Friday, March 20, 2009
OMG! Jersey Girls Don't Pump Gas.
It's happened. It's official. I'm a "Jersey Girl."
So, as you read, "OMG", please hear: Oh. My. GAWWWD!
I don't know how or when it happened, exactly, but I just realized it last night.
I mean, I've been aware that, from time to time, my response after listening to a friend's tale of woe is to shrug my shoulders, place my hands in a semi "orans position" and say "Eh, whatchagonnado, ya know?"
Or, "Eh, it is what it is, ya know?"
And then there is, of course, "Eh, fuggeddaboutit."
Or, "Eh, don't get yourself all exercized."
It's the prefix of "eh" and the suffix of "ya know?" and the hands in mid-air, palms- up motion of chagrin, followed by a shrug of the shoulders, that is always the telltale giveaway of someone from Jersey.
But tonight . . . tonight was the "Reese's pieces. . . the Finally . . .the Penultimate Ending" of the beginning of the debut of the transformation of the girl from 'Dirty Water' to "The Jersey Girl".
I stole away to Rehoboth Beach for a wee retreat this weekend. I went to bed at 9:30 Thursday night and woke up at 7:45 Friday morning. Honest. I was THAT tired.
I had a lovely day on Friday. I walked the Boardwalk on the ocean (it was COLD!), and then went window shopping, trying my best to add my energy to the 'stimulus package' (Got a GREAT pair of slacks and a sweater at the Chico's Discount place for $19.99 total. No tax, of course, which makes Delaware retail therapy the BEST.).
Before I met some friends for dinner, I found a gas station with gas below $2.00 a gallon and decided to stop in for a fill up.
That's when it started to hit me.
First, I realized that I was sitting in my car, waiting for the attendant to come out of the convenience store. Just as I was starting to get annoyed, I remembered where I was.
Delaware. Definitely NOT New Jersey.
For the uninitiated, it is against NJ law for anyone but the gas station attendant to pump gas. Don't ask me. I have no idea why. Maybe we've been way ahead of the 'stimulus package' curve for a long time. Maybe it's the Mafia.
You know what? I really don't care. I like it that way.
Besides, our gas prices are still the lowest in this part of the Northeast Corridor - especially on the Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway.
Come to think of it, the Mafia has got to be involved somehow.
Anyway, I got over that fairly quickly and got out my credit card to swipe the little automatic charge thingy, but it wouldn't accept the pass code to my debit card.
So, I locked the car and went inside the store. I approached the woman at the counter with a sheepish grin and said, "Can you tell I'm from Jersey?"
"OOOOOOOOOwwwwweeeee" she said as she lifted her hands and did a little happy-happy-joy-joy dance and said, "Lawd a mercy, I LOVE this time of year."
She clapped her hands with obvious glee and said, "Y'all from Jersey are sooo entertaining."
"Okay, okay," I said, "You're bustin' my chops because I'm from Jersey, right?"
'Bustin' my chops'. The evidence was now overwhelming that I have really become a 'Jersey Girl'. Now, a 'Jersey Boy' would have said, 'Bustin' my balls' but that's another story for another time.
She was a rather large Sistah who had me pegged the minute I walked in the door. "Girl, you jus' leave your credit card with me and go gas up," she said.
I paused for a few seconds which instantly registered my hesitation and caution. Okay, I probably had attitude. I've already admitted to being a 'Jersey Girl'.
"What?" she said, putting her hands defiantly on her hips and meeting my attitude with a bit of attitude of her own. "You think I'm gonna take your card?"
"No," I said, and then tried to justify myself by adding, "but you could write down the numbers."
"Ooooohh, right," she said, "Good idea. I wuddah thought of that myself, but I'm not smart like you white Jersey Girls."
"Okay, okay. I deserved that," I said. "But you know, with identity theft and all . . . ."
"No prob, sugar" she laughed, then nodding her head toward the gas pumps, ordered, "Go get gassed up."
I returned to my car and watched the monitor on the gas pump jump around from "Please swipe card" to "Please wait."
I waited. Then I tried to push the yellow pad in front of the nozzle to select the type of gas I wanted.
From out of nowhere, an intercom crackled loudly before a voice said, "Lift the cradle."
Lift the cradle? What the what?????
The voice laughed, "The cradle. The cradle," she laughed.
"Not that kind of cradle. You see a baby? They ain't no baby 'round here."
She laughed again. "Look at the pump." She waited as I obeyed. "See where the nozzle is? It's in the cradle. It's called a 'cradle', see? Pick up the nozzle and then lift the cradle."
Right. I followed her instructions and voila! Gas for my car.
I could still hear her laughing as the intercom crackled and then clicked off.
I finished my task and then returned to the store to find her still laughing. "Oh, this is such a great time of year. Y'all from Jersey are the BEST entertainment."
She then regaled me with stories of Jersey kids who attend Delaware State University, or are stationed the Air Base in Dover who come to the Ocean for the weekend. She figured they had never in their lives EVER pumped a drop of gas.
"Poor Babies," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She said she sometimes had to actually leave her place behind the counter and go to the pump to teach them.
She was laughing so hard as she told the stories that she coughed and chortled and then said, "Oh Lawd, now I've got to go to the bathroom."
To my surprise, she actually left for a few minutes, leaving my credit card right there on the counter. When she returned, she looked at me and then at the card and said, "Yup, a Jersey Girl. Y'all can't pump your own gas, but you be honest. And, you got attitude. I like that in a white girl."
"You're not so bad yourself," I said.
"Yeah, well you are white, but you're not THAT white," she said, "You know what I'm sayin'?"
"Well, how do you mean?" I asked.
"Look," she said, "You came in here and didn't assume that just because you couldn't get the pump to work that I had messed it up. I think that pisses me off more than anything. Not only do they think that the pump doesn't work, but that I messed it up."
"Ya know what I'm talkin' about?" she asked. "They don't come right out and say it, but they say it with their eyes and by yellin' at me all up in my face. Damn! Some folk are always blamin' the blacks for everything that goes wrong. You see what I'm sayin'?
I nodded sadly. Micro-oppression strikes again.
We detoured into conversation about Obama and Dubya and the economy and what's up with all the buzz about Michele Obama's arms and laughed and laughed and talked a few more minutes about this and that and then I left.
I don't know what will happen when, one day, I eventually retire and move to this place permanently. I don't know, exactly, what it means to be a "Delaware Girl." I suppose, when the time comes, I'll figure it out.
If my friend at the convenience store gas pump is any indication, I've got some practicing to do, learning how to fill my own tank of gas.
Until then, I'll do the best I can.
Eh, whatchagonna do, ya know? It is what it is, right?
Fuggeddaboutit, okay? I'm just not going to get myself all 'exercized', ya know?
(Puts hands up in the air, shrugs shoulders, and leaves for another walk on the Boardwalk before heading back to Jersey.)