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National Editorials & Columns

The lesser of two gas stations

I was driving home from work late the other night when I realized I had driven as far as I could with the gas light on. I had pushed the limitations of the orange bulb in my dashboard console beyond the threshold of common sense. Its dim, glowing generosity was set to expire.

There are only two gas stations that I visit and both of them are halfway between home and work. Let’s call them Station A and Station B, which is a delightfully anonymous way of me not telling you they are Speedway and Marathon.

I weighed the advantages and disadvantages either choice would involve. It turned into a dilemma. The question was never which gas station I would visit. That was never part of the equation.

What it all boiled down to was which third-shift gas station cashier did I feel like dealing with? The quick answer was neither.

I had two choices: Larry or Albert.

Larry is a funny-loving dolt who probably has a severe addiction to scratch-offs. In fact, I’m almost convinced that the gas station pays him in lottery tickets. He’s a nice guy who is skilled in the art of banter. He says more than just, “Hit cancel for credit” and “Have a nice day.” Lottery Larry digs right in to the meat of the cashier and customer relationship, engaging the gas-buying public mentally with his encyclopedic knowledge of useless animal facts.

Butterflies taste with their feet. Besides humans, only armadillos can get leprosy. A duck’s quack does not echo and science cannot explain why. Polar bears are left-handed.

It was late, and I wanted to get home. I didn’t have 10 minutes to spare for Larry. So I considered my other option, Station B, and its cashier, Albert.

I’m not going to sugar coat this, I don’t like Albert. Straight up, I want to fight the dude in real life. Albert and I have unresolved issues that need to be settled.

Albert became my archnemesis overnight. He is a man of evil intentions. A man who has been to prison and has the tattoos (not to mention shiv scars) to prove it. His physical description? Every Ferris wheel operator I’ve ever come in contact with.

Now Albert’s preferred method of customer interaction entails speaking on his cellular phone and telling customers, specifically me, that he is busy.

“Busy doing what, not working?” I always wonder. “Yeah, that’s cool. Don’t let me stop you from doing your job.”

In the days leading up to this gas-guzzling dilemma, Christine came home one night and said she was hit on by a guy that worked at a gas station. I asked her for a physical description of the clerk.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “He kind of has a perfectly square head, like a block.”

“Oh, I know the guy all right,” I said, plotting underneath my breath and repressing my silent rage. “Albert!”

But I didn’t feel like going to Station B, even though it would be short and sweet. It had been a long day at work and I was in a lousy mood. I didn’t feel like possibly provoking a verbal spar with Albert the Blockhead.

Or worse, what if things between Albert and I spiraled out of control and broke out in a game of fisticuffs in the parking lot?

When my gas tank was at the end of the road I ultimately knew I had to stop at one of the two gas stations.

So I chose Lottery Larry.

In the end it didn’t come down to brand loyalty or even the price of gasoline. It all came down to having the least awkward social interaction with a stranger who was selling me gasoline.

And reciting random animal trivia.

Did you know that tarantulas can live up to 30 years?

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