My general state of being whenever I wait for a gas pump to free up can best be described as “seething.” I’m not great with waiting, even in a car surrounded by the endless possibilities of radio entertainment because, as it happens, I also seethe at commercial radio.
My end of Stanstead has one gas station with eight pumps. Located right off the highway at the second-last stop before the United States, it’s always busy. It’s probably even more busy now that it’s become less palatable for locals to cross the border to fill up. Gas is still cheaper in Vermont, yes, but who wants to brave the interrogation at the border: “What’s the purpose of your visit?” “Have you ever been arrested?” “Don’t you have gas in Canada?” “Do you subscribe to a Keynesian or classical view of economics?”
I once encountered an obstinately literal border agent while crossing to buy gas at the Irving station located directly across from U.S. Customs. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“Just getting gas,” I replied.
“Where are you getting gas?”
“Here?” he barked, pointing at the inside of his booth.
“A-a-across the street,” I stammered.
“There you go…”
It was a patronizing exchange that served no purpose other than to make me feel small and stupid. And that was in the less paranoid Obama years. So, no, I don’t like crossing the border if I don’t have to, especially now that writing this has undoubtedly flagged me in the system as a radical, miscreant whiney-pants.
Waiting for gas in Canada, however, is no treat. The Stanstead pumps are slow. How slow? You can actually read the decimal cents whizzing by, that slow. Plus, the card readers are often broken, forcing customers to go inside, stand in another line to pay at the cash, while abandoning their cars at the pump, further delaying other paying customers. Or sometimes a pump might be out of order entirely.
These were all possible scenarios Monday as my car hovered at the edge of the service area waiting for a pump to free up, my eyeballs shifting left and right on the lookout for line jumpers. And what would I do if a car tried to nose its way in? I had not ruled out full-on ramming.
As mentioned, there were cars at the pumps, sitting empty as their drivers payed inside. No doubt there was only one cash open. Grumble grumble…
Nothing was moving. And this radio commercial break was endless! Grrrr…!
Finally, a woman headed towards the car at the pump I was poised behind. At last! But, no, she had paid in advance and was only now pumping! ARRRGH!
Oh, I wasn’t late for anything. I had lots of time. But waiting! AAARRRGH!
Eventually, a lane opened up, so I zipped in before anyone could swoop into my slot. The card reader worked, thankfully, though on the island opposite I could now see one of the pumps was indeed out of order. Of course it was.
I began pumping my gas and watched the cent decimals casually click by. That’s when I heard cursing at the pump one over from me. “Soggy box of Crackerjacks!” the burly man cried (no, he didn’t). “What the windshield-wiper is this?” He was looking up at the ceiling and then at the open door of his van. He was livid; water had dripped from the canopy onto the inside of the door.
Water, the most innocuous of all the liquids. Considering the fluids that have been spilled, sprayed and/or spewed in my car over the years, I would have laughed gaily at a little water on my driver seat. Yes, gaily.
Van-man stomped around the pump, looking for paper towel, but he couldn’t see the end of paper sticking out from the dispenser like I could from my angle, so he stormed over to the next island. I thought of pointing it out to him but I felt he deserved the nuisance because his anger was so out of proportion to the situation.
I realized that the source of my seething was something equally mundane, namely people like me just trying to get on with their day. There’s enough to be legitimately angry about in this world without becoming a van-man over the small stuff. It worried me, though, that my irritation might have eventually exploded into honking, cursing and ultimately a viral cellphone video.
Thankfully, I was at the pumps now and my seething had subsided, so I’ll never know. In other words, there but for the grace of gas go I.