For confidential reasons, names and places in stories have been changed.
Turning the clock back further, I sadly remember my teenage classmates announced as killed or severely injured in vehicular accidents, after information was conveyed by the high school principal. Other events related to alcoholism raged on in my teenage years, as I bore witness to these and other depressing incidents. Whenever I am disgusted or depressed in life, I am instantly cheered up by recalling hilarious moments with my friends during my juvenile years. One of my most hilarious moments occurred when I was around age 17, as I walked my dog, “Toto” past my community’s Shell gas station on corner of Houston Avenue and West Georgia Road. The late 1970’s and early 1980’s were true “rock and roll” years, as inspiring tunes seemed to give everyone disco fever, before computer usage became a mundane addiction by the 1990’s. My best times were during the hot summers, since I was not bundled up in bulky, layered winter clothes like a wooly caterpillar in his/her cocoon.
Indeed, the 1970’s and 1980’s were roaring times, as two of my neighborhood’s gas stations, Sohio (later bought out and renamed BP [British Petroleum] ) and Shell were true “love shacks.” Sohio gas station was a real secluded “love nest” during the evening, as one of the male attendants did not mind securing the premises, while my younger sister’s teenage friend, “Vanessa” gave him some entertaining delights. Unfortunately, it was not until a few years later that the song, Love Shack (by The B-52’s) grooved in popular dance scenes, since Vanessa and her young Sohio guy, “Danny” would have enjoyed swaying to the music. At this time, it seemed like both Sohio and Shell were in a real “love match” contest to see which gas station had the steamiest sessions. The only difference between Shell and Sohio gas stations was that the attendant at Sohio never displayed any alcoholic habits, as opposed Shell’s mechanic, “Joe” cherishing his bottle of beer; however, both gas station employees smoked cigarettes, as Joe alternated between drinking beer and taking his next cigarette puff.
One day, I was walking my dog past my community’s Shell gas station, when I suddenly heard someone whistle for me to respond, which was a male Shell mechanic appearing to be in his 40’s and almost identically passing for 1970’s TV sitcom, All In the Family’s main character, “Archie Bunker” (played by late actor Carroll O’Connor). It was not long before I replied to his beckoning call, as I found myself confronted with an Archie Bunker look-alike mechanic man flashing me a wickedly flirtatious smile and a beer bottle in his hand. I was stunned after my newly found admirer asked me, “Why do you walk? What do you do when you walk? Do you like to walk?” It was during that particular moment I realized the Shell mechanic was eager for some entertaining action, since his next step was trying to persuade me for some private activities inside his gas station’s garage.
I was dumbfounded as the suspiciously drunk Shell mechanic persistently motioned for me to enter the garage with him, while he acted like a wolf in sheep’s clothing and said, “You’re a very beautiful young lady. I won’t hurt you. Come in here. Please. Just come inside for a moment, I got something to show you.” According to his name tag on his white, grease-covered uniform, the Shell mechanic’s name was “Joe” and he lived up to being a real “grease monkey” (slang term for a “vehicle mechanic”) covered with oil and dirt from head to toe. Apparently, Joe had no positive motives, and therefore, I quickly set my own plan in motion to hopefully deter him, as I said, “You’re too old for me. How old are you, anyhow?” Taken by surprise, evilly grinning Joe stumbled with his words, as he laughed and replied, “I’m not too old for you. I’m uh, uh—27! I just look old, because I am dirty from working on cars all day.” Sure enough, Joe’s lips were caked with greasy dirt and oil, as the beer failed in any possible cleansing actions. I felt more like a butterfly eluding a spider’s deadly web, as Joe tried to lure me into his “Web of Love” for appeasement of his fantasies. To this day, I will never know how many teenage and young adult females Joe may have finally enticed into his Shell garage; but, at least I managed to escape his lustful scheme! I can almost imagine what that “something Joe wanted to show me” truly was, as it was most likely not in decent fashion once he closed the gas station’s automatic garage door for the evening.
