When I think back on my travels around America, old abandoned service stations were frequent sights. They seemed to be waiting for the sound of clinking tools, whistling men and the smell of grease. Many of the smallest stations were from the twenties or thirties. Their wooden doors with multiple windowpanes opened sideways instead of upwards. The beautiful art deco details attractive even under the pealing paint. Sometimes a name or a date would be emblazoned across the top. The name of proud owners of the service station.
The obvious truth is that little towns got by-passed by automobiles whose gas tanks could carry them many towns away to big towns with newer stations and cheaper gas. Mechanics no longer could work on any car that pulled in. Too complicated. Service stations were service stations. Dispensing fuel, opinions, and tune-ups. Service with a smile.
Gas stations and convenience stores. The shift in linguistics is telling. No more service, no more directions, no more schmoozing. Gas. No service, but self-service. Wait on yourself. Talk to yourself. America lost an element of civilization when the service stations disappeared.
Convenience stores are convenient for the owners, not the customers. You dispense your own drink or pull it from a cooler. Need oil. Buy it by the quart and put it in yourself. Buy junk food, beer, and sour coffee. The bored counter employee services without eye-contact, begrudgingly, and rushed. Need directions? Don’t ask at a convenience store. The personnel often are so new to town that they don’t know the territory and don’t care even to look it up for you.
America has changed. We have lost much dignity in the workplace. We have lost the sense of community in the everyday tasks that brought people together. We have lost jobs honored for their usefulness. The abandoned service stations bothered me one after another. Bye service. Bye.