I open my door just as he reaches the pump.
“You’re not from here, are you?”
Apparently he hasn’t looked at my license plate. But he doesn’t need to; if I were from here, I would know what it means to be at Swifty’s Gas.
In fact, I saw the sign as I drove in that says “You Pay, We Pump.” But there was no one out there, and I couldn’t see whether there was anyone inside, and I’m trying to get to DC by 8pm and also supposed to call someone famous in ten minutes, so I didn’t feel like waiting to see whether the gas station lived up to its promise.
He’s got a rim of black stubble around his baby-soft chin, and wears a Notre Dame t-shirt and a battered baseball cap.
“It’s like I’ve ended up in New Jersey,” I joke.
“They pump for you in Oregon and New Jersey,” he advises me.
“But it’s not like this everywhere in Ohio, is it?” I ask.
“No. Just here…and the Swifty’s in Indiana. That’s where I live.”
He used to work at the Indiana location, but they asked him to come up here. He makes a lot more money in tips here. I’m pretty sure this is all he said, but it took the entirety of filling up my tank for him to say it. And his manner impressed me with the importance that this status conferred on him, and the deliberation that the choice implied.
I ask him, somewhat shamefaced, how much I should tip. I distinctly remember not tipping in New Jersey, even though the attendant gave me directions. This is the first time I’ve learned that it’s done that way.
He grins. “Most people give me between one and five dollars.”
“Can I give you two?”
He nods, his expression enigmatic.