I’m happy to report that Atlanta and I have returned from surprise visit to the 1970′s. On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago I stopped in at a local gas station for a routine fill up. This generally unmemorable event immediately became more noteworthy as the tires of my car rolled onto the filling station’s pavement. The air around the car started to twist and writhe like it was filled with gas fumes. And then there was a bright light. While my vision recovered, I noticed my radio, which had been tuned to a top 40 station was playing “Afternoon Delight”. What the hell?
My vision recovered not a moment too soon. I slammed the brakes and just missed rear-ending a vintage gas guzzler. “Where the hell did that come from?” I said aloud. From the road, I could clearly see that this gas station only had one other car, and it was gassing up at pump on the far side from this entrance.
I took a deep breath and looked around. There were cars everywhere. And not a single one of them from this century. Come to think of it, not a single one of them younger than 20 years old. What is this, a vintage car show? I wondered. Then I noticed the strange looks I was getting, sitting there in my pint-sized 2003 SUV. And stranger than the looks were the people giving them. It was like I was surrounded by extras from Dazed and Confused! Bell bottoms, wide collar expanses, and giant mops of hair were all around me.
Clearly, the last cigar I smoked had something in it besides tobacco, and I was freaking out. My instincts, which I generally trust, said “get the hell out of here, right now.” But as I began to shift my car into reverse, a land yacht of a Cadillac pulled in behind me. Trapped! Screwed! Nothing to do now but go with the slow flow of groovy cars as they wait in line to gas up.
Before long retro folks in their vintage cars lost interest in my SUV and stopped staring. I started to relax when it became clear that they weren’t zombies from a low budget 1970′s horror film and meant me no harm. And as I relaxed, I started to feel boredom coming on. This line wasn’t moving. Waiting for gas sucks. A lot. The radio wasn’t helping. I switched it off when Barry Manilow started singing about writing the songs that make the whole world sing. I didn’t feel like singing, and Mr. Manilow wasn’t gonna force my hand. I grabbed my crackberry to amuse myself with some web browsing while I waited. No service, dammit.
As I dropped my phone on the passenger seat in disgust, I started to smile. I looked around, and sure enough, there wasn’t a singled idiot bellowing into his cellphone. Whenever I’m stuck in line, it seems like there’s always that moron who seems to think that shouting into his mobile will ensure it doesn’t lose signal strength.
Slowly the line creeped forward, and I amused myself with people watching. Man, these people are skinny! I’m used to being about average weight-wise in any group of people, but clearly I’m the fattest guy here. And dear god, the tight polyester, how the hell can these people stand this heat and humidity wearing that crap?
Finally it was my turn. 13 gallons for $7.67. Damn, that almost made it worth waiting 45 minutes and the weird looks.
As I pulled away from the pump, I felt a cold shiver. Oh god, I hope I’m not stuck here. I can’t imagine programming with punch cards! And just then the air outside my car got strange again. Another flash of light. And as I looked in my rear view mirror the old cars and and people were gone. The gas station was again mostly empty. The price sign listed unleaded gas at $3.91 a gallon and my blackberry buzzed to let me know I had a new email about cheap herbal Viagra. I sighed in relief and burned rubber getting the hell out of that gas station.
I think I’m going to start taking the bus.