In 1944, Mama, my sister and I were preparing to make the long trip to San Francisco to stay with my dad before he shipped to the South Pacific. In those days the government had decreed that everybody should be a patriot, and almost everything that was essential was rationed, in order that we should share the burden of war.
In order to make the trip, we had to have an extra allotment of gas coupons. Mr. Naiser, the service station owner, in his strong German accent, spent a great deal of time talking to the people in charge, trying to explain that it was an ”emerGENCY”. The people on the other end of the line were more or less insistent that Emma come in person. “Emma Gency?” send her on over and we’ll talk to her about it.
About 13 years later at the same station (Mr. Naiser was no longer around), I stopped in for gas in my own car, and the attendant asked if he could check under the hood. “I just changed the oil, it’s ok, but could you check the water?” He actually said, ”well, I just wanted to see if I could sell you some oil”. I insisted that he check the water anyway, but he grumbled about it.
About 20 more years passed, and self service stations were in vogue. I resisted them for a long time, because I thought that there were people whose skills were limited to pumping gas, and not much else. Without me, they would have no jobs.
One day I stopped at a station near my mother’s house in Austin, and stopped in the “Full Service” lane. The attendant stuck the hose into the car, set the trigger, and stood leaning against the car until the pump stopped. From that day on, I have pumped my own gas. "Service”, like “chivalry”, is dead.