Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fill 'er up

I'd forgotten that in Oregon all of the filling stations were full service, so when the old man knocked on my window it scared the bejeebers out of me. If he wasn't eighty, he would be tomorrow.

"Oh, are you full service here?" I asked, rolling down the window.

"All the stations in Oregon are full service. State law," he reminded me. "What can I do for you?"

"Fill it up, I guess." The 'I guess' was because I knew it would cost me more than forty bucks, but I was headed to Washington.

While the gas was pumping he scraped the bugs off my windshield. How nice. I took his picture and explained that you don't see this in every state. We got to chatting about places we were from, and he told me he came from one of the coldest places in Wyoming.

"One time," he said, "I had this diesel truck. I got it started and drove in to work. There weren't any other cars on the road. When I got to work, my boss said, 'Do you have any idea what the temperature is?' I said, 'No,' and he said, 'It's 65 below.'"

It was colder weather than I'd ever been in, though I'd experienced forty below. I recalled the way your skin would burn as soon as the air hit you, how your fingers would turn numb in twenty or thirty seconds. How your lungs would hurt when you took a breath of ice wind.

I asked him about getting to Port Townsend, how long it might take from here. He didn't quite know, except that I was six hours from Seattle. But Townsend was his name. Don Townsend. I introduced myself, and we shook hands.

"It was nice visiting with you," he said.

Then I went through the drive-thru next door and ordered what turned out to be a truly vomitous hamburger.

Sometimes rushing just isn't worth it.

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