Um, maybe I should begin my tale by telling you that I am not a time traveler, but yesterday I paid less than seven dollars for 15 gallons of gas.
Monday was supposed to be an easy day at work. I was scheduled only six hours which is in itself a little treat, but to make my day go by even faster, I was supposed to count and distribute the previous week’s tips for the last two hours of my shift. I keep saying “supposed” because as we’ve all heard, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, or whatever.
It was a beautiful fall day in Tracy. It was cloudy, dark and there was a brisk wind, with rain for several hours. It was the kind of weather that would make you crave hot chocolate.
If only there was SOME WAY you could purchase some without having to exit your vehicle!
Thus was born the perfect storm (for a starbucks drive-thru). It just so happened that we were short-staffed and we got slammed. Consequently I didn’t get to start tips until I should have already been off for half of an hour, so yada yada yada, I was in no cheery mood by the time I left work. I had been planning on picking up a few items with which to make squash soup, and the calming effect of being in a grocery store snowballed into a full-blown grocery extravaganza! I was feeling much better and was very close to costco, so I was wishing I had borrowed
Mr. TheCharmingandEnthrallingTalesofStephanieGerow’s(?) Austin’s membership card so I could get affordable gas. Lame, I thought, oh so ironically. Lame.
I drove to the other side of town and decided to patronize the Arco by Austin’s workplace. I always buy premium because I treat my station wagon right (except for in every other possible way one can care for their vehicle.) I was pretty close to empty and thought I’d only get half a tank so I could afford some more squash at the Raley’s across the way. I suddenly noticed the price on the little screen near the button that I had pushed to select premium:
Ha, idiots put the decimal in the wrong place on the sign. Then I realized the counting indicator thing was showing (and also indicating) that I was being charged 42 cents per gallon! Immediately the angel/devil scenario took place on my shoulders and our compromise was to fill up after all, but go in with my receipt and show the attendant, hoping I wouldn’t have to pay the difference.
I ain’t perfect.
The gas guy’s eyes widened into one of those Oh-my-gosh looks and said, “Thank you so much for telling me!’ handed my receipt back, and motioned for the next customer in line to proceed to the counter.
I can’t help but remember the time my dad and sister and I were walking near the beach right by Pirate’s Cove when money started coming out of a pay phone. My sister and I were super excited (it was probably only a few dollars) but my dad took the money into the nearest store and gave it to the girl working. It wasn’t her store’s phone, but my dad gave it to someone who might possibly get it to the right place rather than keeping it and rationalizing some sort of finder’s keepers mentality.
That made an impression on me even as it annoyed me. Money is candy when you’re that age. Anyway, my dad has done many things that I will remember much more than I would any lecture that didn’t match his actions. Like one time when we were giving a girl a ride home from youth group she commented on how he stopped at all the stop signs even though it was late and there was no one around. I looked at her like, duh, don’t you know my dad?
You know when Helen Keller has her water moment? Her teacher is spelling w-a-t-e-r into her hand and also pumping water over the other hand and the meaning of the word suddenly clicks. I had such a moment then in the car, and “integrity” came alive in my mind as “stopping at stop signs when no one’s around”.
The beach pay phone memory makes me feel pretty sure that my father would have offered or insisted on paying the right amount for the gas. So I felt a little sting of conscience but told myself that a lot of people wouldn’t have told the guy at all but come back every day for a 90% discount until the error was corrected.
I hesitated in the doorway of the ampm, moving forward and then back several times, which I’m sure was entertaining to anyone watching. But since I didn’t want to wait in line again and the man hadn’t asked me to pay, I left.
Sorry Dad. You did your best, but here I am.
Special thanks to Bethany for modeling in the above photograph. Remember when you were that little? She’s the one who looks as tall as me in the pic below: