We all have times when we begin to lose faith in our fellow man, and even in our felonious women. In my experience, though, whenever I’m about to give up on mankind, my opinion is changed by the act of a single individual. When my outlook is most dismal, someone will always step up and prove that I have not set the bar low enough.
An obliging boob made himself known the other day at a large multi-pump gas station. Let’s call him Clem.
The pumps all had cars waiting in line, and additional vehicles were buzzing around like 747’s stacked up waiting to land at Atlanta. So when I saw Clem move up to the pump as I drove into the station, I figured, “Great!” I pulled in behind him and thought I was one lucky jasper.
Clem’s car sat there for several minutes with no activity. I got a little worried. What if Clem was having a cardiac event? Would anyone notice? I was to eventually realize that your average person having a cardiac event moves much faster than Clem.
After an extended period, a middle-aged, scruffy-faced bear wearing Clem’s clothes exited the car. After sluggishly stretching in every possible manner (he evidently had been in the car for several days) he stared at the pump with the most blank expression I have ever seen. At this point Clem literally had no face. He also had never seen a gas pump before. Just when I was worried he had gone narcoleptic, he unhurriedly reached out a hand and poked and prodded at the pump.
I was sure he was going to kick it. But after a spell he conquered it, and finally gasoline was flowing.
I think Clem was more relieved than I was, as he immediately commenced scratching some areas that were apparently in desperate need of it.
I soon realized his vehicle either had a 150 gallon tank, or the gasoline was mimicking Clem’s rate of movement. Around sundown, the tank was finally filled, Clem replaced the nozzle and gas cap (which took multiple attempts) – and then he stood frozen in apparent bewilderment. What comes next, he seemed to be pondering. And when Clem pondered, it was a ponderous thing. He really should have studied harder for this test. He slowly looked around, then took a tentative step toward the entrance of the mini-mart that federal law mandates must accompany every gas station.
As Clem lumbered toward the door, I felt shame for the bad things I had thought about him, since he was obviously blind, and couldn’t see the open parking spaces directly in front of him that he could have pulled into. I looked around the station – cars were still circling like sharks, and two SUV’s were directly behind me. There was nowhere to go. Clem had checkmated me.
I wondered what the sly devil was up to, since if you’re paying inside, payment must precede pumping. Maybe it was a beef jerky emergency.
My windows are fogging. What the hey? What is he doing in there? Surely he realizes there are 400 people out here waiting to get gas.
Hold on, is that him? No, someone else.
Please, him? No.
People came, people went. I wondered if Clem was sitting in there eating a fried pastrami sandwich. I’m not a mean man, but sometimes indigestion is wicked-deserved karma. Finally, the door opened, Clem emerged, a light shone down from the heavens, and a choir burst into the Hallelujah Chorus.
Clem surveyed the area. I think he had forgotten where his vehicle was. Or what his vehicle was. He turned and started in the wrong direction, and for a horrible second I believe he thought he had walked to the station. Then reality slowly dawned, his visage brightened to the extent possible, and he shuffled toward his car.
Several minutes later, he’s sitting in his car, the engine hasn’t started, and I’m thinking the pastrami has brought on the previously-feared cardiac event. No, the door opens again, Clem gets out and tosses a small cellophane wrapper in the trash. See? Everyone has redeeming qualities. Clem isn’t a litterbug. He also isn’t a high achiever, as getting up, getting gas, and going to bed must consume most of his day.
You must believe me when I tell you that this grim scene finally ended. Clem’s car started (I had been worried that his battery might have died), and he slowly chugged off into the sunset, presumably to spread misery into the lives of others. Like a real-life cartoon character who is unaware of the trail of destruction in his wake, he happily putt-putted off, his mind apparently consumed exclusively with Clem-thoughts.
I hope he was on his way to buy an electric car, thus negating any future need for a visit to the gas station. But whatever his destination, I found it cold comfort to think it unlikely our paths would ever collide again. For all of us know our personal Clems, and the Clems that permeate society. And we all know that however many Clueless Clems we put in our rearview mirrors, just as many lie ahead. The zombie apocalypse may be the stuff of our nightmares, but the Clem apocalypse is the stuff of our reality.