Nowadays there’s not much to gassing up at the local service station unless you’re also snack food shopping at the attached mini mart.  That’s because the “service” component has in most instances, disappeared.  Typically, the transaction now is impersonal, uneventful, and rapid.  Hand the attendant, encased in a semi-sealed booth, your card or your cash, or place your plastic directly into the slot on the pump, then start it up, squeeze the nozzle and stand there rather awkwardly while gasoline flows into your tank at a cost that blows holes in many a family budget.  In winter you are likely to freeze and in summer overheat as you wait for the pump to conclude its business automatically.  And whatever the season, for your efforts you’ve probably also inhaled an unhealthy dose of fumes and discovered a distinct odor of gasoline on your hands.  It wasn’t always this way.  Indeed, there really were good old days when it came to gassing up.

Remember when you pulled into a service station and it was service you got (and probably close to a tank of gas for your few dollars).  Rarely was there any need for you to step out of the car.  The only effort required was that you roll down your window and indicate how much gas you wanted.  Then, from the vantage point of your front seat, you watched as attendants, at times two or three of them, often outfitted in neat uniforms and matching caps, descended upon your vehicle enthusiastically and efficiently.  While gas gushed into your tank, your oil level was checked, your wiper blades examined and – if necessary – cleaned and adjusted.  Water was added, if need be, to your radiator, and battery and antifreeze measured and, if low, replenished.  Windows, both in front and rear, were wiped and scraped clean together with side-view mirrors, and sometimes even headlights when bespattered by mud.  Tire pressure was measured and tubes inflated to proper levels.  When requested, minor repairs might even be undertaken, such as replacing a light bulb or a fuse or straightening a bent antenna.  Furthermore, station attendants often found time for a friendly chat, and if asked furnished reliable directions and supplied maps – all free.

And that wasn’t all.  If your timing was right, a customer promotion might be underway.  Fill ‘er up and get yourself a prize – a set of glassware, a mug, a beach ball, a stuffed animal, a basketball, even a baseball bat.  Then, too, you might have pulled in during yet another gasoline price war.  Imagine a tank full of gas and money still left over in your pocket!

And yes, if nature called, there were bathrooms both unlocked and clean (indeed separate ones for men and women).  And then off you drove with a supply of full-bodied leaded gasoline and the confidence that comes from having your car professionally and completely serviced.  Those were the days.

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