The other night, I was washing the windshield of my car. As I squeegeed the water off, the memory of a Texaco Man cleaning my dad’s windshield came to my mind. That was how I learned to squeegee a windshield, by watching the “man behind the star” doing his job.
Young people today can’t imagine it, but there was a time when a man hurried out to your car to pump your gas. It was a ritual. “Fill ’er up sir? Check your water and oil? How about I check the tire pressure, too??” He wore a clean, pressed shirt and slacks with a bow tie. Some wore a cap and some didn’t, but they were spotless and they were friendly. If you were lost, the chances were good they could get you where you were going, complete with a free map.
Back then you just didn’t get gas; you got a collectable glass, as well. It was service and it was extras. All that, plus service, for just 35 cents a gallon.
Then, along came rising gas prices and self-serve stations. Away went the Texaco Man and thousands like him. Gone with them were the friendly greeting, the service, and the helpful directions with a complimentary map.
What did we get in return? Well, the system is now faster because we all hop out and pump the gas ourselves. (Unless the guy ahead of you leaves his car at the pump and goes inside to use the facilities and shop.) Forget about extras and don’t even try to ask directions, because the kids working in the store barely know how to get from their houses to the station and back.
So, a little bit of what was America has slipped away without any benefit to anyone except the oil companies, but what does it matter? We all have GPS’s, so no one gets lost any more. We don’t need that man with the friendly smile, either. We are all fine on our own, pumping our own gas, standing next to people we don’t know who are pumping their own gas, too.
They talk on the news about how our jobs have gone overseas because of outsourcing. That may be true, but some of the jobs just went away because we settled for less.
There was a slower time when people did things because people liked having things done by people. The feeling was that we were all in this together. Each working person valued the importance of other working people.
None of this really mattered much to me until recently. It appears I’m getting old enough to be nostalgic. Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident, and while it may not have been better before it sometimes seems like it.