The familiar ‘ding’ of the service station line as we pulled into the fueling station. Driving in to be greeted by a friendly attendant with either a name badge or their name embroidered on their shirt. They’d greet you cheerily as you wound down your window and rattled off which sort of petrol and how much — usually either by dollar value or by “fill her up” instruction.
It’s easy to be nostalgic for full-service petrol stations.
If you were a regular the attendant might even remember your car and preferences like a seasoned barman would remember a regular’s drinking habits and beat you to the punch — “Fill her up with regular today?” with their hand already on the pump.
The shop would usually be a small attachment to a mechanical shop. The smells were all grease, grime and petrol fumes.
It was handy to have someone knowledgeable who would check your oil, water, and air in your tyres and top them up if needed, before cleaning your windscreen, collecting payment and waving you on your way.
You didn’t have to get out of the car, very handy on rainy days, or if you had children in the car.
Now you have to remember to lock your cars, or at least remove the key from the ignition so no one can drive off with it while you wait in line to pay for your fuel.
As with most things, there were positives and negatives, and some scary moments as the changes were brought in.
Until you got used to it, many spilt petrol over the car or driveway, or worse your shoes!
If you didn’t learn to add oil and water to your routine, your car would have to tell you, hopefully before you blew something crucial. Red lights on the dashboard, heart pumping and hoping the engine wouldn’t blow up before you got to an open petrol station to refill either of them.
While no one seemed to mind if an attendant was refilling your oil, water or tyres, once you started doing it yourself people either became impatient or self-conscious about taking that much time in the driveway.
The businesses learned that people behind you at the petrol pumps didn’t want to wait while you fiddled with oil, water or air and eventually dedicated water and air ‘stations’ were provided away from the petrol pumps. With people more likely checking their oil and water at home, petrol stations probably don’t sell very much oil at all anymore. At one time it would been their second biggest seller behind petrol.
But then again, they do now sell grocery items, lollies and coffees that you would have only seen at the bigger ‘roadhouses’ on the highway.
It’s another completely different service, shopping and smelling experience that we’ve all grown used to.