You Know You’re a Writer When: Gas Stations


On myPicture taken from the driver's seat of the car in front of them at a gas pump. The car is off with no one near it. There is a pink "out of order" sign on the handle. way to the grocery store is a gas station that doubles as a gift store. They advertise gift-able holidays more than the price of gas. I’ve never stopped there before, for either gifts or gas.

This past weekend, however, I was almost on empty and didn’t want to be stranded in the grocery parking lot with milk and meat spoiling in the back. So I stopped.

There were two cars already in the station. I pulled up behind the sedan and started filling my tank. The full, floor-to-ceiling window of the station was packed with gifts: vases, flags and miscellaneous things wrapped in plastic. I was debating going in to find out exactly what those miscellaneous things were when I realized that there was no one else around. No new cars were pulling in for gas. The two cars that were there when I arrived were still there, but no one was filling them up. No one was sitting inside them.

I have never been the only person at the gas station before. It was creepy. Like a ghost town. My thoughts turned to *why* the people had abandoned their cars. They must have gone inside to pay (something I haven’t done in years) only to be taken hostage. Obviously.

I watch the glass doors, but I can’t see anything inside thanks to that black plastic film people put on windows to cut down on sunlight, glare and, oh, people peeping in.

Before my gas pump finishes, and before I get to the stage in my paranoia when I start to plan my escape if I’m seen, an older gentleman walks out and straightens the gift-y lawn pinwheels by the door. That’s when I see the pink out-of-order fliers taped over the gas nozzles next to the parked cars.

Ever been surprised to find yourself alone? What was your first thought? Ghost town or hold up? Or something more benign?

5 thoughts on “You Know You’re a Writer When: Gas Stations

  1. Aliens. It’s usually aliens involved. They tend to sneak up on the unsuspecting. They are known for havoc. The gift store was no doubt a front for their activities.

  2. When I asked the writers in my memoir classes to write about “The Greatest Invention of my Lifetime” I asked my husband Mike what he might write about if assigned that topic. His answer: Pay at the Pump. Now I know why.


    • In addition to keeping you safe from being taken hostage or your brains sucked by aliens, pay at the pump saves time, stops impulse jerky purchases and reduces your need to talk to people. Five reasons it gets my vote. But wasn’t Mike just bemoaning something that reduced people-interaction?

  3. And in case people were on the edge of their seats, last week the same cars were out, acting as dummy customers in front of the still-broken pumps. However, this week, all was fixed. The dummy customer cars were gone and real customer was spotted safely pumping her gas.

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