Last week I asked you, the reader, to submit ideas for this week's column. Responses ranged from short ideas to the flattering suggestion that I should give up photography and write full time. There was also a comment from someone who thought I was soliciting ideas to boost my own ego and that I might not have any quality material left to work with.
After being awarded first place in the Georgia Press Association's annual contest for serious columns in papers our size last week, I assured the last commenter that my ego didn't need his help. Let me add at this point that I have more ideas than I know what do to with and plenty to say about all of them.
Yack, yack, blah, blah? here are the two randomly selected topics: "slushies" and "bad customer service." More Dave Barry than George Will, but there's room to wedge some real philosophizing in there. As soon as those two topics were picked the image of a Slush Puppy machine in the back of a dirty gas station came to mind. Here's a typical experience in that setting:
With the faint smell of gasoline and grease on your hands you push open the door to the quickie mart, nod at the very ethnic man standing behind the counter, and head to the back. You need a fix and you need it bad.
The Slush Puppy machine sits at the end of an isle lined with cheap paper towels (more paper than towel) and small cans of potted meat. Your eyes lock in on it, distracted briefly by a disheveled man holding a bottle of malt liquor and flipping through the store's selection of packaged cracker sandwiches. He settles on some Captain's Wafers with cheese.
Approaching the machine you notice that the slowly spinning cup of frozen bliss atop the nirvana dispenser is at rest and its happy glowing cartoon dog is asleep. A stained sheet of paper reading "Out of order" is taped at an uncaring angle to the front of your crippled friend.
Settling for a soda, you walk to the front counter in a world that no longer means anything.
"Gimmie this and the gas on pump five," you consent, placing the plastic soda bottle on the counter. Ethnic man nods. Boop? boopity-boop. He mashes some buttons on the digital register.
"Sev-ah-ee, dur-tu," he says to no one in particular.
"Sev-a-tee, dirdy-tu," he repeats, forcefully this time, and directly at you.
You pull a ten, a five and three ones from your wallet. Boopity-boop. Some change slides down a chute and rattles in a worn metal cup connected to the side of the register. You paw it into your pocket with dejection.
"When do you think you'll have the Slush Puppy machine working again?"
"Is broke, don no."
Walking back to your fully gassed vehicle you crack the seal on the soda and remote click your doors unlocked. You vow never to return to that gas station again, but you do, next week when the tank hits empty and anything on the right side of the road looks like an oasis.
In America customer service and personality have taken a back seat to convenience and value, but what's the point of a gas station if you can't even get a slushie?
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.