Me and filling stations have a history. First, they are no longer called filling stations but convenience stores. Not to brag but we here in Savannah we know our convenience stores. Two of the bigger convenient store/ gas station companies are located here: Parker’s and Enmarket. Which given my experiences over the years explains why I was destined to live in Savannah. My earliest memories of gas stations were the Stuckey’s filling stations where they had candy and souvenirs and of course gas. One of my experiences was an outing to Chehaw State Park in Alabama. Chehaw Mountain is the highest point in the state of Alabama. I had taken my date to the top of scenic Chehaw Mountain to see the world and have a picnic there. The only problem was I left my money at home and when we got in the car to return, I noticed I was very low on gas. The emphasis is on very. We had to coast down the mountain and roll into the nearest filling station. We then reached in between the seat cushions to find as much change as we could. We were blessed to find enough for a gallon and a half to make it back. Yes, gas was a lot cheaper in those days. The trip because of the seat cushion emergency fund was not a disaster but it did redefine a cheap date.
Gas is on everyone’s mind with the seemingly unending rise of gas prices. When will it stop? But all this angst has made me reminisced about the way things were. As far as gas stations are concerned. I am old enough to remember when air was free at gas stations. Now a days you must pay for it. I can remember how offended I was the first time I drove to a filling station to air my tires and found I must pay. I worried that the corporations may start charging for the very air I breathed. This was a scary thought and probably not far from the truth. I also remember the national crisis of the many lost gas caps. It may be hard to believe but once gas caps did not have an attachment to the car. This was before they were attached by plastic to the gas tank as we have now. Without attachment tended to disappear. Gas caps were left on the gas tanks or on the top of your car and when you drove away the fell. The gas attendants (I know another foreign concept) would discover the gas caps and no one knows what became of them. I believe that somewhere there are gas stations who made fortunes for their owners because of the lost gas caps economy of Americas’ car owners. This in turn caused of the advent of the billionaire class. But it amazes me to think that the person who developed the little plastic attachment is now richer than your grandmother’s chocolate cake.
One of my most horrendous incidents happened at a filling station. I was a teenager and very involved in the Church. The choir Director demanded I sing in the choir thinking it would increase members and attendance. What he had not counted on was the noise that proceeded from my mouth back in those days. Try as he might with all his years of training, he could not make me sing quietly or in tune. Until one day he gave up and told me to mouth the words to the songs. Which of course limited my interest in participating in the Choir until I heard about the upcoming choir tour. Away from home with all my favorite beloved female sisters in the Lord was an opportunity not to be missed. Yet the Choir Director had every intention that I would not sing of my rejoicing in the Lord on this tour. But he knew he had to allow me to go on the trip. What is a good Choir Director to do? Needing a vehicle to carry the sound equipment and instruments he approached my father and ask if they could use our van and if I could drive and oversee setting the stage. This solved the Choir Director’s dilemma and provided me a non-lethal to the ears way to participate.
So, there I was on the wide-open road with my best friend following the bus to our various destinations. I was cool I was driving while the rest were in the bus. My friend and I sang ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ having no clue what it meant and ‘I am Woman hear me now’ having a strange disconnect with two males singing it. It was a glorious trip. But afterwhile the van began to overheat in the summer sun of southern Alabama every few hours. I was constantly pouring water and antifreeze in the radiator. None of this was working. Finally, one day with the needle in the red I flashed my lights to the bus in front to pull over. We did at a filling station. I knew the routine by now: open the hood with rag slowly unscrew the radiator cap. But this time without warning the cap flew off water gushing out of the radiator as a geyser with the hot water landing on my stomach soaking my shirt. Instantly the hot water was burning my skin. I ran away in panic pulling my shirt off. All eyes in the bus were on me. I shrieked and ran around. But when I noticed the eyes of the bus were turned toward me, I bucked up and grimace and withheld my desire to continue to run in panicked circles. I realized I had pulled off my shirt and all my well-toned athletic muscles were now on display. The hot water from the shirt made putting the shirt back on untenable. So, I began to pose in muscle flexed positions and hid the pain. The counselors all came running and the choir surrounded me. I had everyone’s attention. My voice had alarmed them. Yes, I said my out of tune voice had demanded the attention of everyone. I thought impressive hunh Mr. Choir Director.
Luckily, the burns were only minor but did take a daily application of salve. The accident worked in my favor in two ways. First it allowed me to show my lean physique to all my lady friends. Something my modesty would not let me do ordinarily. I knew in my teenage fantasy world the women had to be impressed even if my shirtless form took on the writhing and shrieking of pain nature. Secondly, I had become the center of the trip. Forget the soloist. It was me at the center. Every day, I was asked to report on my healing and pain. The young ladies were expressly concerned. And then I was able to bypass all Baptist conventions and ask for the laying of hands on my body by women of my choice to help apply the salve to heal this broken soul. Afterall what good Christian would refuse to offer a fellow brother in the Lord assistance. Life was good. This was the closest I came to being laid that teenage year. And all this was achieved at a filling station.
Yes, filling stations have provided for all my needs throughout my life. Stay tune for more filling stations sagas in the next issue.