The Service Station Time Forgot

This one is dedicated to Trey who often regales us with tales of small towns…I hope you will all take the extra time necessary to read the entire thing and let me know what you think…nothing beats a true story…

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the busy city of Bangor sits the auto service station that time forgot. I had the honor of visiting this service station Thursday, November 4th, 2004 in an attempt to get my car inspected.

Having been sent away from 3 other service stations which couldn’t inspect my car at this time (I didn’t come during the correct hours, or they were out of stickers), on my way to a fourth station I passed this station which sits on a small plot of land along a main street through town (in all actuality the street, State St., should be called Main St. for if a person followed it long enough through downtown it would, at one point, mysteriously change name from State to Main. Why single streets inexplicable change name somewhere in the middle is a secret that only the muck-a-mucks in the Dept. of Transportation would fully understand, and even then it could have happened so long ago that even current ones are baffled). I kept this station in mind as I drove to my destination, wondering if the station was, in fact, open as the sign on the front stated though it seemed devoid of business or habitation. When I drove past my target station and saw they, as well, were too busy to inspect my car I was glad to have spotted the mysterious station earlier and promptly turned around to head back toward it.

Upon parking my car beside the small station that time forgot I was encouraged to see faces through the side window. I entered the front door of the station to find two elderly folk (apparently a couple) sitting in chairs doing seemingly nothing besides listening to the ‘oldies’ on the ancient radio (if they were actually paying it any attention at all) and staring out the large front window toward the gas tanks (the lady, I admit, was moving as her eyes slowly closed of their own volition and she would catch herself with half-hearted attempt to open them once again). Not knowing if these were employees (two people would be one and a half too many to run the station) or patrons waiting for their vehicle to be serviced, I hesitated inside the door. The aged man asked if I needed something, so I felt confident to ask him about an inspection. He told me that I would have to ask Bruce and motioned toward the door leading to the work bays. This would be the only thing either of them said to me during my entire experience.

Bruce is apparently intent on his work (or hard of hearing, who can tell?) for he did not hear the door open into his workstation. Getting his attention by calling out a “Hello!” I inquired again about an inspection. Bruce generously told me I could get my much sought after inspection in about 20 minutes, after he finished changing an vehicle’s oil. I left to run an errand for the next 20 minutes (time had forgotten the station, but not myself) and returned promptly for my promised inspection.

When Time finally gives up on you, stops trying to run your life, and eventually forgets your existence, you are no longer forced to abide by its strict regulations. This was evidenced in no greater way than by the fact that it took Bruce another twenty minutes on top of the twenty I had already granted him to finish the oil change. This second twenty minutes permitted me the opportunity to join the elderly couple in their timeless trance inside the station (the old woman had finally succumbed to the entrancing music and her sitting cat-nap whilst I was away, no longer having the energy to fight the temptation, and, let’s be frank, who wouldn’t if given the perfect opportunity she was allotted). My on-the-go nature tried desperately to drive me insane as I sat patiently, doing nothing but listen to the old time music and watch the other two entities of the room. Curiosity overrode my desire to be active as I inspected my surroundings and tried to figure this place out in my head.

When a patron came to the gas pumps, the old man actually got up out of one chair to move up and over two feet into the chair by the gas pump controls and credit card machine. It was the first time I saw any movement not due to lethargy. He would push the buttons to run the machines meticulously, yet professionally as customers pumped then paid for their gas. If there were multiple clientele he would sit in the chair until they were all attended to, if not he would slowly move out of that chair and back to his previous perch. To me it would seem prudent to remain at the front chair seeing how it was the more comfortable of the chairs, and the fact that the sun was not shining through the window onto it which would have effectively baked anyone who remained there for a period of time, however this was not the old man’s way of doing things and who could argue with someone who looked like he had not moved out of that very room for eons?

It finally came time for my car inspection, which Bruce performed in a friendly and proficient manner. He had me stay in the car while he checked the lights, turn signals, horn (who really cares if the horn works? Honestly, I never use the blasted thing but once a year when getting my car inspected…), and emergency brake, the send me back into the timeless dimension of the main room while he lifted the car to inspect something on the underside.

