Friday, September 21, 2007
Service with a smile
When I was in second grade my parents moved from a large town back to my dad's hometown. They bought a full service Phillips 66 station. Remember full service, where attendants in uniforms pumped your gas, washed your windows, checked your oil and the air in your tires? You got out of the car and visited, came inside to pay for your gas because swiping the credit card wasn't an option, and bought a Coke for a quarter from the vending machine.
Our service station was immaculate. My parents made sure of that. We spent a huge amount of time there, as any small business owner does, and so my mom also made sure it was comfortable. In the waiting area there was a sofa and chairs, a refrigerator and a TV. We watched Andy Griffith and Gilligan's Island--no one had cable. At one of the big desks my brother and I could sit and do our homework after school.
Our middle school was catty-corner from the station. Kids were constantly crossing the drive in order to go to the diner next door, to buy hot honey-buns topped with vanilla ice cream (yummy beyond belief). We were on the main road through town, so in the summer folks would line up their lawn chairs on the drive to watch the parade, and my parents would grill burgers and dogs and fill tables with potluck dishes. Strangers would wander by and ask how much a meal was, and my dad would always smile and say, "Just grab a plate."
Our cash register was push button. We learned from an early age how to clean the bathrooms, squeegee a window properly, count change back instead of dropping it into the customer's hand. We learned to smile, to look people in the eye, to thank them for their business.
Between that and the farm chores, it was the best childhood ever.
The musky smell of oil and tires recalls such happy times for me, much like the sweet smell of molasses in feed or fresh haybales. What brings back childhood memories for you?