With gas lines considerably eased by rationing based on odd and even license plate numbers, the “shortage” of gasoline is basically over here in New York City and Long Island. Now, as we think about the insanity of those two weeks after Hurricane Sandy had battered our area and beat us into submission, it is fitting to take a look back at some stories that took place during that time. For me one that stood out was the tale of “Napoleon,” the guy who pumps gas in my local station.
Napoleon is not his real name. I think it is Amir, Jamal, or Hank, but I am not sure. This is because Napoleon wears jackets with different names sewn in a circle over his right breast. The reason I call him Napoleon is because he always has his right hand stuffed inside the jacket (holding his wad of money) the way the diminutive French emperor was depicted in paintings. This gas attendant also is short in stature, so the name seemed fitting enough to me.
Anyway, before the gas crisis, Napoleon always had a benevolent script that he followed. This basically involved a few lines of dialogue. “Good morning, my friend,” was his first line. The second was “Fill it up for you?” And the third line, after filling my tank and taking my money, was “Thank you for your tip.” Of course, the first time he said this, I was not prepared to tip him. The next time he washed my windshield without my asking him to do it, so I felt inclined to give him a little something.
My father taught me to always appreciate service, no matter how insignificant it might seem to someone else. I saw my Dad tip the guy in McDonald’s, the elevator operator, the doorman, and so on. He never missed the opportunity to recognize someone’s work and praise him or her for a job well done. With that in mind, I became a regular at this gas station and gave Napoleon a tip each time I gassed up.
So along came the gas shortage. This was a difficult experience for everyone. I had heard horror stories of gasoline attendants barking orders at customers, no doubt enjoying their unexpected and new found power. I tried to avoid sitting on line for four or more hours as everyone else was doing, and I passed my regular station with the line going on forever, but I noticed that Napoleon was allowing certain customers to come in the back way and get gas without waiting on line.