Opinion | Biff America: Gas perspective and greens
Paying a hundred dollars for a tank of gas would tick off anyone. And that frustration would be heightened by being blocked in by an old sedan that seemed to be abandoned at the gas pump in front of you.
Though the last thing I could be called is mellow, on that particular instance I had a Zen-like patience brought on by circumstance and perspective. Truth is, the last couple of years have raised the bar of acceptable inconvenience.
My mate and I were not happy with the price of travel, but we would be much less happy with staying home during mud season and not taking out our small recreational vehicle for a spring trip. And, for the record, I’m also not happy about the price of coffee, bourbon or tofu. I’m particularly ticked off by the price of kale my bride makes me buy — they should pay me for taking that stuff off the shelf.
I had just jumped back into our rig after pumping and paying when I noticed the old heap in front of us had not moved. I considered backing out when a van pulled up to the pump behind, making that impossible. We sat there long enough for the van to fill up and be quickly replaced by another vehicle, yet still the car in front of us stayed in place.
On another day my impatience might have caused me to complain and perhaps even go into the store to look for the driver, but we were on vacation. We had backcountry skied earlier in the day, and where we would be camping that night was nearby. So we sat and listened to a podcast on Ellie’s phone and waited.
It must have been rush hour in Wyoming even though we were parked at a rural gas station and convenience store, because there was someone there preventing us from leaving every time I looked behind us to see if we could back our rig out.
After literally 15 minutes, a lady hurried out of the store with a huge bag of M&Ms. She entered her car and pulled forward a few feet and stopped. She then got out, grabbed a squeegee and began to hurriedly clean her windows — front, back and side. It looked as if she was purposely avoiding eye contact.
For some reason she still held the bag of M&Ms in one hand while doing a hurried job of cleaning with the other.
I got out of our truck and approached her. Though this was a few months ago, I remember, almost word for word, our exchange. “Hey ma’am, take your time cleaning your glass,” I said. “We are in absolutely no hurry.”
She was either hard of hearing, did not speak my language or was ignoring me. I reasoned two of the three options could be remedied if I spoke louder.
“Take your time. Honestly, there is no rush.” Then I joked, “In fact, at least by sitting here I’m not burning gas.”
If anything, my attempt to relax her did the exact opposite. She looked at me with wild eyes and said, “The pump would not take my credit card. And before Jerry at the counter would take my check, he wanted me to write down all this information. I’ve been getting gas here for 10 years, he knows me!”
Her agitation caused her to spit a little and, not wearing a rain coat, I took a step back and said, “That sucks, but my wife and I are on vacation and have nowhere to be, so you just take your time cleaning your windows. You might want to put that bag of candy down, it would give you two hands to work with.”
“Jerry wouldn’t let me add the candy to the check because I already wrote it out,” she said. “I had to write out another one. He knows me! I’ve coming here for years.”
I answered, “You just take your time,” and I headed back to our truck.
Happiness, or lack thereof, is a cocktail of genetics, situation and perspective. Those cursed by genetics and situation can still find solace with perspective. And even those blessed by good genes and fortune are often fighting unseen battles causing contentment to be elusive. These last two years, for many, made life more difficult, and for some, has made it nearly unbearable.
I wish I could say I’m always so patient and uncomplaining. Like most, I have my good days and not. But for those of us whose biggest emotional challenge is having to buy gas and kale, a little patience is a small price during these challenging times.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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