By JC Leahy
Some days I wake up and feel like I’ve been transported to another planet. On the way to work this morning I stopped to get gas and put some air into one of my car’s tires. I pulled up next to the air pump before proceeding to the gas pump. I fished 3 quarters out of the ash tray and went around the car to the air pump. I was vaguely annoyed that the price of pumping air had increased from 75 cents to a dollar. What could I do? I found another quarter in the center console and dropped all 4 quarters into the coin slot. The air pump, however, remained dormant. I double checked the price. Yup, it was one dollar. The pump was not working. I felt cheated.
Leaving gas pumping into my car, I walked to the cashier to discuss the air pump.
“I put a dollar into your air pump and it didn’t give me any air.”
The cashier had a thick accent, maybe African. “You put a dollar into the air pump?”
“The air pump doesn’t work, sir.”
“I know that. When did it stop working?”
“Oh…it hasn’t worked for some time, sir.”
“Well, did you ever think about putting an “out of order” sign on it -- or maybe putting some tape over the coin slots?”
The cashier looked at me intently as if I had come up with a stunningly creative idea, but no words came out of his mouth..
“If you have an air pump at your gas station and the air pump doesn’t work," I continued patiently, "you really should post an “out of order” sign,"
"Anyway, can I have my dollar back?”
“Oh, no sir! I can’t give you a dollar out of the register.”
“Well, I’m not buying any more gas here until I get my dollar.”
The cashier looked puzzled but remained silent.
“If you won't give my dollar back, I want to write a letter to the owner. Can I have his name and mailing address please?”
“Name and mailing address?”
With this, the cashier went into search mode. He looked on his cell phone, poking at the screen and peering at the little screen. He rifled through a little book. He looked on papers. I was starting to think I would be late for work and was about to tell him to never mind. Just then he came to me with a hand written scrap of paper that said “Genet, 301-431-1274.”
“You can call there to get your dollar back.”
“This is the company that can give my dollar back?”
“Sigh…..okay.” With that I hurried off to work.
At lunchtime, I dialed the number. A woman answered. She said something. It sounded like a company name, but I couldn’t make it out. She spoke English with a very thick accent.
“Is this a company?” I asked.
“What is the name of the company?”
She said the name, but again I couldn’t understand.
“Do you have vending air pumps?”
“Yes. Do you have vending air pumps?”
“Yes we do.”
“Well I put my dollar into one of them and it didn’t work.”
“It didn’t work?”
“That’s too bad.”
“Well, may I have my dollar back??
“No, we can’t give your dollar back.”
She hung up her phone. I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
The gas station is:
W at ICC (aka Washingtonian)
14300 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver spring, MD
Steer clear of that air pump! :)