Birthday at the local BP

Picture this:  3 dickies-wearing, grease-smeared and sweaty station hands singing ‘happy birthday’ in rough tones to a white haired lady in an Oldsmobile.

Everett is the patriarch of a local gas station where I live.  By all appearances and through all of my interactions with him and his team, he is a modest, humble man full of joy and yes, I’ll say it, love.  I direct all of the people I know in my small town or the vicinity to give their business to Everett’s gas station – called Arrowhead BP in Mebane, North Carolina.

If you’re like me, you don’t care about the prices going up or down on gas so much as you crave human experience.  I know I’m in the minority, perhaps, on this issue as I have seen the nightly news broadcasts, often featuring “lowest price in town” segments, revealing the popular sentiment that buying fuel for one’s car or truck is a mere transaction, and it matters not which gas station you choose – it’s more about convenience and finding something 2 cents cheaper.

I was pumping gas at Everett’s the other day when I saw him talking, as he often does, with an animated face to the customers in the car a few stalls over.  It was evident that it was a special day for the elderly lady in the passenger’s seat.  Everett called to his working hands – three of them left the two-bay garage where tires were being fitted and oil was being changed, and joined Everett at the side of the car, smiling, congratulating the woman, and then following in a wonderfully off-key version of Happy Birthday.

I go to Everett’s for such experiences.  I never look at the price of gas because, frankly, as an American, it’s just shameful how little we pay.  But that’s another post : )

Arrowhead BP Station

I will take a photo of Everett’s soon and add it to this post. (updated – >)   Hand-painted signs that ask customers to NOT have their radios on adorn the building.  Chickens are kept in a fenced in area out back, that has a swingset and sandbox nearby, just in case your kids need a break.  There is an open garage area in the back, complete with jacks, stands and air guns – IF you want to do some work yourself.  Free.  Just use it and take care of it.

He doesn’t charge for air, nor for water or bathrooms (tiny and always clean).  He doesn’t charge for advice, or smiles, or the coffee (with chicory) he serves up.

His team – men ranging from teens up to 60 and 70-year-old (thinking of Cletis) all work together, sharing jobs, all wearing the same, blue Dickies.  Many of them appear to be native American in descent, but that’s just my guess.

Where has this level of ‘service’ gone?

One day, my wife made some cookies.  It was around the time of the holidays last year.  We had errands to run, and it suddenly came to us that we should take cookies to Everett and his team, and we did.  Would you ever ever ever consider doing that, for grease monkeys at a gas station?? (laughing)

Service.  Relationship.  That’s why I will go out of my way to stop at Everett’s, even with (counting…) FIVE other stations on that same stretch of road.

At the end of the day (unlike all of the other stations, he closes at 7pm weekdays and is never open on Sundays – to “give thanks” as the big sign says) on evening, Everett and team had squeezed me in, mounting and rotating some tires for me.  As I got in my car to leave, I saw an amazing thing: each of them hugged each other, saying goodbye for the day.

Everett:  “Thank you, son.”  (I don’t know that any of them are his actual children)

If I can learn just one thing from Everett, it will be to create the environment where we have something approximating THAT level of caring.

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