Ghast Station

     There’s a gas station in my neighborhood that I recently decided I will no longer patronize. I got gas there once, when we first moved in to our condo, and before I knew better – before I knew the Speedway 100 yards away was a much safer bet, bodily and financially.  Husband and I have walked the half mile or so to this gas station on sunny Sundays to buy a newspaper and drinks, even though we’ve been shorted on our change a few times. It’s the easiest place to walk to from our house without risking life and limb in the traffic.

     It sits on the corner beside one of those hotels for business travelers who stay for a week or so, the kind with the kitchenettes. Across the side road are ratty apartment buildings, many with front doors that have seen better days – days without holes punched in them or black marks where someone kicked at them. It was once a BP station, but about a year ago They (I say “They” because I don’t know exactly, who is responsible for the whitewash) came and painted over BP’s bright green and yellows with white. It is as if the whole building bleached out in the sun and remains a skeleton of its former self. No signage has replaced the BP. It’s a rouge gas station – no identifying marks, no commercials from TV to help you remember why you should go there.

    And there’s hardly ever anyone there. No one gets gas there. I’ve never seen anyone inside the handful of times I’ve gone in, save the one skittish kid from the ratty apartments who came in to buy a phone card for his mom. The gas prices aren’t posted outside – only on the pumps. Every once in a while I’ll see someone get into a car and drive away from the door, but they clearly haven’t purchased petrol.

    The inside is shabby and filthy, the linoleum has long since peeled off most of the floor. The beverage selection is spotty at best, though you can get all those unusual Mexican soft drinks there, including something that we believe is supposed to be a nonalcoholic soda version of sangria and is just as gag-inducing as one might imagine. One aisle features an impressive array of spices and other ingredients for Mexican dishes – corn husks, dried peppers, cookies with names I can’t pronounce. There is some beer, a few foodstuffs, and a wide variety of nylon doo-rags.

     The last time I went in, I had been home sick with a Stomach Thing and sometime in the afternoon had a great desire for ginger ale. Husband was at work, it was a nice day, and I wanted some air, so I walked. Stepping from the bright daylight into the dusty dimness of the store, I saw no one at the counter so I made a certain amount of noise in an effort to alert the cashier that a customer had arrived. I wandered back to the soda aisle, shuffling my feet and coughing a little, and discovered this place doesn’t carry anything so banal as ginger ale. Or Sprite. Irritated, I grabbed  a Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and went to the counter. 

    When no one appeared, I considered walking out with my soda just to make the point that nobody was minding the shop. I’m not that kind of girl, so I peeked into the back room where a radio softly played something in a foreign language. “Excuse me?” I said to the back of a man slouched in a folding chair. He jumped up and hurried to the till. I’d seen him behind the counter before, a short Indian man who always wears pilled acrylic sweaters. 

    “That’s all for you?” he said. “Two dollars.”

     “Yes,” I said irritated still at the lack of ginger ale and customer service. I handed him a ten.

    “Here you go, eight dollars,” he said, fanning them out as he handed me all ones. Not wanting to linger longer than absolutely necessary, I shoved the bills in my pocket and murmured a thanks, then headed back home.

     I’d started feeling lousy again and looked forward to watching TV and sipping my cold soda. I pulled the change out of my pocket. Only seven dollars, not eight. Nice.

    I chalked it up to Stupid Tax and warned Husband we’re not going there anymore. We’re making the scary sidewalk trip to the Marathon or maybe just driving to Speedway. Besides, I think this gas station must be a mafia front. Or a gang thing.

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