Monday, June 02, 2008

Fairy Gasmother? (social comment)

I was buying gas ($4.29 a gallon) today on my lunch break when a middle-aged woman came up to me with a red plastic gas can. She was wearing shorts and an open blouse and said “Could you give me a dollar for gas so I can get home. I had to go to a funeral and we ran out of gas.”

I explained that “I didn’t have any cash on me.”

She responded, “I’m not asking for any money, just pump a dollar’s worth of gas into my container here.”

For a moment, I thought this might be my friend Dale’s neighbor Honeypot out on the road. I decided to buy myself a little time. The guy in front of me in a white contractor’s van then said “Sure, I’ll help you out.”

I was off the hook, but was also feeling guilty for not being a compassionate conservationist. I was starting to wonder why if she had come here for a funeral she was dressed that way, but I suppose that’s not the point. The guy then started to point his nozzle (the gasoline bearing kind) towards the woman’s gas can and she hurriedly said, “No no, I need diesel.”

I think he then bought her a dollar’s worth of diesel, though I found that diesel bit a very odd detail.

Anyway, I’m driving a twenty one year old Acura that my mother discarded to get a Prius. I let my daughter drive my Honda Civic because my wife decreed that the Acura wasn’t reliable enough. I finish putting the thirty dollars of gas in my tank, just around seven gallons, try to start the car and it stalls. I get it started and every light on the dashboard goes off. Check engine, oil, red battery light. I barely made it back to the office which is just a mile away and I now have a car which may not work any longer.

So, was this woman like some gasoline witch? You know like the old fairy tales where she tests people’s hearts by pretending to be a penniless crone then rewards the people who show her some level of kindness after which she transforms herself into a beautiful and powerful sorceress. Had I given her the diesel gasoline, would my ancient and rickety Acura have been transformed into a plug-in Prius or GM Volt by a touch of her wand? I guess this is a modern fairy tale so wands are out. It would have to be some sort of infra red device the size of a quarter. Are my car and me now permanently cursed? I really don’t carry cash these days.

Is she perhaps some symbol of the time or more ominously the times to come? Let’s say she’s on the level. Not having money to get to a funeral and back by car is pretty sad. You know those people with the paint buckets filled with either flowers or window washing rags who stand by freeway on ramps? Maybe the new thing will be gas station pan handling?

The oddest thing of all is that I rode my bike into work on Sunday to both get some exercise and do my bit for the state of the world. I’m really not a bad guy, it’s just that I worked in Washington D.C. for five years where I couldn’t walk fifty feet without being asked for spare change and that was just the Congressmen :}. Actually, I took to riding my bike in Adams Morgan because I couldn’t go anywhere without being approached by mendicants. Many of them were people who were in genuine need, though usually more need than a buck or two from me could solve. A lot of times though the patter was just a bit too sophisticated and practiced. It closed my heart a little and made me think things like “no one goes to a funeral dressed like that”. Can suspicious minds really engage in acts of spontaneous kindness or charity?

So why the hell did she approach the person who was driving the oldest vehicle in the gas station?



At 6/03/2008 10:40:00 AM, Blogger BeckEye said...

The word "crone" isn't used nearly often enough in everyday conversation.

At 6/03/2008 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I have a friend who likes to refer to herself as a crone, so I'm sort of used to hearing it.

At 6/04/2008 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Marianne said...

Ha, ha, ha, that's some story! What a fascinating encounter! At least she didn't assault you or anything like that. Expect more of same as summer advances ("Honeypot" -- what a name for a character! I love that she said she had just come from a funeral and was wearing shorts and "an open blouse")

At 6/04/2008 07:39:00 AM, Blogger AHP said...

At least she was nice about asking. But I know what you mean about the guilt. If she had been more honest with you though, you might have been more inclined to buy her diesel fuel. Pretty soon we're going to see a new crop of hitchhikers. I read just yesterday that the number of people who run out of gas has increased 16% over last year according to AAA. People are trying to stretch how much distance they can get out of the $5 of gas they put in and it don't work.

As for your car, is it working again, or what happened exactly?

At 6/05/2008 11:20:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

It was an odd experience. I'm not used to pulling up to the gas pump and having someone walk straight towards me asking me for either money or gasoline. It's sort of sad whether she was on the level or not.

interestingly, the car started and ran fine in the envening. I then took it to the mechanic as a precaution and they informed me that it needed all manner of repairs that had nothing to do with the dashboard light festival. It's a 21 year old car and I'm just using it until my daughter leaves for college at the end of the summer. If things go well, I'll get two more months out of it.

At 6/06/2008 08:23:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I'm choosing to believe it was Honeypot, I hadn't seen her in a few days but she's out back tonight and looking mighty pleased with herself.

At 6/07/2008 01:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often encounter this type of thing - the problem being that if they don't have the codified tag around the neck and the clip-board you don't know if you're being ripped off. If you don't give you feel stingy, and if you do give and it's a scam, you feel the fool.

At 6/07/2008 08:08:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

well if she's out back, then you'll have more to report.

Here I was hoping to move to your part of the world and avoid this stuff. I do think random acts of kindness are a good thing, it's just harder when they walk up to you and ask you to perform one.


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