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Jim Mullen: I want to pump you up

Jim Mullen • Updated Feb 24, 2017 at 4:15 PM

I jumped about two feet in the air when the gas pump at the Gas and Go Away started talking to me. I mean, there are people who won’t speak to me; why would my gas pump? 

Sure enough, there was now a little speaker attached to the front of the pump that wasn’t there the last time I filled up. Why would they do that? To sell me something, of course – this time, to tell me I was eligible to get 50 cents off a cup of coffee. Ha! I remember when you could buy a whole cup of coffee for 50 cents. Now they act like they’re doing you a favor by only charging you $2 instead of $2.50 for a 50-cent cup of coffee. Thanks bunches. Anything else I can do for you guys, just let me know. I’ll run right over.

Right below the speaker was pasted another ad. I don’t remember what that one was for, but if it wasn’t for an electric car, someone’s missing a great advertising opportunity. If you’re filling the tank on a cold winter’s day, an ad for a car that uses little or no gas might hit you right in your sweet spot. But then, gas stations probably wouldn’t let them advertise at the pump.

I did buy a cup of their coffee because I needed to stay awake for the next two hours, and who am I to turn down a savings of 50 cents? Even in a dump like the Gas and Go Away, there is now a coffee station that offers a selection of fine brews carefully prepared by the on-duty barista/stock clerk/cashier/pizza chef/sanitation engineer. I had my choice of Morning Jolt, Hazelnut Toffee Spice Cake Delight, Columbian Crack, Arabica Dabica, Kona Gut Punch or Chef’s Choice. 

I went with Chef’s Choice. This morning, his choice was apparently to filter the coffee through his socks. While he was wearing them. It had the earthy, beet-like tone one expects from dirt, with a lingering back-taste of a $20 bill that has been circulating for several decades. But let’s not forget, I did save 50 cents.

As I was checking out, the Chef asked me if I had a rewards card. If I did, I could get a free coffee refill at any Gas and Go Away. I did have one, but I told him I didn’t. Avoiding a refill would be reward enough.

As if the speaker and posters on the pump weren’t enough advertising, the mat in front of the cash register was an ad for beef jerky. And I couldn’t see out of any of the windows for all the advertising posters that had been put up for cheap generic beer, cheap generic cigarettes and expensive lottery tickets. The aisles were full of candy, potato chips, ice cream and sugary sodas. The hot food was pizza and hot dogs. 

I’m not a health nut, but as I looked around the place, I realized the cup of coffee in my hand may have been the healthiest thing for sale in the entire store. It was an anti-health food store. No, I spoke too soon: They did have bottled water. But the beer was much cheaper. How is that possible? Beer actually has to be brewed, which takes a lot of work. Logic says it should cost more than water.

But this may be the last hurrah for Gas and Go Away. I wonder what will become of them, and all the other corner gas stations, in 10 or 20 years when everyone on the planet owns an affordable, self-driving electric car. Thousands upon thousands of gas stations will go the way of buggy whips and spats. The empty stores can’t all become Starbucks. 

On second thought, maybe they can. Those coffee bars have gotten them halfway there already.

Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.

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