Back with the mysterious couple, I was able to observe, for a second time, the old man at work. It became apparent that the man was hard of hearing (which once again brought up the question as to whether they were really listening to the radio…I think by then the old woman was asleep enough to assume she was having nothing to do with the thing). One lady stuck her head into the office before pumping gas to inquire whether they accepted credit cards. After giving a somewhat drawn-out explanation of why she was asking first, the man told her to come (all the way) inside and repeat herself. As she was asking the second time, I just sat there listening and nodding my head in case she would rather look at me and take my cue.

Another young lady pumped ten dollars worth of gas and came inside to pay with a twenty-dollar bill. She asked the old man if she could have two five-dollar bills in return. The old man said nothing, and, after making her change, handed her a ten-dollar bill. The young lady grabbed the bill, looked over the man’s head at me and gave me a questioning look. I just shrugged my shoulders and offered an I-don’t-know look. “Sorry, lady,” was my thought, “I’m just an customer, too.” She departed without further ado.

Bruce replaced my third brake light (how is anyone supposed to know they have a brake light out? How often while your car is on and running do you observe your own brake light? You can point your front lights toward a building to see if one is our, but checking the rear ones on your own still baffles me) and nearly forgot to charge me for it by the time he rang me up. After fiddling with the machine and correct his first charge (I hope…I’ve yet to receive my bank statement…), he was off to attach my inspection sticker that I might be on my way.

An affable fellow, really, Bruce instructed me to release my emergency brake when I was not able to back the car out of the bay. He told me of a woman who drove all the way to the next town dragging her tires after forgetting to release said brake. He wished me a good day and turned around to undertake the next project, changing a tire, leaving me to drive off from the station trying to sort this surreal experience through my twenty-first century mind.

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11 Responses to The Service Station Time Forgot

  1. Hannah Faith says:

    Sounds a lot more complicated than our Greenville inspections – pull up, see if someone’s working, get their attention, they see you in the car, they see the car running, they tell you the latest gossip about someone’s grandmother’s cousin, and then give you the sticker and you’re done.

  2. Roger says:

    Those were the first few stations that didn’t have time for me. I forgot to mention the one I went to a couple week ago who had their Inspection License taken away…

  3. Eric says:

    Wow… I should stop in for a visit… I like sleeping at work, and I could pick up a few tips from the folks there…

  4. Rhonda says:

    We have strict emissions test here in California, but they could care less if your horn works, thankfully.

  5. Cousin Dave says:

    LOL! The station you are talking about is right near Abraham lincoln school! It is an old white building with a blue stripe if my mind doth serve me! LOL great story dude!

  6. Roger says:

    Dave: {Ed McMahon voice}Yes! You are correct, sir!{/Ed McMahon voice}

  7. trey says:

    this is why I like having a state run inspection center in TN.. much easier.. great story rogero.. . :rmfo:

  8. Roger says:

    Thanks, Trey! I don’t like the inspections where they actually look at your car, though. 😆

  9. Wippels Last Customer
    Weathered hand across the glass, polished clean but not too fast
    Tank is full and the tires too he quietly asks can I check your oil for you
    Here for years by the side of highway 10
    Where the road spills from the mountains west of the rivers bend
    No need for speed in this small town

    At this one man service station where time itself slows down
    I pulled in half past eight the sun was down and it was getting late
    The sign said closed but the light was still on a voice inside said, “May I help you son?”
    He cracked that door and he opened a smile he knew I had been traveling a long while
    His face was worn like the road that I was on and that wooden chair that he sat upon

    His room was as simple as the very first day
    And over forty years ago not much at the station had changed
    “But things move on,” he said to me ,”and the older you get the more you see
    That progress moves even faster than time.”
    With the new interstate he thinks he’s been left behind
    He said, “this used to be a small town with really big dreams and plenty of time,
    Now we ain’t got enough time to get what we think we need without feeling left behind.”

    He pointed to the window to the sign reading sold
    And as we walked to my car I knew all I needed to know
    I watched his tired eyes and his hands move with grace
    I knew I would never forget this place

    -Christopher Williams

    © 1998 BiG ReD VaN Music (ASCAP)

  10. Roger says:

    That is a pretty cool song. It fits well with my experience.

  11. Hannah says:

    I actually had that song playing in my head while reading your post, Roger. I wondered if the sage would mention it.

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