Petroleum Smile

Image of Creative Nonfiction

Ending my shift in the darkness of the night. Walking to the car quite exhausted. Climbing slowly into the driver's seat. Inhaling a deep breath prior to starting the ignition. I exhale and listen to the hum of the motor in response. Yeah, what a day.

In turning all of the lights on I notice my gas guage; one-forth of a tank. Mental note: I must head to the nearest community gas station. I shift to drive, roll down the windows and cruise over to BP. I can't help but notice, for a Friday night, the street lights are changing quickly and traffic is moving smoothly. Thank heavens.

I enter the drive of the BP. I reach my usual pump, number five. I prepare to park the car, shut off the engine, the lights and get my form of payment together. Getting out of the car I notice something different, the drive is quite empty for a Friday night. Yet, the station's lights are bright and all is calm.

Looking both ways I cross the drive and walk in to the convenient store. The buzz of the freezers could be heard immediately and succinctly because there's no conversation. There are lines and everyone has their head down looking towards their product or possibly the ground. It was very zombiesque. They walk to the window, slide their product and monies through the slot and request the needed petroleum amount and pump number. Each person gathers their receipt with very few thank yous to be heard. As my line dwindles, quickly I see why the atmosphere was a bit different. The attendants have changed.

Before passing my money through the slotted window I wait for our newest community member to look up.

He was waiting for the routine to begin in order to start the transaction.I gave him silence. He looked at the cash registers keys. We exchange formal yeses with hopes the routine would begin as we so desired. I wait a bit longer. He finally looks up.
I smile and extend a, "good evening."

He smiles back in much amazement and bewilderment.              I shared a double eye wink and simultaneous head nod with a smile and asked, "how are you?" He snickered, put his head down, in a bashful sense, and responded, "...'m fine thank you and you?"

Without hesitation I replied, "good and tired thank you." As I continued in a snicker and smile I asked, " how were things going? Things don't seem the same. "

He went on to say, while shaking his head and gesturing his hands, "true, the community is changing and we're under new management. So, it will take some time for everyone to feel comfortable."

Scanning the room in a pause I raised my eyebrows, frowned and agreed. "Yes, it's going to take time and everything will be alright." Then, I smiled, looked down into my hand and unfolded the balled up twenty dollar bill and passed it through the slotted window. "May I have twen•ty on pump number five, please?"

Sliding the bill up towards himself and out of the tray he took notice of my accent and smiled. And now it was his turn to gain insight on a community member.

"Twen•ty," he mocked.
" Yes, sir. Twen•ty, please. On pump five. " I repeated myself without question and tilted my head to the right all while still smiling.

Mimicking my head posture and smiling in return he pardoned himself. "Excuse me miss. Could you tell me where you are from?"

I giggled. In a peaceful expression all while continuing to smile I pointed towards the ground in a pumping manner to indicate here. "I was born here. I'm from the United States of America."

He jerked his head back in disbelief. "No. I don't believe so. No one has spoken with me this way. Your pronunciation its not of these parts. Hmmm" He really didn't believe me.

Yes, sir. Born and raised here. But, I work with various people groups and travel to teach North American English and the culture to various communities around the world.

"Ha, ha, ha," he laughed.

I came right back. Hopeful to persuade him to think otherwise. I coddled his thinking, "I know, I've confused you. But I tell the truth. I'm American! "

He smiled, looked at the twenty dollar bill again. Mocking me he repeats how I expressed its value, "twen•ty." Still smiling and shaking his head he informed me my pump was ready.

"Shukraan, sir. You have a good night," I expressed while waiting for the receipt.

Heeeeey!, he exclaimed while passing the slip through the slotted window. He finished by exchanging these parting words: tisbah ala khayr. As to say, "good night to you, too."

It was a great ending to a tiresome evening. I walked from the convenient store on to the drive to reach pump number five. I pumped my gas, waved goodbye slowly yet, with a bit more energy I climbed in to the driver's seat. All while smiling.  I inhale a deep breath prior to starting the ignition. I exhale and listen to the hum of the motor in response. I put the gear in to drive and made my way home.