Self-Service

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I didn’t see the car drive up, but hearing their voices made me aware of their presence. I had my back to the gasoline pump and was in the process of fueling my truck. At the sound of their voices, I turned to look in the direction of the sound. I saw him first. He was probably my son’s age or a little older.

 

I’m assuming the older lady with him was his mother. She was an attractive lady, but she looked like a fish out of water standing in front of the fuel pump. She had that “deer in the headlights look”. The man was surprisingly patient, but steadfast in providing step-by-step instructions.

 

The man had the gift of encouragement. He said to the woman: “You can do this. It really is quite simple once you know the steps involved.” Okay, I’ll admit it. I was purposefully eavesdropping. I even moved from where I was standing where my view of the two of them was unimpaired. How often do you observe a man in his late forties or early fifties teaching a parent how to put fuel in their car? Frankly, I’ve never given much thought to  the fact that there are people who haven’t had that experience.

 

I found myself wanting to engage in their conversation. I almost said, “I was out-of-state last week and the place I filled up didn’t have self-service.” I didn’t share my story because it would have been an intrusion. In addition, I was interested in hearing the tutorial the man was providing?   He suggested that she select the least expensive fuel since it worked fine in her car. I smiled at that. My dad often said the only difference between regular and premium was thirty-eight cents a gallon. Dad also purchased regular regardless of the car he was driving or the recommendation from the dealer.

 

At the Lexus dealer where I get the General’s car serviced, they provide a free loaner while your car is getting attention. At the prices they charge for service, I always take the loaner rather than wait. I figure that way you get more for your money. In the past couple of years, they’ve required you bring the loaner back with the fuel gage at the same spot it was when they loaned you the car. Prior to that, there was never the expectation that you purchase fuel. Of course, I never put over twenty-to-thirty miles on the loaner.

 

The last time I went in, the staff person walking me around the car for an inspection of the vehicle before I left the premises reminded me to purchase fuel before I returned. I asked what grade? She said: “We tell folks to use premium, but if we are doing it, we choose regular.” “Good to know”, I said without indicating the fuel grade I’d choose going forward.

 

Call it the voice of prophecy, but I predict my sister-in-law in Florida will subsequently make a comment on today’s blog. She has the inside story. Her husband retired from Chevron. I suspect she’ll set me straight and provide insight that the difference between regular and premium is a lot more than just thirty-eight cents.

 

Even though my vehicle finished fueling before the Toyota Camry the woman was filling up did, I opted to wait until they completed their transaction. I then found myself lost in thought as I was driving away wondering what that transaction held for the two of them.

 

A host of questions crossed my mind. Had the man’s father recently died leaving his mother without the skillset to know how to function independently? That was my initial thought, but things aren’t always as they seem. I could have it wrong. Maybe the husband is temporarily out of the picture due to illness, hospitalization, rehab, etc. There are any number of things that could have temporarily moved him out of the picture. Yet there was something about the sage advice provided by the man that made it seem imperative his mother develop the skill set. He used reassuring words like: “You can do this”.

 

As I drove toward home, my mind drifted to my own parents. I would be surprised to learn that my mother ever purchased fuel for her car. I tend to doubt it. She wasn’t the type. I think it would be far more likely for her to notify Dad when she needed fuel. I don’t recall that she ever made a road trip without him.

 

Dad died three years before Mother, but neither my brother nor I found we needed to provide tutorial support to her following his death to assist her with maintaining independence. Alzheimer’s had already taken away her cognitive skills for that quality of life. In fact, she went for care into a facility specializing in the treatment she needed six weeks before Dad’s death. By the time he was gone, she no longer had the recall to know he was absent.

 

If there is an upside to that, Larry and I were spared the pain of watching mother have to make an adjustment she would have found difficult under the best of circumstances. Dad did a lot that mother never had to even think about. He paid the bills. He balanced the checkbook. He serviced the cars. My mother lived a charmed life. A lot of wife’s don’t have it that easy.

 

I guess you could say: “I am my mother’s son.” I, too, have it abundantly easy. The General pays the bills and she not only balances the checkbook, she is the sole proprietor of the checkbook. Okay, so years ago I may have misplaced my personal checkbook or have forgotten to write down a check or two I’d written. That could have something to do with the General’s steadfast position that one checkbook per family is all that’s needed. And of course, the checkbook stays in her possession. If I need a check, I play the game of “General may I?” and she provides me a check. Of course, I’m pleased to say the General has never said “No”. That way, we both win continually.

 

I’m glad I happened upon the “how to purchase fuel” tutorial between a son and his mother. It was a tender moment to observe the support an adult son was providing his mother. The two of them have been on my mind ever since. If, as I suspect, the two are in the midst of living with an empty chair, my heart goes out to them. That is not an easy place to be, but I’m confident the son will continue to step up to the plate to provide the needed support. I really liked his style. The “You can do this” encouragement has to make a world of difference for his mom. Somehow, I think that’s the way it is intended to be. It was pleasant to observe.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

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