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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.)


DeanB said...

You can write dialog! I could hear the whole conversation.

Found you from the Mad Priest, whom I read regularly because this whole impending schism thing is fascinating. Coming back to find the St. Pat's day joke "...but useless in a fight" to send to a friend.

I haven't seen any blogosphere discussion of Kate Braestrup's _Here If You Need Me_. Are people reading it?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, DeanB. Perhaps I should consider a career in script writing. I hear there's good money in it.

You gotta hear the Jersey side of the conversation as if you had a few "meatballs and gravy" in your mouth.

"Here If You Need Me"? I'll go check it out. Thanks.

whiteycat said...

Before I even read DeanB's comment, my first thought was "you should write a book." You definitely make the experience come alive!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Whitey. I think it just comes from loving the human condition the way I do. I think God must have created us knowing that we would provide endless entertainment.

Karen said...

Love it. Yes you can write. Made me think of the first time I had to stop for gas in New Jersey not that many years ago. I knew that it was different in NJ, but my mind as elsewhere and from habit I got out and started the process. . . You certainly do have excitable people workng at gas stations. LOL


David |Dah • veed| said...

WOW! You have made it this far in life and you have never pumped your own gas?!?!

We have only one brand of gasoline in México because our petroleum is nationalized. All Pemex stations are full service, but even I have pumped gas in the Land o' the free and the home o' the brave!


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, my darling Dahveed, I, even I have pumped gas. I can 'butch it up' when I need to. It's just that you get out of practice when you don't have to do it. And here, all the gas pumps are different. Some ya gotta push a button; others ya gotta lift the cradle. If they were standardized, it would be easier to figure out.

suzanne said...

When you move to "God's country" that's what we call it, you'll remain a "Jersey Girl", cause once a Jersey girl.... You know the rest.

That was a LOL story. And BTW the WAWA's have cheaper gas at the beach.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Not this w/e, it didn't. ;~)

Kirkepiscatoid said...

But...y'all from Jersey ARE the best entertainment! This is true in Missouri, too. All the east coast cluelessness of N'yawkuhs but FAR less of the arrogance...and at least y'all try to learn.

I was laughing the other day on the Facebook comments on one of my FB friends. She moved back to Missouri from NYC. She had been complaining about the very un-Lenten service she had attended at what should have been a liturgical church. They might as well have hollered Alleluia.

When I read the comments, two of the native NYC'ers wrote stuff like "That is why I'd never leave NYC." I'm thinking, "Huh? Like the only possible reason not to be high church is because of all the stupid Midwesterners?" Oy vey.

Muthah+ said...

Lizabeth--do not come to NY. I have forgotten how to have someone else pump gas for me. I guess that the times I have visited you, I have not had to fill up. If someone came to my car window to pump gas, I would probably hit the panic button thinking I was about to be carjacked! It IS downstate, donchaknow!

Joie said...

Great story! What a nice interaction between the two of you from very different worlds. We all have more in common than not. Why can't people get that?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Joie, the answer is simple but not simplistic: people who think other people are 'inferior' can't or won't see that we have more things in common than that which separates us.

At least, that's been my experience of sexism and homophobia. I suspect it may be the same with racism.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, while reading your wonderful job on the dialect, I was thinking, "I think the woman at the gas station and I speak more alike than different!"

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, Kirke, I KNOW we're entertaining. It's part of our charm.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Indeed! I think it comes from being in the shadow (and chafing from it, at times) of that big metropolitan city next door.