Follow by Email

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Remember when we called it the 'service' station?

Article thanks to Guy Bliesner, contributor Link to their site is provided below:

SALT LAKE CITY — Can you recall what we used to call service stations? No, not a convenience store, not even a gas station, I mean an honest to goodness real-life service station. Boy, I miss them.
I left my house running late on the way to attend a funeral. I had loaned my car to our son for the weekend. As we climbed in the car, I noted the windshield was a mess and the right rear tire was low. As I turned the key in the ignition both the gas and oil lights on the dash came on. The conversation between my son and I on this matter is story for another time.
The marathon that followed caused me to long for just one real-live, old fashioned local neighborhood service station.

Needing fuel to get further than a few blocks, I stopped at the local convenience store for gas. I started the pump and immediately shot a quart of mid-grade over my right hand, the sleeve of my suit jacket, the right leg of my slacks and my right shoe.
I considered use of words that would have made my grandmother unhappy.
I checked the oil and added a quart, ending up with a large smug of engine dirt on the cuff of my white shirt. I then attempted to clean the windshield using the equipment the store provided. It only made the matter worse, so much worse that I had to use the carwash next door before I could see to drive safely.
This caused the need for further suppression of the previously mentioned English invectives.
Just as I prepared to get back on the road, I remembered the low tire and looked wildly around for an air hose. No such luck. When I inquired, I was told they did not have one and that the nearest was several blocks away at a tire store.
I bit my tongue.

I made it to the funeral late, disheveled, and smelling of gasoline. That I did so is clearly my fault due to a serious lack of planning. But having one of those old fashioned local service stations available would have saved me from myself.
I worked at one of those local service stations during my high school years. It was not the caricature portrayed in the first “Back to the Future” film, but a real service station. There were four pumps on one island. Next to each pump was a windshield cleaning station. Both air and water were available on the island, as well.
The office had a counter with a cash drawer and a snack vending machine against the wall. Through an interior door was a two bay shop and an opening to the restrooms outside.
Each customer, whether purchasing five dollars or a fill-up, got a clean windshield, the oil checked and tires filled with aired if needed. Flat tires were fixed on site for both autos and bicycles. Need a fan belt? They did that, too. Oil change, yep; Headlight, O.K., in most cases, any minor issue of an automotive nature could be dealt with on site.
Customer loyalty and repeat business being the major component in the business model, service was the method to accomplish it. The owner was on site most of the time. He knew you, and even more importantly, he knew your car. And he made it his mission to help you take care of it. The modern convenience store provides gas, potato chips and a punch card for a free soda — a poor substitute, it seems to me.

I understand that the profit for most fuel retailers is not at the gas pump and the convenience store model helps to keep the price of gas down. But even so, and I may just be getting old and a bit nostalgic, standing there frustrated and smelling of gasoline, I really missed my old local service station.

Guy Bliesner is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Guy has been married for 26 years and has three children.


No comments:

Post a Comment