Now that some gas stations insist I use their brand credit card or actual cash in order to get fuel at the marquee price, I haven't quite found my gas station. I want to use my debit card and I want to get the price that's advertised. That means I'm driving around until suddenly my car is gasping for sustenance, and I stop at the next place.
The other day, it was the Shell at 58th and Central. I'd been there once or twice before and have enjoyed the classical music swelling incongruously at the pumps. That day, though, it was plain old rock 'n' rock. Perhaps that should have tipped me off.
In any case, I marched off into the little store because I'd be using cash, thanks to its maddening Shell-cards-only policy. I whined to the silent clerk about having to make two trips to get the stated price for a fill-up. I mean, this is America. Cheap, abundant gas at great convenience to myself is a birthright. I handed him some collateral: a twenty-dollar bill. He barely looked at me.
I removed the trigger from its holster and jammed it at my tank. It wouldn't fit. Great. I wiggled and poked some more until reason struck: I'd grabbed the diesel pump. Yes, Virginia, size does matter -- and hallelujah for that.
I decided that instead of a fill-up, I'd just get the twenty, thereby saving me that journey back to the store. I never want to tell them I'm just getting twenty dollars' worth because the system will take as much time to pump those last fifteen cents as it took to get that far in the first place. I felt a tad smug, as if I were outwitting that blank clerk somehow. Yep, I felt that way right up until it hit $19.85 and slowed to the pace of molasses in ... oh, well, tourists in July.
And then today, I took a Publix gift card and went off to buy coffee and other life-saving supplies. The checkout girl -- a teenager obviously new to the job -- couldn't get the price on an item, so she asked me the price. Right. Like I'd know. If you put me on The Price Is Right, and offered everyday items like bread and milk, I wouldn't have a clue. I've never known how much things cost. The clerk just sort of stood there, helpless. I suggested brightly that she call for a bag boy. She said they were short-handed and other clerks would get mad if she took their bag boys.
I told her to forget the item. By now I had two people behind me -- and we were in the Express Lane. She finished up and I swiped my card. It wouldn't take. I tried again. It wouldn't take. The clerk tried. It wouldn't take. I tried again. She tried again. I gave up. I said I'd pay with real money. Turns out I didn't have enough real money. The clerk and I stared at each other. "What do I do now?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said.
I snapped, "Well, find someone who does," and she managed to do that.
While she was explaining the problem to the supervisor, the woman behind me, who'd been waiting peacefully, said, "I noticed you're using a Publix card."
"Yes," I said, suspicion and mortification dawning.
"Well, but this is Sweet Bay."