Once, after I had gone for a very lengthy amount of time away in the military, I came home to DR on leave. You wouldn't think that a simple, routine stop for gas could become such a learning ordeal.
I pulled up to the pump in my mom's beautiful rusty car that she had lent me for my visit. (It's a rare thing to not have a car without rust in a place that snows nearly 9 months out of the year and uses salt as the antidote to an icy highway.)
I was used to driving a rickety old white military duty van in Sicily with a manual gear changer in the column shifter. Finding the gears on this was a pure guessing game- as they were mysteriously unlabeled. It was often simply a matter of trial and error- along with much grinding- and the slow murder of a transmission.
So naturally, after spending 6 months in another country, I initially pulled up on the wrong side of the gas pump. After considering if I could reach the hose across the car and make it look like I "planned" to do it this way- I quickly dismissed the idea, realizing there was no chance it would- and could quite possibly lead to bigger problems.
I still haven't exactly learned a graceful way to play that one off. Instead, you must duck your head down and admitting guilt, get back into your vehicle and pull it around to the correct side. Meanwhile, the on-lookers stand fueling their own vehicles all smart-like, staring at you- then quickly glance away- pretending not to notice your foolish mistake- if you look in their direction.
Now, having the gas tank on the proper side, I get out, credit card in hand and step up to the pump. I grabbed the nozzle, and placed it inside my tank opening and spun back around to swipe my card. Problem is, I could not find the 'swiper' anywhere. I began searching- feeling like I was blind- knowing it had to be obviously right in front of my face. I started reading the instructions. They said to "Remove nozzle and place in gas tank." Check. "Select fuel." I selected the fuel. Where did I pay?
Then it dawned on me that this pump clearly did not have the pay-outside option. I was going to have to pay first inside. Ugh, I hated that, because I just never knew how much it would take to fill it.
So I went inside.
Lady at the counter: Hello, can I help you?
Me: Yes, I would like to pay for gas please on pump #2.
Lady: [Looking down at the register] Are you sure you mean #2, Ma'am?
Me: [Unsure- glancing outside] Ummm, I think that's the one. It's the one with the red car right there. [I pointed outside. People began to form in line behind me.]
Lady: Hmmm [trying to be polite- and not make me feel like a TOTAL fool.] You must be mistaken Ma'am. Would you like to run out and check? It's no problem. I can wait.
Me: [Another person comes behind me in line- all carefully watching me.]- Ah, okay. [I run outside quickly, run to the other side of the pump. There is a large, shiny silver #2 written overhead. Darn lady that doesn't listen. I run back inside. More people are in line.] Yes, it's definitely #2.
Lady: Well, Ma'am, I don't show #2 having a balance on it. What is it that you are going to pay for?
Me: [Seriously?] Ah, right- I haven't pumped yet- I was just going to pay for it first.
Lady: [Long pause- appearing as if she's trying not to laugh now.] Well... how do you know how much you're going to put into it?
Me: [Sigh. Finally realizing that there is simply no need to pay-before-you-fuel here. Why would they need to do that? Everyone knows your car!] Um, [I had lost this round.] I guess I wouldn't know. I will go out and fuel it now. [Now I looked like the idiot. Again.]
I ran back outside and saw how easy it would have been for me to just squeeze the handle and see the gas come out into the tank- with no need to pay or look for a credit-card swipe. If I only would've followed the directions one step further... I swiftly filled up my tank and went back inside to meet the lady once again to try to pay.
Lady: All set now, ma'am?
Me: Yes, thank you. [I handed her my credit card.]
Lady: Oh I'm sorry, Hun. We don't take credit cards. But there is an ATM up at the bank on the other side of town if you need to go get some cash.
Me: I could just go drive there and get some cash? [Who carries cash anymore??]
Lady: Oh sure. You won't take too long will you?
Me: Well, no...
Lady: Or do you have an account here? You could just charge it to your account.
Me: Well, I don't but my dad does.
Lady: Oh okay, great. I'll just put it on his account. What's his name?
Me: Maki. Do you need some ID?
Lady: Oh no, that's no problem. You look like a Maki. [She did some typing and handed me a receipt.] You have a great day now, okay?
Me: Okay, well, you too.
I left the gas station slightly perplexed. Did that just really happen? Had I been out in the 'real world' for so long I forgot what a trusting little town this was? Despite feeling like a complete moron, I had to smile to myself. If ever I hear people make statements such as, "This world is just not a safe place." Or things like, "People now days are just not like they used to be," I realize these people just have never been to Deer River.