Back in the 1980s Stephen and I were living in a 3rd floor walk-up condo in the Central West End called The Barwick. I had decided to move to St. Louis in 1980 and commute 25 miles to work in Edwardsville, Il, rather than living in Illinois and commuting 25 miles to play. I had a rather busy work schedule, and that meant I had to get up early and drive that long distance. Often, I had to stop to put gas in the car on the way to work.
On one such morning, I was filling my tank at a small Amoco station at the corner of Taylor and Laclede. The gas was expensive and there sometimes were cars queued up for gas at this time of day. I had been rather mindlessly letting the fuel dribble into the tank, when a sub-compact car pulled up at an angle just behind me. A short but large and very harried-looking woman got out of the car clutching a purse against her ample bosom. She had a flowered print dress on that came to her ankles, which seemingly was padded with foundational garments of some kind, even though it was a spring day. She removed her gas cap, and though I could not see this from my position, apparently set up the other side of the pump I was using so that she could fill her tank.
Soon, I became aware of her personal drama. She had the pump handle in both hands, and was trying to stretch it so that she could begin putting gas in her tank. Clearly, her car was just not close enough to do this. She kept making half hearted little tugs on the pump handle as if to stretch it just a bit more, but also looking pathetically my way, as if I was to do something about this. Bear in mind that my gas was slowly filling, and I was soon to complete my transaction. Finally, pump still in hand, she gave a little mental stamp of the foot and whined at me, “I’m late for work. Are you going to move your car up a little more so that I can get in here and fill my tank?
Now ordinarily, if there is something I can really do to help a person, I will. But the fact that I really had almost completed my sale, perhaps the morning blahs, and perhaps her demeanor bordering on the bizarre all combined, and I simply said, “No.
She just stood there, seemingly not capable of absorbing or comprehending my refusal. The final dribbles of gas were dribbling into my tank. “Well, are you going to do something?!” came her angry response
“No, I’m not.
She walked back to the pump and slammed the pump handle back in the receptacle. Then she walked back out to where she could see me again. She faced off at me, and put her hands on her hips, announcing to me and to the world, “You are a RUDE and ABERRANT person!!” She pronounced the word ‘aberrant’ with the accent on the second syllable, which I later found out was correct.
“And you are a very angry woman,” I replied, placing my own pump handle back in its receptacle. “Have a nice day.” I got in the car, started it, and drove off.
Thirty years later Stephen and I occasionally laugh at this story, and it has given Stephen one more humorous verbal weapon to wield in the battle of the same-sexes. And I’m still not sorry I said, “No.”