It is currently 2010 and difficult to conceive Joe nonchalantly parading his beer drinking habits in public, while on company work time. Alcoholic “Joe of Shell” never relented on trying to persuade me into enjoying private moments inside Shell gas station’s garage, as he eagerly stood outside next to the building merrily holding his treasured beer bottle in his hand. “A swig of beer here and a swig there” was Joe’s daily routine, after he was alone at the gas station, until around 9:00 p.m. each evening. Despite being a teenager, I often wondered how many times Joe endangered travelers, after he added to his beer drinking habits by visiting nearby B.G. Bar (currently out of business) after work. Joe had no reservations in driving his 1970’s royal-blue El Camino vehicle (with yellow-gold stripes on both sides) from the gas station to B.G. Bar, as he flirtatiously leered at me in return. I can almost imagine Joe making the lyrics of Boz Scaggs’s song, Jo Jo come true, as he “dug those spinning lights, way out games and dizzy heights, below him,” while getting drunk inside B.G. Bar.
Sadly in 1991, my husband’s dear grandson, “Wayne” was needlessly killed in a horrific traffic accident by a drunk driver. To this day, I cannot help but wonder about numerous other innocent victims ruthlessly injured or killed through vehicular homicides by intoxicated motorists. As I write this essay, I currently ponder the notion that back in 1970’s and 1980’s, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and other anti-alcoholism groups had not yet reached strong influential strength. One can only surmise how many intoxicated drivers endanger lives like “Joe of Shell,” yet never seem to be apprehended by police.
Time surely flies when one is having fun, as the years certainly passed by rather quickly. Times may change, but melodies and memories never die, as the song, It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me (by Billy Joel) gleefully reminds me of an intoxicated ” Joe of Shell” driving and lustfully glaring out of his royal-blue El Camino vehicle at me enroute to B.G. Bar. I will also never forget Joe publicly relishing his beer on the job, as he never gave up trying to persuade me into private moments inside the gas station’s garage and the song, Jo Jo (by Boz Scaggs) played in commemoration. Besides standing next to Shell gas station’s garage like a macho “hood” from the 1950’s, Joe would alternate his stance by sitting on the ground merrily sipping his alcoholic booze. There were times when Joe’s brown beer bottle became like a small statue situated on the pavement next to Shell gas station’s garage. Round and round Shell’s huge yellow-n-red sign went, until drunken Joe shut it off daily and the song, Upside Down (by Diana Ross) replaced movements with memories. As for Vanessa’s wild adventures inside Sohio gas station, the song, I Don’t Want To Lose Your Love (by Outfield) will always bring back laughable remembrances of “dirty deeds done dirt cheap,” as referenced by AC/DC’s 1980’s song, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
Fast forward to the present, after Sohio and Shell gas stations vanished into oblivion. Since then, Sohio was converted into BP (British Petroleum Corporation), while Shell has since merged with McDonald’s fast-food restaurant. In today’s advanced technology, no longer do most American gas stations harbor private places for employees’ “pleasurable moments,” as one cannot hardly sneak blowing his/her nose without company cameras zooming in on the action. As if they were “Ghosts of Christmases Past,” Sohio and Shell gas stations will forever haunt the echoes of my mind, despite both buildings demolished and replaced by new structures. Like the friendly milkmen of yesteryears, so too, have auto mechanics seen their jobs forever disappear from gas stations. On the other hand, there are some things that will never change, including timeless alcoholism and drug abuse throughout the millenniums. There will always be people, who glorify alcoholism and drug abuse, while no known positive factors enhance health and wellness through these phenomena. As the years pass, I can still hear the old 1979 song, Gold (by John Stewart) playing throughout my mind, as memories of gas station men drinking beer and indulging in erotic pleasures became the workplace norm. Like all good things must come to an end, so too, did the free-loving days of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The appalling statistics speak for themselves, regarding ill health and possible death, once someone chooses a dangerous path towards addiction of any substance. Whenever bananas are not carefully handled, only bruises become sore reminders, just as alcoholism and drug abuse leave mental and physical “bruises” on a person’s life or death. There are no rewarding health benefits from heavily drinking alcohol beverages or indulging in illegal drugs, since only erosion of mind, body, and spirit are the consequential outcomes. It is scary enough to meet an oil-covered, Shell mechanic man duplicating All In The Family’s Archie Bunker’s appearance; however, it is even more frightening to imagine “Joe of Shell” unwittingly “cruising for a boozing, ” as he engages in possible road kill during his intoxicated travels.