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.
I used to have a wicked sense of humor.
Meaning: at school, R.A. was the funniest girl in class.
Of course, this was in that archaic phase of history formerly known as “junior high”. And, maybe the cusp of sophomore year. But, details don’t matter. Once life kicked into high gear, the end began.
Yes. Somewhere between the first side impact car accident and the onset of the migraines, something started to chip away at the old edge of wit. Perhaps the newest pain medication, intended to act on serotonin receptors. Whatever. Once I got to college, a secular state university, all my energy was required just to function semi socially and remain a virgin. Well, technically, anyway. While still a sitting infant I’d plopped down, on top of a phallus sized, lead painted steel truck from my elder brother’s collection, and broken my hymen.
But, yeah. Directly proportionate to the degree of accepted responsibilities, any vestige of humor pretty much konked out, was a burgeoning skill as a tedious bore. Add to that a vocal cord surgery, in ’98. Losing my hallmark guffaw was the icing on that cake; I was the most profoundly unfunny person in the world, and couldn’t even laugh about it.
By way of outcome, or perhaps some damage to the central amygdala, across the multiple decades hence there emerged one topic about which I could speak as a veritable Rhodes scholar: grief.
It’s true. If any girl knew anything about sobbing her way through a workshop on teaching the gifted, it was I. Even attending a lecture presented for local women and hearing Nelson Mandela’s absolution on letting your light shine, I cried like a blubbering baby. As for the dark of pre-menstrual night, and that old familiar fetal position, there would be me, screaming into the pillow like nobody’s mama.
Interestingly, grief being directly the result of loss, I seemed to have cornered the market on losing loved ones. Whether grandparents, parents, relatives, or significant others, I had spent more on funeral arrangements in the course of the gift giving budget than anything else. Add to that far too many failed attempts at intimate relationship and you had Doctor Ruth, minus the short legs and the cheery grin.
Now, as self appointed spokeswoman for the wisdom of aging, I come to you on the better side of post menopause with a seasoned appreciation for synthesis. Perhaps the out of pocket orthodontia to cure tempo-mandibular joint dysfunction gets the prize, because the migraines have significantly ceased and, with them, the need for brain chemistry altering medication. If there is anything to be gleaned from it all I now offer the following: grieving — with a sense of humor.
Herewith a list of tips. (And, no. Mind altering substance ingestion is not required.)
As we all know, the state of the planet and the world upon it hanging on for dear life, we don’t have to look very far to find the latest disaster during the holidays. In fact, sudden horrific events seem to emerge out of nowhere just as the malls open for business. And, even if we’ve had to say goodbye to the one person we were sure would be holding our hand when we croaked, there is nothing quite like a tsunami on the Pacific rim to jolt us back into relative reality.
I recommend finding the channel which covers the latest world news, and scrolling til we find something geographic. There is a surreal comfort in gaping at massive destruction, particularly if we find ourselves a.) reasonably clothed; b.) sufficiently nourished, and c.) able to adjust the internal temperature of the room to our liking. Allowing ourselves to sit quietly and attune, as the warm surge of relief that none of what we are witnessing is actually happening in any remote proximity, can resemble momentary bliss. It can also gently nudge our better angels to remind us that we could count our blessings.
Speaking of taking a tally, even if we retired way too early to collect enough to pull us out of a declining demographic, sending twenty bucks to help victimized children does wonders for the dopamine. Contributing to these, as well as those who manage to survive catastrophe, is the most guilt free (and, grief releasing) pleasure on earth. We can do so joyfully, with absolutely no concern for subliminal self righteousness, which can lead to self loathing which, in turn, can frequently cause us to dial a friend and vent. Venting on friends, during the holidays, is the perfect way to get crossed off the last party list that held out hope for the most wretched among us.
But, be cautious; if we do send money, be sure that we have decided with certainty that we hate holiday parties. Sometimes the cascade of cause and effect is too powerful to quell and actually accepting that the phone won’t chime an invitation, at all, must be adequately addressed and confronted with a mature resignation.
Everybody drowns their sorrows in consumables. I suspect that appetite is triggered by a gaping sense of loss.
That said, congratulating ourselves for being sufficiently devastated, we can set about the table before us with any number of syrupy, savory, and textured delectables knowing that – now that we are utterly alone in the world – we don’t have to share them with anybody.
However, keeping various protein sources at arm’s reach is strongly suggested. Every twenty minutes, as the eyelids begin to flutter, stuffing a block of cheese into the face will cut that glycemic rise, effectively preventing ten minutes of sudden coma. During grief, every ten minutes missed is ten minutes lost. And, we all know that the objective is to indulge, for as long as we can remain coherent and capable of sudden wailing and gnashing of teeth. Keeping a glucose monitor handy is also prudent.
4.) PUBLIC DISPLAYS.
Five days ago, I had to endure the excruciating extraction of my entire self from an environment into which I had voluntarily placed myself for twenty months. Granted, the psychic abuse of living in suspended disbelief, instead of squarely facing that hope for a future of committed mutual trust was likely a serious joke, had been preferable for a remarkably protracted period of time. Denial is the pablum of the pathetic.
Since then, to my personal chagrin, I have dissolved into tears in two, distinct Post Office service lines. Completely uncontrollable sniffling and face wiping, with the back of a fading red glove. And, this year, I cannot even blame a single hormone for the rush; all mine are externally introduced, on call or in the stickered ziploc.
The woman with the most empathic reaction actually allowed me back into my queue, after a failed attempt to help another customer carry her packaged burden to her car. The man in the next line who spoke the most encouraging words to me was none other than the service department manager at the car dealership where I’d purchased my Pontiac, with the lemon engine, whose six or seven gaskets had been replaced and for which I had successfully sued GM for five grand.
No. We truly cannot make these things up. Reality really is stranger than fiction. For this cause, I highly recommend that the grieving take it to the streets. Cry, out loud, whenever and wherever we go. Displaying raw, authentic emotion will spur the most outrageous outpouring of human altruism most never knew they possessed, including being reminded that crying is good because it detoxifies the body. A room full of weeping people could ensue. This would provoke entire gaggles of clasping hugs, grinding all commerce to a dead halt and shutting down the economy. Cars would remain parked, people choosing to walk, arm in arm, forsaking their petty materialisms and inviting one another in for a hot meal and some group singing around the piano, revolutionizing society for an entire generation.
So, throw back your head. Squeeze your wet eyelids til they squint out the last tear. Tomorrow will never come. Instead, you will wake up from your sleep, when your body is finally done resting, and your today will be waiting right where you left off.
Isn’t it funny how that works?
© 11/27/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Try not to laugh.