alone at the pump

I pumped gas for the first time today. This was pretty shocking to my friend Natalie, as it may be for others. Let me explain... I grew up in New York, where gas stations were always full-serve until about 7 or so years ago. Even now, gas stations typically offer both full-serve and self-service. I was already living in Africa when New York starting shifting to self-serve. On our USA trips, Niel and I have always done the bulk of our driving together. So when a fill-up was necessary, my knight in shining armor would handle the task of pumping gas (and usually in bitterly cold winter conditions...Shame!).

In South Africa, it is illegal to pump your own gas. So even there, all I've ever experienced is full-serve. And to clarify, "full-serve" in South Africa is largely different than "full-serve" in New York. In South Africa, your full service gas-pumping includes a windshield wash (and, at times, even a good cleaning of all the windows and side mirrors, too!), a tire check (and pump, if needed) upon request, and an offer to check your oil and water. In New York, "full-serve" is a non-English-speaking, non-smiling man pumping your gas. No chance of getting the other amenities. You're lucky if you get a, "Hi, how are ya?"

I have been in the Atlanta area since Tuesday, having some ministry meetings and attending Catalyst (which has been a powerful leadership extravaganza that I've learned so much from). I'm here with my mom (fun times yet again) and Natalie. I am the designated driver of our rental car. Our almost-empty tank necessitated a stop at a gas station, which, of course, was only self-serve.

I didn't let on that I was a bit nervous because I didn't really have a clue what to do. I simply read--and followed--the instructions on the pump. I filled up without a hitch, pumping my own gas for the very first time in my entire life. Note-worthy occasion.

As a side note, because I live an ocean away from many friends, my friendships have lacked the typical daily interaction that most are built upon. I am blessed to have some solid friendships despite that missing component, but it is still interesting to me that after a decade-long friendship, I've had these types of dialogues with friends:

  • So, when is your birthday?
  • What's your favorite restaurant?
  • Which kind of candy do you like best?

Getting to spend some good, quality time with Natalie on this trip has deepened our friendship to Grand Canyon proportions. And now I know that she's partial to York Peppermint Patties and Reese's Pieces...