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Clean restrooms going the way of 45-cent gasoline?

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POSTED April 10, 2011 10:10 p.m.
There was a time not too long ago when gas sold for 45 cents a gallon.

A gas jockey always filled your tank, washed your windshields, checked the oil and cheerfully gave you either a free glass or Blue Chip stamps each time you bought eight or more gallons.

And perhaps even better, you were not afraid to venture into a service station restroom.

Oil companies spent millions not only urging you to “trust the man with the Texaco star”, “put a tiger in your tank” or that “Chevron gasoline (is), busy car gasoline” but also just how clean their restrooms were for the traveling public.

Now you’re lucky if some places even bother to check the restrooms once a week.

To blame this on the oil companies wouldn’t be entirely fair, not by a long shot. We have tolerated a growing number of wanton acts of vandalism and graffiti. Oil companies respond the best that they can.

What illustrates this best is a gas station just north of the Grapevine where Highway 99 merges with Interstate 5 in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

This is obviously a no-man’s land. Your first clue is that the station clerks are caged in a small building with thick bulletproof glass as well as an extremely dense security door. If you want a candy bar, soda or some other product, the clerk will get it for you and put it in the pass through drawer beneath the window only after you have given them your money.

Perhaps that is why you shouldn’t be surprised to see what awaits you in the restroom. The graffiti-lined interior has galvanized metal troughs for urinals as well as galvanized metal toilets and sinks.

The mirrors are actually highly reflective metal.

You get the impression that not only can a hose be used to wash the place down but that it should be used as well on some of the slime that forces society to take such steps.

The trend toward placing bathrooms inside food marts has certainly cut down the vandalism and allowed stations to keep restrooms much cleaner.

But even so, using a public restroom at a gas station is like a game of Russian roulette where the loser gets the full Monty of bathroom disgust from graffiti and litter strewn across the floor or damaged porcelain.

It is irritating when others don’t have one iota of concern for other humans in how they leave the restroom or are too lazy or inconsiderate to flip a handle.

Despite all of the drawbacks, it’s tough to be too critical of service stations. They can’t monitor those using the facilities nor should they be judged for the shape that some animals leave them in when they’re finished.

We all have revolting stories involving public restrooms but one thing is for sure – we’d be even more incensed if there was no access to restrooms at all when we travel.

But even so, what do we get today for our $4.17 a gallon gasoline?

There’s no gas jockey cleaning our windshields. Heck, you’re lucky if the water they have at the pump has been changed in the last 48 hours when you go to use it.

Gas stations have become so impersonal that you don’t even need to interact with a clerk unless, of course, you want to buy lottery tickets, get a caffeine fix or buy a cold drink.

This brings up another point. Remember the ice cold soda machines with the thick glass bottles? You’d lift the heavy lids where you inserted your dimes and then made your selection by pulling either the bottle of Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, or Bubble Up by the bottle cap or neck along a rail until it was released.

That soda wasn’t just cold. It was ice cold. Now you’re lucky if they have the coolers down low enough to keep the soda at room temperature. As for plastic, forget it.

At least they don’t charge for air and water but that wasn’t for lack of trying. It took an act of the California Legislature to keep that free.

The Shell Answer Man as well as longtime Texaco spokesman Bob Hope would be aghast at what passes for service today at a gas station.
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