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gasman.jpgThe needle is below "E" when I pull up to the pump and an overalled man comes out of the garage wiping his hands on an oil rag. And I think to myself, "Uh oh, what did I do?" Then I realize, "Oh my gosh, he's coming to pump my gas."

"What can I do for you today, sir?"

I blush. I'm still not used to being called "sir," especially by a man 20 years my senior. I feel myself casting about for words. This is not a social interaction I am used to. I don't know the steps to this dance.

"Oh, um, fill it up with... 87..." I know I should say "regular" - that's what my dad always had said - but there were three grades of gas and I thought being more specific was somehow more saavy. It was like I was saying, "I'm not like those other guys who come in here talking about 'regular,' I use numbers." Of course, I can't think of the word "octane" so I just let the number hang there, but I sell it like I am some kind of service station hipster. I am too cool for units.

"Cash or credit?"

"Oh, yeah, I'll put it on my card." I fumble around for my debit card and give it to him. He takes it to the pump and I sit in my car. I look around. What do I do? I'm just sitting here. Oh, the gas cap. I remember in time to reach down and pop the hatch for the gas cap. Whew, I saved myself from embarrassment there. That was close.

What do I do? Oh wow, he's washing my windows. What is he thinking of me? He doesn't really care, he's doing his job. Where do I look? Do I watch him or avert my eyes? I decide to change the song on my iPod to give myself something to do. It also makes me look cool and contemporary.

I glance over at the pump, it's almost done. A thought sinks to my stomach. Am I supposed to tip? My mind reels. I can't remember. Maybe I should. No, wait, he just came up. If I was supposed to tip he would have given me a choice. I didn't get a choice, so no tip. But, this is out of his way. But this is his job. But waitresses get tips and they are just doing their jobs and you don't get a choice with them. How much should I tip? A dollar? Would that be cheap? Would he be offended if I offered a tip? Will he be offended if I don't? I grip the steering wheel and breathe deep.

I watch him closely for any sign as he tops off the tank. He tightens the cap so firmly that it squeaks loudly. He pulls off the receipt and brings it and the card over to me. I quickly roll down the window and try to make eye contact so I can read his mind.

"Thanks, sir, have a good day," he says, handing me my things and turning to go back to the garage.

"Thanks, you too." I breathe a little easier. I made it. I think I got through okay. This wasn't too hard. With a little practice I may be able to do this. Maybe I should come back here.

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