Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Full Service, small town style....

   My husband and I were out and about in our small town this past week and drove by one of the local gas stations.  Now, in our neck of the woods, Casey's are the usual convenience "brand".  They swept the market on small town convenience and have made we rural peoples lives easier.  However, that was not the station that we drove past. My husband pointed it out and said "There's something you don't see very often."  It's called "Full Service".

    This station is somewhat hidden by the row of broken down vehicles awaiting their turn with the mechanic. Behind this row is the station with 2 gas pumps in front of it.  If you were to pull up in front of the station, an amazing thing happens. Out of the station comes a human being.  He walks up to your window and asks how he can help you.  He then proceeds to open your gas tank, pick up the nozzle and begin filling your tank with the type of fuel you requested and the exact  amount you want.  These guys are pros.  Never do they go a penny over what you wanted. ( I try that all the time and always  manage to go over....) While your tank is filling, they do some other amazing things.  They will go over to the island and pick up the squeegee and wash your window. They will then ask you to pull the lever for the hood and they will check your oil level.  If it is low, they will ask if you want some added. They will pull a pressure gauge out of their pocket and check the level of air in your tires and fill them if needed.  This whole process is what is known as Full Service.
     If you were to try and stick a credit card in the pump, it would probably get lost in a crack, there is no slot for the plastic.  There is no screen telling you to press the cash button or hit enter.  You don't prepay.  The station takes cash, please, and checks only if they know you.  There is a sign over the door "In God we trust, All others pay cash". Of course, the attendant can make change if you need it, though you usually tell them to fill it with whatever denomination you have in your wallet.

     There is a typical "gas station attendant" uniform as well.  When he comes swaggering out of the station, he is dressed in a navy blue button down shirt and navy blue pants (never jeans).  He will have a pinkish rag with grease stains on it hanging out of the back of his pocket.  He has a tire pressure gauge in his chest pocket and a knife or wrench in the other.  Behind his ear is a ball point pen with the  name of the station printed on it.  He is always prepared. Old ladies swoon when they see him. He is their hero. He cares for their needs and is friendly.  They know they can trust him with the care of their old car.
     Those of you who live in more suburban and populated areas don't have this privilege. If you were to pull up to a gas station and a guy came out and tapped on your window, you most likely would not open it. You would maybe even drive off.  My brother worked at one of these full service stations in our small town. It was on a main highway from Chicago. Big city people were so amazed at what he did, that he would get $100 tips all the time.
     I can remember the gas station in our small town when I was a girl.  I can distinctly hear my dad saying "Filler-up" when he rolled down his window.  My dad's name is Phillip, and one of my brothers used to think that you had to say your name in order to get gas!  I can also distinctly recall the sound of the air bell that would ring as you drove over the hose to warn the attendant that someone was there. We would try to jump on the hose to make it ding.
     With the economy crisis lately, there has been a rise in gas theft at stations.  Gas companies might do well to hire an attendant to fill people up and prevent them from driving off with stolen fuel.  You would be less likely to drive off if the attendant actually saw your face. Rolling down that window and telling him to fill you up makes you committed for the long haul. No driving off without pay!
    This service comes from a long tradition of gas station attendants down through the ages. Men who weren't afraid to get their hands greasy and knew an engine inside out.  Picture Goober on Andy Griffith.  If he heard a strange sound in your engine, he could diagnose it on the spot.  And, he could take care of it for you. His job was to serve.  It is a service that has almost become extinct,  but you'll STILL get that in a small town!