Crossing traffic was difficult to impossible just beyond the I-90 Interchange on 97. Yet, though Country Fair’s prices were consistently 5c below the average at this juncture, the Kwik Fill directly across was prepared to compete – and, the sign said Full Service. Since my windshield wash hadn’t been spewing any fluid since the inspection, and I was heading north, this was a no brainer; Kwik Fill would get my business.
I pulled up next to the open pump. The service representative, bundled in jacket over hooded sweatshirt, was pumping gas for a vehicle on the opposite side, but tapped on my passenger side window. When I rolled it down, he asked me what gas grade I wanted. I told him I would also like him to check my windshield washer receptacle, as it may be blocked or leaking. He walked away, to complete the sale on the other side, and then returned, asking again if I wanted to fill the tank. I said yes, and popped the hood, feeling the pump nozzle enter my car’s gas receptacle.
By now, he had come around to the front of the car. Again, I declared that I wished to have the wash receptacle checked for leaks. He called out: “I can’t tell if there is fluid in the bottle. All I can see is the top of the bottle – it’s an entire bottle!” He seemed impatient.
I asked if the spouts might be blocked. He said that this was possible. And, he disappeared again – to serve another customer.
I looked back at the pump. The hose was draped across to my car, the nozzle inserted into my gas tank – but, the pump read 00.00
He came around again, to my passenger window, and asked if I’d like him to pour some fluid into the receptacle bottle, to test its contents. Good idea, I thought; I agreed.
While I watched him walk back to get what I thought would be a small amount of windshield wash, I saw him step across the draped pump hose. Calling out, I said: “Why does the pump read 00.00?!” He looked at it. “Oh!” he said. And, stepping to the pump, he engaged the gasoline stream.
Then, he walked up to the open hood and poured fluid into the receptacle bottle. Three seconds later, a man in a truck being serviced called out: “It’s full!”
When I asked why the wash wasn’t reaching the windshield nozzles, he said it might be the motor. “Motor?!” I said, incredulous. Then, he said, “You’ll have to ask a service station. I’m not a mechanic!”
Walking past the passenger side of my car, he shoved a large, nearly full bottle of blue washer fluid through the window, and said briskly: ” Three seventeen, 2019 prices”. Then, he pulled it back out of the window, and disappeared.
I was momentarily confused. Was he telling me the grade of the fluid, like one would confirm lubricating oil? I stared straight ahead, blinking my eyes rapidly.
When the tank was filled, I handed him my debit card, declaring “Credit, please”. Again, he said: “3.17, for the wash”.
The bottle. The entire bottle. He was charging me for the whole bottle of washer fluid!
I said: “You’re charging me for the whole bottle?!” He said: “I have to! You said you wanted me to test the receptacle!” I said: “You never told me you would charge me for an entire bottle to do that. I would not have done this to you.”
Again, I stared. Through my soiled windshield.
He came back with my debit card, and the receipt for the gas, and as he set the bottle on the seat I handed him my credit card. He said: “You’ll have to come in [to the store] for this; I can’t sell you a product out here, because you have to sign for it.”
Getting out of the car, I moved deliberately. The sun was bright. The air was crisp, slightly warmer than it had been for much of the winter. Following him toward the store cubicle, I took my good old time. Walking with a slight strut, head high, I felt emboldened by every woman who had ever walked the earth.
Entering the cubicle, I submitted my card for payment. Another customer stepped in, behind him. When the transaction was complete, I stopped.
“Sir, this is a Full Service station. I expected that you would take a small amount of the fluid used to squeegee windshields to test my receptacle. Why didn’t you squeegee my windshield?”
His eyes were a piercing blue, deeply set. Round face, bulbous features. His speech was rapid, aggressive.
“Ma’am, do you see how many cars going in and out of here? I’m alone here. I’m doing the best I can!”
“I’m sure you are. But, this being a Full Service station, you should have cleaned my windshield. Instead, you billed me for an entire bottle of windshield washer fluid. ” And, backing out toward the exit: “Sir, I worked in the service industry for five years, and I would never have done to you what you did to me, today.”
I was out the door. Heading back to my car, I looked at the woman stopped behind mine, and shook my head in warning toward her. Just a small service provided to my ilk, a woman in a world of men out to make a buck.
There is an 800 number on the Kwik Fill receipt. Just above it, the following question appears:
“How Are We Doing?”
© 3/1/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.
“It takes all kinds.”
So we are told.
Being reminded of our diversity can bring a certain comfort, but I’m not talking about what makes each of us unique. I mean to reference what makes us desirable.
Oh, and, again, let me be clear: not holding forth on what is pretty, or sexy, or fine. No; I want to address what makes us good.
Goodness. Old days, this used to mean “without sin.” Well, in that context, we’re all cooked, but really. To be a good person is still a worthy goal, however you cloak it.
I’ve grappled, in recent months, with personality traits of my own which have caused both moments of reflection and hours of contemplation. Being known as “blunt”, or “harsh”; recognizing that those who still ascribe to the “politically correct” wait to pounce on any spontaneous act of authenticity.
But, beyond all this, I’ve reached a certain crossroads with respect to what constitutes a good person. All human frailty, weakness, affliction aside, that which makes somebody truly above reproach. Kindness? Compassion?
By the process of elimination, here are my conclusions.
The worst kind of person is not vulgar. Not harsh, or negative, or even – provided assault is ruled out – mean. The worst one is the person who exploits another’s trust.
Because being untrustworthy with, and toward, the trusting is fraud.
It declares, by its act, that reality is not an experiential right but a tool to be manipulated. Yes. I’m talking about reality.
What we perceive as real is heavily influenced by how we perceive the words and actions of others. Over time, as relationships form, reality takes shape around such words, actions, and interactions.
When those, who seek to, control others’ perceptions of their own actions, these warp the reality they bring to the scene according to their own intentions.
Creating a false image, or character, or scenario forces the perceptions of others. It makes a lie into an entire, cinematic expression which is then accepted by the other as truth.
“Living a lie” doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It sucks any number of other living things into its vortex.
The mentally ill suffer within such alternate realities, daily. But, how close to a schizoid frame of reference are we when we become unwitting victims of fraudulent people?
Trust isn’t a noun. It’s a verb. Submit to a life of verifiable truth. Be worthy of another’s faith. Prove trust.
This is about far more than kindness.
Take reverence for life itself.
© 2/18/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting the right of the author of original material.