Pumping Gas Alone

The other day while I gassed up the car at Costco, an elderly woman pulled up to the opposite pump. She had a huge boat-of-a-Cadillac.

She was a beautiful lady, expensively dressed.  I heard a lot of clicks on the pump, over and over, and it was apparent she was having issues with the keypad. The gas hose nozzle banged on her burgundy fender, then clanged on the pavement when she failed to insert the hose correctly.

When the sharp-eyed attendant came to the rescue, she apologized profusely, tense and near tears, saying she didn’t know how to do this. And I thought, I’ll bet she’s a recent widow and she’s never had to put gas in her car…her departed husband always did it.

The attendant very gently helped her learn how to operate the pump. And I said a prayer for her.

Doing It All

I’ve been extremely independent for all of my five-plus decades. I pump gas, I do the bills, I invest, I’ve done basic carpentry. I kill all the spiders and cockroaches. I buy my own cars. I recently set up my own Internet, cable, and wifi network.  With two computers and a wireless printer.  The one time I’ve been admitted to a hospital, with pneumonia and a 103-degree fever, I drove myself there.

I’ve learned to let professionals handle most plumbing and electrical work by screwing things up. Nothing that required filing a claim on my homeowner’s insurance, but just, getting partway into a project and realizing how dumb I was.

Like when I was just dead on my feet tired after putting in my new flooring, and the pull chain broke inside the housing on my ancient bedroom ceiling fan at 1 a.m. on ultra high speed, and I was freezing, and I couldn’t shut it off. I was brain dead and just needed some sleep after multiple days of drama with a cut-rate flooring installer.

So I took wire cutters and wrapped a washcloth around the handle for extra insulation and cut some wires.  Without turning off the electricity. As the wires clipped successfully, my neural synapses began to fire and I realized I should have been electrocuted.  I should have had someone fix that fan years ago because the stupid pull chain was breaking every six to eight months. But I always thought “Eh, I’ll fix it myself. Some day.”

I now have an electrician.

I can see coming down the line, maybe more than ten years away, but certainly not less than 20, there are times when I’ll be forced to swap out my independence for more help. And not just for plumbing pipes and live wires.

I’m coming to that age of age-related health issue that requires a “procedure,” as Billy Crystal put it in City Slickers, where you must have someone take you home. Where driving at night is getting dicier on unlit streets. Where walking alone in dark parking lots is even more risky.

I’m not terrified of this because I’m allegedly “alone,” which for some reason is how our society tends to describe those who have no live-in significant other or children. I’m not alone. I have friends and family.  I am however afraid because I simply don’t know how act when I’m forced to receive help.  I really don’t know much about living in actual community with others who mutually support one another.

More Alike than Different

At this crest in my mid-life, I see a swap of lifestyles coming in the next few decades, between “single me” and friends with families, to a degree. They know how to live in close proximity to other human beings and run lives in tandem. I don’t.  I can learn from others about how to push aside my ego and just be in community, particularly when I’m helpless.

And hopefully I can walk alongside friends who may be newly single and need some self-confidence and practical advice in navigating everyday life.  Not to mention someone to laugh and cry with.

The world categorizes us as “single” and “married,” “alone” and “not alone,” “capable” and “helpless.”  The older I get, the more I see those categories as unhelpful. If I draw a bigger circle and simply think of everyone as “people needing people,” it opens so many doors to a “second act” of purpose and community.

1 Comment

  1. Edwinna Skipper says:

    I am at the age I have to ask neighbors for help to do things it seems I was doing last year. God has blessed us with wonderful neighbors who often see our needs before we ask. It’s not easy not to do it myself. (Gary isn’t able to much.) Most women don’t know your self-sufficiency and when they are widowed they’re lost. Every married woman should learn to do it alone while there is someone to help them learn.

    Liked by 1 person

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