I like getting gas, especially before a road trip when filling up is coupled with cruising through Cruz Thru Express Carwash.

Recently, I was at the Chevron station on 23rd and L when I noticed a man standing by the pumps on the north side of Chevron’s Food Mart. He was wearing blue denim shorts and a white T-shirt. He looked like he wanted something.

We all want something. Wanting something is part of being alive. We both wanted something but that something might not be the same something.

He walked up to me. This was the moment of truth. The moment when wanting often becomes asking.

Turns out I was wrong. He had money. At least starter money. He was clutching several dollar bills in his left hand.

“Hey, boss, can you do me a favor?” he said.

I don’t feel like a “boss.” I have no employees and I work in a cubicle, a nice cubicle but a cubicle. Bosses have offices and a firm grasp of the company's mission statement.

“What can I do for you?” I asked.

I’m not sure I said that but it’s the kind of thing I would have liked to have said had the better part of me been better than it was. As it was, my response was probably surlier than the situation deserved.

“Can you buy me a Spiked 211?” he said, nodding toward the food mart. “They won’t let me in the store.”

I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. I was fond of the people inside. They wore crisp Chevron shirts and smiled a lot. Unless they had changed, they were the same.

“I have money,” he said, thrusting his fistful of dollars toward me. “I’m not asking for a handout.”

I looked at his money and hesitated. It wasn’t the money, it was the Spiked 211, a product with which I was unfamiliar. It sounded wild, too wild for my tame.

I Googled Spiked 211 later and found out it was a malt beer made by Steel Brewing Co. that came in flavors like fruit punch and blackberry. One person on BeerAdvocate described it as “smelling like watermelon Jolly Ranchers soaked in gas station vodka.” 

Spiked 211 was not the kind of thing the boss normally buys. At one time he might have, but the boss likes to imagine he has graduated and developed mature tastes.

“I don’t know,” I said, as I continued to fill the tank.

I did know. I knew that even if he had the money, which he did, that I was not inclined to walk in the store and buy Spiked 211. I didn’t want the clerks to think I was that kind of guy. The boss has a reputation to uphold, mature, sensible and in control.

“Isn’t there a liquor store down the street?” I asked, thinking if there was a liquor store where people didn’t know me, I might do it.

He shook his head, indicating that the closest store was still too far. He wasn’t looking for exercise, he wanted a Spiked 211 and he wanted it pronto.

I am inclined to be helpful and I didn’t want to be the sort of person who says, “You can do better that. Try my brand. It has a nice dry finish.”

However, if he were willing to upgrade to a Corona or even something in the hard cider line, I would have walked proudly into that store and bought it for him.

We were at an impasse. He shook his head, as if he had believed in me and now I had disappointed him like everybody else. The pump stopped and I put the handle back and screwed on the gas cap.

Our business had been concluded, satisfactory for neither of us. He walked away ready to approach somebody else. I started the car, pulled out and, as I did, I looked in my driver’s side mirror and noticed that I had left the gas cap door open. I stopped, got out of the car, and closed it.

The boss had a reputation. He did not want to be seen as the kind of guy who drives around willy nilly with his gas cap door open. Who knows where it goes from there?

Contact Californian columnist Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His work appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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