Around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning I was poised to go on a beer run. “Can you fill my Volvo with gas?” said my wife.
“Sure?” I said, oblivious to what delights lay ahead.
The first station I visited, an Esso, was out of gas. I drove past a Peninsula Co-op station. A fuel truck was parked there. Aha, I thought. Gas!
A woman in a yellow hard-hat waved me over. She explained there was a one-hour wait. Bad news. I hate lineups.
After 20 minutes, a flag person directing the four-blocks-long line told me the wait would now be two hours. That’s because the new gas needed to “settle” for 90 minutes after delivery.
This sounded horrible. Whoever heard of gas needing to settle? But I already had 20 minutes invested in the deal. I phoned my wife to break the news. “You owe me big time now,” I said, imagining a towering hillock of brownie points.
“I don’t know about that. We both use the car,” she said.
No brownie points.
After an hour the line had moved just half a block. A woman two cars in front of me left her car and walked off. Ten seconds later the line started to move. A Volkswagen driver directly in front of me began gesticulating frantically. She clearly wanted me to back up so she could pull out and pass the abandoned vehicle. She pulled out and whipped ahead.
The vehicle abandoner soon returned with a package of toilet paper. She saw she’d been passed by driver No. 2. Didn’t look happy. Serves her right, I thought. That’s what you get for going on unauthorized TP runs.
At that moment I spied Times Colonist reporter Louise Dickson, who was doing a story on gas lineups.
“Hey,” I said to her. “You should interview that woman. She got passed in the lineup because she bought toilet paper.” “Oh really?” said Louise.
“Oh, yeah, yeah. I think she’s hoarding it.”
“Was it a lot of toilet paper?” “Just one package.” “That’s not hoarding,” Louise said.
The line had come to a halt, so I decided to buy coffee at a nearby Subway. “Make it fast, my friend. I’m in the gas line and don’t want to lose my place,” I told the Subway guy.
As I walked back to my car the Volkswagen driver who’d passed TP woman noticed my cup of coffee.
She smiled at me. “That’s a good idea,” she said. “By the way, I feel sort of bad about passing the other driver.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “She went grocery shopping. She had it coming to her. You know, I think she’s a toilet paper hoarder or something.”
Back in my car I saw TP get out and approach the woman who’d passed her. They had what looked like an animated conversation.
Afterward TP looked my way and waggled her finger disapprovingly. Did she think I was somehow complicit in the line-jumping contretemps? Perhaps she’d gotten wind of my toilet-paper-hoarding comment.
A baseball-capped guy in a pickup drove by and yelled something at me. It sounded like “what if there was a fire?” What did that mean? Then a giant delivery truck began honking madly at the cars behind me because they were blocking his way. The flag woman made us all move forward so he could squeeze though.
Things were sure heating up in the gas line. It was like Lord of the Flies or something.
The Subway coffee was having a powerful diuretic effect. I began to panic slightly. Should I leave my vehicle in search of a restroom? But I couldn’t do that in case the line started to move. What a pickle I was in.
The cars finally started to inch forward. A liquor store came into view. Perhaps I could nip in and buy beer. But no — the line was moving ever more quickly. I saw people enter and leave the liquor store.
Perhaps someone would buy my booze for me. I considered asking a mustachioed guy walking by, but then wondered if my request would seem odd — a vaguely indecent proposition. I didn’t need that, given I already had the reputation as a bit of a trouble-maker.
After 2 1/2 hours I made it to the pump. An affable gas jockey filled up the Volvo. On the way home I bought beer at a liquor store.
“Hey my man, I was just in a gas lineup for 2 1/2 hours,” I told the clerk.
“Pffsst,” he replied.
“Can I use your restroom?”
Later that night, after dinner, my wife gave me a surprise. Cookie-dough ice cream with a chocolate-chip cookie.
“What’s all this?”
“Brownie points,” she said. “You deserve it.”
“It was nothing,” I said.