Gas Station Etiquette: No Hugging, Apparently
Weird things happen to me at gas stations.
I want to talk about the latest one here and get feedback on whether you think I did the right thing, or if I deserved the absolute tongue-lashing given to me by a 60-something gentleman waiting for a pump in his Toyota Highlander.
OK, here’s the story:
I was at Costco with my family on President’s Day, heading toward the fuel pumps to fill up my wife’s car before her work week started. She was driving. The station was busy, with lines 2 to 3 cars deep on most pumps. I spotted an open pump in front of a Jeep Wrangler, with the Highlander waiting behind it. I pointed it out to my wife.
The Highlander driver could have pulled up past the Wrangler, then backed into position at the open pump. He either didn’t see the open pump or was content to just wait for the Wrangler to leave. I told my wife to go to the open pump. She did.
When I got out to swipe my debit card, a gruff voice suddenly appeared behind me. I turned around to see the gentleman from the Highlander, fuming.
He said, “That wasn’t a very kosher thing to do, you idiotic (insert really bad name here).”
No one had ever yelled at me at a gas station before, and I was a little taken aback.
“Umm,” I said, “I’m sorry, sir, I saw an open spot, and you didn’t take it, so I thought I would.”
I hardly finished my sentence before more obscenities came pouring from his mouth, interspersed with something about not learning how to share in grade school and threats that I am probably going to be killed for pulling stuff like that.
I didn’t know what to say. Other customers were staring. The Costco attendant awkwardly took a step in our direction, but then decided not to intervene.
I wasn’t sure how to respond.
So I opened my arms and offered the guy a hug.
I thought it was funny and would defuse a tense situation, but it just made him more mad. He declined my offer and turned back toward his car, shouting words about me I was glad my kids couldn’t hear. (Turns out seeing an angry old man decline a hug is actually pretty funny.)
A customer at the pump next to me popped his head over and said he was sorry the guy was talking to me like that. I politely thanked him.
Of course Highlander guy heard that and then called us both names his mother wouldn’t be very proud of.
My tank filled up without further incident, the station attendant never said a word, and my family and I drove off with a good lesson on how not to act toward people.
I do still wonder though, was I right to take the space in front of the Wrangler while the Highlander waited? He had the first chance, but didn’t take it.