Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bad Manners At The Gas Station

Food Marts
As posted at, where the writers are.

I am becoming increasingly convinced -- sold, actually, on the fact -- that the worst part of being a motorist in America is going to convenience store gas stations (i.e. Speedway, 7-Eleven, and the myriad of other gas station food marts popping up on every street corner). Not because of the high price -- and it seems to get higher for no reason, but that's another topic -- of gasoline. Not because of the jockeying for pumps, or trying to fight my way out of the parking lot. Not even because the city of Indianapolis seems to force right hand turns our of every corner station by putting large concrete dividers in the road making it impossible to turn the way I really want to turn when I leave.

All of those are highly annoying things -- yes, more annoying than being cut off on the highway for this frustrated motorist -- but none so annoying as standing in line at practically any American gas station food mart. A very recent experience comes to mind, but this could easily have happened to any person in any city at any gas station on any day -- it really is, I'm convinced, that common. If you live in one of the thirty Powerball states in America, you will no doubt relate to the situation.

As I headed out of the house tonight to satisfy my wife's craving for a cold Coke Zero and a salty snack, I drove to the nearest corner gas station cum food mart. It could have been a Speedway, one of British Petroleum's AM/PM shops, a Thornton's, or practically any of the other cookies made from the same cutter, but in this case it was a GasAmerica. I entered the store and began browsing for a salty snack that my wife and I both would agree upon. I chose two -- we just can't agree on some things -- and headed for the fountain to grab a couple of Coke Zero's to drink.

With two large bags of chips and to 44 ounce styrofoam drinks in my hands, I headed for the checkout line. This is where my frustration multiplies. Every time I get in line at any one of these gas station food marts, on the rare occasions when they actually have more than one (which, actually, means exactly two, since there are never more than two) cashier, no one seems to know what to do. Do you form a line at each register, like you're at a grocery store? Or do you form a single line with the next customer in line always advancing to the first available register? (if you have an opinion, share it with me)

I am of the opinion that one line should be formed, with the next person in line advancing to the first available register. I seem to be the only person in America with this opinion, as no matter what gas station I go to, or which line I stand in, the other register is always faster, and other bad mannered patrons walking in long after I did always approach the other register before I can make a move. Is this what our society has come to? Are Americans in such a huge rush that we have lost this last, most basic thread of common decency (there's a paradox for you)?

As I stood in line tonight, hoping not to drop my super sized beverages or crush my chips, I clearly stood in the wrong line once again. My first clue should have been the guy who bought four lottery tickets -- two for the Hoosier Lotto and two for the PowerBall -- followed by the second guy who purchased the same plus a selection of scratch off tickets. That's another annoyance for another time, but if I didn't have my own moral oppositions to playing the lottery, I would be opposed to it just for the amount of waiting time it adds to gas station checkout lines.

As customer after customer displayed their bad mannered tendencies (and apparent impeccable timing) by walking in and straight to the counter at the other register just as it came open, I waited. And waited. And waited. Until finally a customer nodded at me to go ahead, as if doing me some great favor that would secure her a special place in eternity.

Happy to escape from there with my chips and drinks intact after what seemed like thrice as long as it should have taken, I tell myself I would have been better off going to a grocery or department store -- as long as it isn't Wal-mart, but I won't go into that one right now. It would just be bad mannered of me.

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