame answer. “How old are you”? I asked with attitude. “I’m sixteen – uhhh – they’re eighteen”! he offered up his friends.
I guess he figured I was a dead end as he turned and headed into the store. Even though it was late, I was tired and hungry, I wasn’t done with the youngsters whose lives we’re headed the same direction as their car with no gas; nowhere…
A look into the driver’s eyes told me he was searching for more than money… I took a deep breath and began to speak…
My grouchy gas pumper facade faded to compassion…