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Life lessons at the pump

Gayle Nichol's picture
Fri, 01/04/2019 - 13:51 -- Gayle Nichol

I love to drive.

I have never lost the absolute joy that driving brings. The thrill of independence. The anxious anticipation of what adventure awaits. The simple pleasure of a great car song (as in… songs that are always better when played in the car than in any other venue).

I do not love getting gas.

It is one of life’s great time-wasters. Like waiting for paint to dry or putting on socks.

I hate pumping gas.

So when I stopped for a fast fill up at my usual station, I was happy to watch a dad opposite me instructing his young son on the finer points of gas getting.

As a childless woman in her (gulp) 50s, I fondly remember doing so many things with my dad when I was a kid that are considered deadly today. I fear we have gone soft. So when this dad yanked open the back door and invited the lad to hop out and learn the fine art of gassing up, I was smiling.

“No, you have to hold the handle really tight or you’ll have gas everywhere,” the dad cautioned.

It’s true.

It’s happened to me.

“Now you never do anything else while you’re filling up. Just pay attention to what you’re doing!” Dad was redirecting, as the boy was scrambling to make his sister shut the rear door.

Turning back to my own task, I topped up. Overfilled. Watched 2 cents worth of unleaded streak down the flank of my car. Typical.

Back in the driver’s seat I noticed the older gentleman at the pump on the other side investigating the front of my car. Concerned, I rolled down the window.

Was there a problem?

No he was just looking at my car, and noticed it was black.

He has always preferred Mercedes.

Me too! Alas, preference and reality do not always mesh, thus my Mazda.

He noted that when he started to drive decades ago, all cars were black. Then times changed and the roads were painted in an automotive palette of the rainbow. He has never looked back to black.

Such a simple conversation about such a simple thing, with such a pleasant gentleman. I don’t normally have time for these kinds of interactions. Like everyone in the world, I’m so busy and important.

Where is that accent from, I venture to ask?

And there is a story that starts in central Europe and winds through various countries, landing this man and his family in a concentration camp before moving him into North America and eventually Sarnia to the pump beside me at my regular gas station.

On the one side, I smile because a dad is allowing his son to become a young man.

On the other side, I shake the hand of a gentleman who is kind, and interesting, who has a story that provides some rather stark perspective about what it truly means to struggle in life.

And suddenly, I have a whole new appreciation for pumping gas.

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