Hospitality

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My vintage Harley was never blessed with a fuel gauge, so in order to keep from having to walk away from my wheel I had to keep tabs on the odometer. That’s what I was doing at this precise moment, checking to see how far I’d ridden since the last fuel stop. Ninety-seven miles, I calculated in my head. Ahead, on the right hand side of US 78 sat a no-name service station with a diner attached. Perfect, I thought to myself, and wheeled to a halt at the pump marked regular.

Having left Charleston AIr Force Base in the predawn hours, two-hundred now lay behind me. Being early spring the temperature was in the sixties, decent for motorcycle travel. But the road was rough, uneven, broken concrete, and it made a tough ride – shook the daylight out of me.

Climbing off my machine, I shucked my gloves, unzipped my leather jacket, and then waited for the attendant to come out and pump some gas. But only one person was visible, a middle-aged man with a balding head and shaggy mustache. He was perched on a diner stool, leaning back with both elbows resting on the counter, staring back at me.

I waited. after what seemed a long time, too long, I walked into the diner and let the screen door slam behind me.

“Is the gas station attendant in the restroom, maybe?” I asked the counterman.

“Nope. That’s me. I’m also the attendant, the cook, the waitress, the dishwasher, and the owner,” he replied in a heavy Georgia accent, his legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles.

“Oh…well I was hoping to buy some gas.”

“I ran out last night. You could try the Esso station about five miles further. You’ll go right by it.”

“Oh! Well, I guess I could use a plate of ham and eggs since I’m already here.”

“I ain’t turned the grill on yet,” he drawled.

“Oh!” I said, feeling a bit like a broken record with my string of ohs. I studied his face for a moment, wondering if he was having a bad morning, or he simply thought it was too early to be bothered. But I couldn’t read anything.

“You got any coffee?”

“I’ll see,” he grunted as he pulled his legs under him, and set them in motion. A moment later he emerged from the kitchen bearing a tan mug and shoved it toward me.

“This coffee is cold,” I said as I grasped the mug. “Hell, this cup’s dirty,” I blurted, staring at the dried dribble marks on the side before shoving it back toward him. By this time it was obvious he had something against bikers, or servicemen, or both. I let the screen door slam shut behind me and made my way back to my Harley. I came down on the kick starter. The engine roared to life, and I continued west toward Grandpa’s Tanglewood Farm, looking for the Esso Station chrome dome had mentioned.

I hoped this encounter wasn’t a sample of Georgia hospitality.

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