It is five o'clock in the morning and I am filling my gas tank at the Quicki-Mart. It is dark and bitterly cold. Across the highway, the sign over the bank flashes a chilly -14 °F.
A few cars sputter by, each dragging a long tail of condensation. I will soon join them but before I can go anywhere, the pump has a few questions.
“Are you a loyalty club member... Y/N?” it wants to know.
I try to recall if my wife signed us up but I can’t focus. It is cold and the pop music blasting from the canopy overhead makes thinking impossible.
If I answer yes, the pump will demand that I document my loyalty. If I do nothing, hopefully it will move on.
The pumps sulks for a few moments before repeating the question.
“Are you a loyalty club member... Y/N?”
I press the “NO” button.
Now it asks if I want a car wash. The wash is closed because the doors are frozen to the concrete. Apparently the pump does not know this.
I indicate "NO".
It continues the interrogation. “Do you want a receipt... Y/N?”
At -14 °F, all I want is gas, warmth and blessed silence from the canopy above.
A rumble rises from deep within the pump’s guts. I have heard dogs do this and I step back knowing what happens after dogs do that.
The pump winces. It’s screen blinks. Clearly it is very upset. Another LCD question slowly forms in the crystals....
“Are you a loyalty club member... Y/N?”
I get back into my car and drive down the highway to a gas station where I did business for years. There the pumps are stupid. They know nothing about human emotions, least of all loyalty. All they do is dispense gasoline.
I used to be fiercely loyal to this station back when the pumps were manned by guys with monosyllabic names like Roy, Chuck and Jim.
No matter how cold it was, they would come out of the warmth to fill my tank then they would wash the windows and check the oil, radiator fluid and tire pressure -- and do so cheerfully.
But those guys aren't around anymore because I stopped being loyal to them. Instead, I went down the block to pump my own gas and save a few pennies.
Now that station demands I carry a card to prove my loyalty. I refuse to do it. It is like having to prove fidelity to a cheating spouse.
But more importantly, I refuse because of practical reasons. Being a guy, I carry a wallet which means if I carry a loyalty card, I have to sit on it, ergo in every sense of the word, a retailer’s loyalty card is a pain in the ass.
Besides if a retailer wants my loyalty, they can earn it by selling quality goods at a fair price. They also might want to consider standing behind their products instead of trying to clip me for an extended warranty.
For gas stations, I know the days of Roy, Chuck and Jim are gone. We threw them away. But they can still earn loyalty by providing clean restrooms, free air and of course - pumps that don’t nag you.
This week's challenge: write about loyalty
Years ago, my parents moved from Saint Paul to a small town in Northern Minnesota. My brother who was in high school at the time, hated it. He called me one night to complain.
"Let me tell you what it's like up here," he said, "You got your Ford bars and you got your Chevy bars and if you want to start a fight, step into the wrong bar and yell, 'Chevy trucks suck!!!"
This is not an isolated trend, my friends at the Minneapolis Police Department tell me they have to use fire-hoses and tear-gas to prevent roving hordes of iPhone and Android users from sacking each other's coffee shops.
This phenomena of chest-thumping tribal loyalty is very much on our minds this weekend because of tension along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border after the Vikings/Packers game.
Passions always run the highest when stakes are the lowest.
So where do your loyalties lay?
Where do the loyalties of your characters lay?
Write about it.
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission with MWE. Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" If you don't tag it right, I will not find it.
- Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
- Try to post by next Monday but don't worry if you don't finish in time. I will be glad to include you post the next week.
Last week’s writing challenge: what would have been or should have been - drew the following responses:
Weekly reminder: don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's articleAttract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.