Last Saturday, Thanksgiving weekend, Minnie asks me to drive into Sydney to pick up her roaster.
What in the hell is your roaster doin’ in Sydney? I asks her. But you can probably tell right away, that was the wrong approach to take. I was lucky to get out of the house in one piece. So off to Sydney I go.
The gist of it is, I guess Joan borrowed it for one of them suppers her women’s group does – so I gotta go find the church hall and pick it up, or I guess my Thanksgiving supper will be salami sandwiches.
I get in the truck and the gas needle is just a hair above empty, so before I go anywheres, I gotta stop and get gas. But when I pull into the gas station, there’s cars lined up at almost every pump. After a few minutes waitin’ in the wrong line (as tank’s on the other side of the truck), I realize I’m in the wrong lane and shoot over to the other one, cuttin’ off some young fella in a little sports car.
Anyways, it’s gotta be ten or fifteen minutes I’m sittin’ there and it’s the same thing every time. Somebody at the pump gets out of their car, pumps the gas, spots somebody they know at another pump and have a long, involved conversation about god knows what. Here’s a crazy idea – maybe yis could finish talkin’ about who won at bingo after yis get out of the friggin’ way?
When I finally get up to the pump and get out of the truck, I don’t even have the cap off the gas tank, and I hear this tiny little voice from the other side of the pump – Excuse me, dear. Can you show me how to pump the gas?
I turn around, and there’s just about the sweetest little old lady you ever seen in your life. She musta been pushin’ 80. Fuzzy white hair all done up nice, and a pair of glasses that made it look like she had these big old-lady blue eyes.
I never pumped the gas before on my own, and I’m scared I’ll do it wrong, she says.
Now, you know me – I’m a gentleman if there ever was one.
‘Course, I’ll pump your gas for ya, dear! I said. There’s nothin’ to it at all, I said, and I showed her how to take the nozzle off and press the button for regular and everything else.
God love ya, she says.
She’s drivin’ one of them great big boats of a car, and of course she wants it filled up. I figured when I showed her how it worked she might take over so I could pump my own gas, but of course she started tellin’ me about how her grandson usually fills it up for her but he moved away and that. On she went, chattin’ away, and as this nice old lady’s tryin’ to talk to me, the young fella I cut off in line is in the car behind me – some punk in a backwards baseball cap – layin’ on the horn and yellin’ out the window for me to hurry up.
Don’t you got no respect for old ladies? I yelled at him.
What, are you an old lady? the young fella yells to me.
Thankfully, the old lady musta been a bit deaf, because she just kept right along tellin’ her story. When the old lady’s gas was done, I put the nozzle back up and told her to go inside and pay, and she thanked me up and down about twenty times.
Of course, as soon as she was out of earshot, I blasted back at the young fella in the car, and he yelled back at me and the two of us exchanged one-fingered salutes. Just as I was hoppin’ back in the truck I told him exactly where he could go and then I squealed my tires and ripped right out of there.
Now, I know what you’re thinkin’ – you’re thinkin’ I forgot to pay for my gas. But no, I wouldn’t be so lucky. What I forgot to do was pump my gas at all. I guess I got so distracted helpin’ the old lady and fightin’ with the young fella I never thought of it Which is why I ran out of gas right on the highway by the Gardiner intersection.
So I’m on the side of the road, hazard lights flashin’. Ohhh nice, I says to myself. I get out and stand by the truck, tryin’ to come up with a plan. I was about to start walkin’ to find a phone and call Cyril to come help me. But I see comin’ over the hill – the big boat of a car with a big puffy white head behind the wheel.
It’s the same old lady! I wait until she’s close enough to see me and I start wavin’ my arms over my head. Sure enough, she spots me and slows right down, stoppin’ way out in the lane beside the truck.
Ran out of gas, I says. I was hopin’ somebody would stop and help me.
Aww, that’s a sin, she says. God love ya.
You shouldn’t be out there in the lane like that, dear, I says to her, meanin’ she should pull off to the side of the lane like I did.
Oh, OK. Well I sure hope somebody stops for ya! Then she waves and drives away again.
Don’t go! I yell after her, but she can’t hear me.
And just as I’m about to yell curses at a nice old lady who don’t know any better, there’s a loud honk from a passin’ car and the young fella in the backwards ball cap takes both hands off the wheel and gives me a double salute.
Only me, bye, I swear.