Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lakshmi Delivered

Olga got her car, Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity), back last night, all painted up. It's a tense time for both the client and me. The big question, of course, is Will she like it? And if she doesn't, well, there's not a WHOLE lot that can be done about it. Therefore, what a giant lurch of faith on the client's part.

Client. It's funny. If you've got bronchitis and go to a doctor, you're a patient, but if you're a nut-bag and go to a different kind of doctor, you're a client. I don't want to say I have a customer because that's too crudely commercial, and yet painting someone's car is a commercial venture.

Anyway, here's Lakshmi. That's Lakshmi written in Sanskrit on the hood. If you're not impressed, you should be. You may also see her in the flesh this upcoming Saturday, May 9, at The Longhouse (2301 49th Street South) for the so49 Bloom Where You're Planted event from eleven to three. Liz will be there with her X-terra, too. I'll be selling my tee shirts, mailboxes, and planters. Businessess on 49th Street will have balloons outside if they're participating.

* * *

Today is Linda Seth's birthday. She and I were Best Friends off and on from about third grade to seventh, and then more distant friends after that, after we went to The Big School. What a cool birthday: 05/05/50. Another thing about Linda that is so notable is her name: Linda Diana Mary Johanna Seth. I love the music in that name! Like my brave and brilliant Mittens with her extra toes, Linda was born with an extra middle name, and then Catholicism added another.

Something Linda did when she was newly licensed by the State of New York to drive a vehicle during daylight hours was to stop at three or four gas stations on a Saturday afternoon, getting fifty cents worth of gas from each, just to flirt with the various boys who pumped the gas.

You heard me, children: The boys who pumped the gas. For that fifty cents, they'd even wash off your windshield.

I don't remember the year when self-serve became the norm. I'm guessing it was after 1973. I do remember that I didn't like it. I hated the smell and the noise, clunking things around, having to touch the gas cap with its stinky wetness. Everything seemed too big and noisy. I felt incapable. I got over it, of course. We all did. Little ol' ladies in Sunday dresses started pumping gas. We started feeling proficient about the whole thing. I suppose the Riveting Rosies felt the same way in their day, only more so, I should hope. I loved it when I finally figured out how to lock the pump so I could stroll around the car, hands in my pockets, acting like a man -- so casually competent. Too soon after that, they took off those locks. I don't know why.

I'm feeling incompetent again at the gas pumps. I'm never clear on whether I have to pay in advance if I'm using cash. I'm so used to using a debit card and filling up with no interference from a clerk that I'm absolutely exasperated when I have to walk to the counter twice, once to leave a twenty-dollar bill, and again to collect my change after a fill-up.

The only other recourse is to own a credit card for every brand of gasoline.

Remember when the business used to pay that three-point-five percent fee for card usage? Now they're passing that fee on to the consumer, or maybe the client, in tonier neighborhoods.

This morning, I was at the first anniversary celebration of Banyan Scapes Nursery. I painted two of their trucks, remember?

Well, a speaker at the celebration pointed out that huge corporations can cut back by closing a location or two, but small businesses have to toddle on, or quit altogether. There's not a lot of cutting-back to be done. That seemed like a good point.

But what's that got to do with gas stations? Absolutely nothing.

The last time I went to pump gas, I was flummoxed by the procedure. I've taken to using cash because I want the lower price, even though I never actually notice the price. Is it two cents cheaper or ten? Ten would make a different to me; two wouldn't. I'd have to pay way too much attention to know. Anyway, I ended up pushing the HELP button and talking to the clerk. Indeed, I'd have to pay with my cash before filling the tank. I was indignant. Shouldn't that information be clearly posted?

Well, of course it was posted on the pump, along with:
  • descriptions of the three grades of gasoline, with attendant buttons to push and a smaller sticker -- that is, three smaller stickers -- warning (?) me that my choice contains "up to" 10% ethanol. I don't know whether to be happy or sad about that ethanol thing, but I have no doubt that someone spent a lot of money making sure that those stickers get put on every gas pump in the country. Whoa. What if it's the sticker-makers' lobbyists who did that and not the ethanol people or the Ralph Nader Making the World Safer people?
  • the push-button for speaking with the attendant
  • a listing of the "family" of Shell credit cards; how cozy
  • a TeleCheck notice of the huge fee that will be charged if a credit or debit card turns out to be invalid; hmm ... wouldn't it be rejected if it were invalid?
  • a slot from which to receive a receipt
  • a slot for the credit card, along with a keypad
  • a much bigger sign once again warning about that pesky ethanol. Those sticker-makers are serious!
  • a big sticker telling me how to get ahold of Charles Bronson (seriously), the Commissioner of Stickers.

Well, it's no wonder, with all that mess, that I missed the sticker that said cash-users would have to pay in advance.

And do you remember when that became the standard? Me, neither, not exactly. It used to be that you pumped your gas and then paid for it. I was dating Tommy at the time of the change. I remember that he drove up to the pump, went inside to pay in advance, returned to his car, and drove off. He was so used to the payment being the last thing done in a gassing-up event that he simply drove away, without filling the tank. He returned within a couple of blocks, but the clerk didn't believe him. I bet if he'd been a client she'd have believed him.


olga kruse said...

You and gas stations reminded me of Mr. Magoo for some reason; although, you a quuite brilliant and perhaps so was he; one can never tell till one walks in those shoes.

I love my car! I love my car! I was grateful to get the car a year ago and have felt it's just a great vehicle and always thankful to my father for helping me get it; he bought it for me, two months before he passed last spring.

But, now, I LOVE my car. Lakshmi brightens my heart and I just have to sneak a look at her when I'm inside for too long; and I can't believe how cool she looks now.

thank you Barbara; you are just grand!

meg said...

AMAZING car! My favorite yet!

Those pay-before-you-pump gas stations freak me out. Yet another reason I don't miss driving! New Jersey still has mandatory full-service gas stations (at least they did the last time I was there). Maybe that's how they con people into living there...

flahoos said...

Lakshmi is LOVELY BN! Nice work.
Now don't go dispensing any gas into unapproved containers for gosh sakes or Charles Bronson will come calling...