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Station dispenses more than gasoline

Original post made by dolores ciardelli, editor of Danville Express, on May 4, 2010

When did gas stations become entertainment centers? I stopped at the Alamo Shell on Saturday to fill up my tank and was greeted by a friendly man in a video atop the gas pump.

Normally I wash my windows while the gas runs into my tank and ignore the man but this day the windows were clean due to a recent car wash. So I stood and watched the video.

A three-day weather report was quite informative. Temperatures were to rise to 80 degrees on Sunday and Monday. Of course I enjoyed hearing that.

Next came a segment on dating advice. I'm not saying I don't need any advice in my life but it would never occur to me to solicit dating advice. I've been married for 43 years. Still one never knows what the future holds so I stood and watched.

You don't learn anything about another person by sitting in the dark with them, the video advised me, showing a man and woman watching a movie in a theater. Well, I thought, Surely the trip to the snack bar would have taught them something about each other. Would you want to become involved with a man who ordered a family-size popcorn, had them add double butter, then liberally shook salt over it? Although the fact that your date can afford to go to a move theater snack bar at all is a welcome indication of financial solvency.

Next the all-knowledgeable voice advised that when you and your date are in a setting that encourages conversation, remember that it is not a job interview - don't just sit and ask question after question. "Make open-ended statements," he said.

Reporters quickly learn to ask open-ended questions so they must be good on dates. For instance, I would never ask, "Did you have a good time walking from Danville to New York?" That might solicit a simple "Yes" or "No." Instead I would say, "Tell me about your walk across the country." Instead of "Did your feet hurt?" I would ask, "Tell me how your feet felt." So I guess I am ready for the dating world should fate thrust me into that position. I do wonder how the Shell powers-that-be decided to dispense dating advice along with its gasoline. Why not give advice on avoiding investment fraud or how to clean spinach?

I'm old enough to remember when there were gas station attendants. As a shy teenage driver I hated this interaction with strangers but it seemed like my mother was most amenable to me borrowing the car when it needed gas.

While the gas pumped, the attendant, after washing the windows, would invariably open the hood and bring me the dipstick to show me the level of the oil. I barely knew what gas was, much less oil, so I would peer at the yucky stick held next to the rag, nod and say, "That's fine." If the attendant said, "But you're down a quart," I'd try to look knowledgeable and reply, "Hmmm, I think I'll wait." Then I would hope that my mother would fill up the tank the next time.

I remember one of the last gas stations around here to pump gas for customers was in Dublin. My husband especially liked that station because it had a comely young woman attendant who had a special technique of reaching way across the front windshield to wash it.

Those days are long gone around here although the service stations in Oregon still have attendants. But apparently they only pump the gas, you still have to wash your own windows. I'm not sure who checks the oil. At least here you can quickly pump your own gas without waiting for an attendant to finish with someone else, and you have the friendly video to keep you company and extend the company's good wishes.

On Saturday, when I returned the nozzle to the pump, the man was again activated to talk to me. "Thanks for stopping by," he said cheerfully. "Come back soon." I will go back, probably in a week or so. But only if I am on the Shell side of Danville Boulevard. Otherwise I stop at the Chevron.

Comments (1)

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Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2010 at 6:29 am

Ralph N. Shirlet is a registered user.

Dear Dolores and Emily,

Dolores, another excellent read! I want to see Emily use here writing skills in editorial some day very soon.

As I am greeted by the Shell Pumps in Alamo I always say, "Let me stop you right there and ask you a question." I stand there and do a three minute comedy routine back to the pump until it is time to hang up the hose and end my conversation.

Of course, I talk to the Chevron pumps but they have little to say!

I like to talk to things. I have a plant on my porch I named Ted. I often talk to the long cords I use to run power tools in my garden. And, of course, I talk to the sky, rain, and clouds. When I do my long walks in Walnut Creek, I often talk to the sidewalk and buildings as they pass by or is it me passing by.

I talk to myself quite often just to let me know how I am doing. I laugh at those things foolish. I suggest too often that I pay better attention. And I laugh with myself because I can't remember names.

In my thoughts God is the goodwill of all things past, present and future in that single moment of all time. Talking to things one by one just seems to have a higher purpose.

Next time you talk to the pump say hello for me.

The ROFL in Ralph N. Shirlet

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