She picked at a blister that had recently formed near her knuckle. She watched the digital numbers tick upwards, marking the amount of gas flowing into her car. Her attempts to remember the last time she paid less than $2 per gallon for gas were broken by the 15-year-old voice from inside her 1995 Pontiac.
“I just don’t understand them Florida State fans, Mama.”
Her son was riding with her to a job interview. He had firm instructions about sitting in the lobby during the interview, doing homework, saying absolutely nothing. She thought he would do OK. She smoothed her church clothes. They were also interview clothes. She only had one good dress.
Suddenly that good dress was ruined. She smelled it first, before the chemical wetness clung to her skin. The odor of gasoline triggers something that is nearly primal. She leapt away from the spewing gas tank. Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t even known that the tank was nearing full.
Fortunately, the gas nozzle didn’t have one of those little mechanisms that you can lock into place to pump the gas without you having to keep your hand on the nozzle. Someone must have pried that little device off. On all of the nozzles. Which meant you had to hold the filthy nozzle lever with your hand. Which was good in that it didn’t keep spraying after the shock and recognition stemming from the absence of the automatic shutoff mechanism that had caused the reeking backspray.
Nice clothes reeking of petrol, she went inside the store to complain. The half-asleep clerk was very, very slowly handling a line that wrapped to the back of the store. This Citgo on Norman Bridge also doubles as a restaurant of sorts for the population of the area. Convenience store pizza appears to be their major delicacy, but customers in the line were also clinging to plastic wrapped sandwiches and large singles of beer.
The clerk refused to look at her, despite her best *ahems* and “excuse me, sirs.”
There was no time to go home and change clothes, and nothing to change into if there were.
And this is why we don’t go to this Citgo anymore. It’s on the way home from work. The gasoline is pretty cheap. But after telling them MULTIPLE TIMES that their gas tanks spew dangerous and clothing-ruining fluids because they have no cutoff valve, we’ve had enough. The clerks don’t care that the pumps are broken. The store is constantly overrun by people aimlessly shuffling around looking for something to eat. The clerks are never in a hurry and don’t give a damn what you have to say.
Further? The gas lines are the slowest I have ever seen. One afternoon, I made a number of jokes with a guy trying to pump gas next to me. We both were incredulous at the slow pace of the flow of gas. I don’t know enough about the physics of gas pumps to say whether the lines are full of air, or the tanks were merely low, but I know enough to say that if I had stood there pumping gas at the maximum possible rate, it would have taken 30 minutes to fill up my tank. He gave me the kind of, “good luck buddy,” that you can only get from a stranger and drove off. I put in $3 worth and drove down the road to another gas station. Majorly annoying.
On top of all of this? This gas station is owned by something called United Food and Fuel (they describe the location as on South Decatur), which is famous for running commercials on local television here that are too hilarious to properly describe. The spots pretty much have the head of the company saying something along the lines of, “Do you want to get some high quality snacks like Corn Nuts and beef jerky? Well, we have those and cold beverages at our Citgo gas stations. Also, speaking of high quality products, you should read the Bible and learn about Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for your sins and lives eternally in Heaven.” I’m totally serious. I would post a YouTube link to these commercials if I could find one.
It’s one thing to talk about boycotts in a city made famous by an equal rights argument that took the form of a bus boycott. But some places should just go out of business. It’s in the perfect location for a gas station. I’d love to give my dollars to something that opened across the street with clean and modern facilities, merely decent customer service, and perhaps a little interest in improving the community as a whole (Is that too much to ask?) …
Here’s to hoping the Citgo on Norman Bridge fails. May something great be built from its ashes.