September 2012

Senior Slant:
16 Cents

by Hilda Maston

You think the price of gasoline is high now!

I remember a time many years ago when the cost was a lot less and I still had a terrible time buying it.

I was a very young wife with a 24-month-old baby. I had a wonderful husband, Tom, who worked in the office at a steel mill. He was training to become a customer relations person or a “traveling salesman.” (He used to call himself a peddler.)

One morning we were running late. All of a sudden it was time to leave. I was taking Tom to work so I could have the car to take our baby to the doctor’s. I wasn’t even dressed. I grabbed my robe and buttoned it over my pajamas, shoved my feet into some slippers and that was that. I wrapped the baby in a blanket and we were good to go.

We got Tom to his office in good time. Then the baby and I started for home. We took it easy because there was still a lot of rush hour traffic on the road.

We were slowly driving along when I happened to look at the gas gauge. Heavens! It was on empty!

No problem, we were approaching a gas station and I pulled up to one of the pumps. The attendant was very busy, so I settled down to wait. (This was before the days of self- serve gasoline.)

I reached down to retrieve my purse. I couldn’t seem to find it. I frantically searched the place where it should have been. No purse. That gave me a clue. If I had no purse, I had no money.

I tried to stay calm while investigating the pockets in my robe. I found some change. I came up with 16 cents. Even at 69 cents a gallon, 16 cents didn’t help my dilemma much. The attendant was finally free and appeared at my window. “How many gallons, Ma’am?”

“As much as I can buy with 16 cents,” I said.

He frowned at me and said, “I don’t have the time for jokes, ma’am. How much gas do you want?”

“Sixteen cents worth,” I replied.

“Ma’am,” the attendant said, “the pumps won’t even pump for less than a dollar sale. How much do you really want?”

“Well, I only have 16 cents, and you do have to sell gas to me — that’s the law.” (What a fib!)

I sat there quietly, thinking that it would give me some leverage.

“No, Ma’am, I can’t pump 16 cents worth of gas.”

“Well, I’ll just stay here until you do.”

“You can’t do that, Ma’am, I have customers who need this pump. Can’t you call someone to bring you some money?”

“No, we’re new in town, and I don’t know anyone to call. I guess I’ll just have to sit here.”

He walked a few feet away and looked at the cars that were lined up behind me, waiting for service. Finally, he came back to my window.

“Lady,” he said, “If you leave my station and promise never to come back, I will give you a dollar’s worth of gas. OK?”

I thought that was a very good deal.
But I pretended to think it over, just to give him a bad time.

Then I said, “You have a deal.”

With a dollar’s worth of gas in the tank, I drove home to get my purse and get dressed, so I could get the baby to the doctor’s office on time.

I never did go back to that gas station.

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