Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gas Station Cringe

My good friend, Elise, waddled over to the mini-mart to get us bottles of water. I write waddled because we were both eight months pregnant in the extreme June 2006 heat, and thirsty. When she got back and handed me the drink I chugged it, and forgot that my gas tank was presently being filled with fuel. The water felt so cool that it led me to turn on my ignition with pep, put swollen ankle to metal, and take off. (Note to non New Jersey folk: I am not so spoiled that I don’t pump my own gas. It’s actually illegal in the state.) The foreign station attendant screamed out in his native language as I felt the resistance of the hose breaking away from my car.

“Trace! The gas! You’re not done!” Elise warned, wide-eyed. Man, I was done. I lumbered out of my car and looked over at the mad gas man, holding a rubber hose in the air, still yelling.

At first, I just cringed. I was a total idiot. A big-bellied one. I looked around and hoped that no one besides Muhammad had witnessed my stupidity—not just anyone I knew, but anyone at all. Then I tried to process the incident. What had I just done? Was the gas station going to blow up? Was my car going to explode? Was I going to be handcuffed and arrested for reckless endangerment? I wanted to split, but stood confused.

An older man ran out from the mini-mart, waving his hands and chastising me in half English- half something else. The message was easy to decipher: stupid pregnant baffoonyou’re in trooouuuble.

The old man shoved the length of hose at me and pointed wildly to the end of it. He demanded $120 cash. There was an emphasis on CASH. I don’t have $120 in cash in my wallet, I protested. Elise and I pooled our money…but we weren’t even close. The man frowned and yelled some more.

“Should you call Marty?” Elise suggested.

Ahhh….Marty, my husband. Marty would never drive away from a gas station with the nozzle still attached to his vehicle. Calling him at that moment and confessing that I once again had lived up to Spacey Tracy (my father coined that nickname for me from the time I was old enough to forget things), seemed too cringe-prolonging. Plus, I feared that some form of law enforcement might arrive and cart me to jail to give birth. I told the mean old gas guy that I could pay him with a credit card. He scoffed, but finally ushered me inside to swipe my card.

120 Lottery Tickets. That’s what the receipt said. That was the first hint that I was somehow getting scammed. But at least I could get out of there. When I got back to the car, Elise told me that another worker at the station approached her and whispered that we were getting scammed: those gas lines are designed to break away, because, amazingly, I’m not the only moron to make the mistake.

Safely away from the scene of the cringe, I called Marty. He didn’t need the aha! 120 lottery ticket bill to know I had been taken. Not to worry, he told me, he would go down to the station that evening and get the money back. He had a few choice words for the proprietor…and he wasn’t surprised when I revealed which station in town it was. He always knew they were shady (expletives). Some intensely primal anger ignited inside Marty….the fact that his pregnant wife had been so mistreated needed rectifying.

To be continued….PART TWO next week….. entitled “At The Station That Night Cringe”

And then PART THREE…. “Another Cringe At The Same Station” the week after.


  1. Hee-hee, I love knowing how this turns out! Marty Ryan is AWESOME!

  2. This is too good!
    If it makes you feel any better...I knew which gas station you were talking about's not one that I go to either.
    enveloped in shadiness.

  3. A- I'm so happy to hear that you don't patronize that dump!!!

  4. a very special episode! i put instant coffee in our coffee maker today, which does really bad things to the machine, and catherine was shocked that i didn't know that "taster's choice" is instant coffee. now i don't feel so bad.

  5. That is a good one! They are cringier and cringier!

  6. This story makes me want to throw another propane tank at these tools.