816 North Opinion

Fuel for thought: A list might come in handy

I have to imagine there are plenty of jokes about memory loss and short attention spans. And well there should be. If you can’t joke about them, you only have one option.

As my great-uncle Shemmy on my father’s side would’ve said, “What will you answer if someone asks you why you’re crying? ‘I don’t remember?’ ‘I wasn’t paying attention?’”

Crying wasn’t an option when the QuikTrip gas pump recently asked me to see the cashier. Only a fool would cry and risk frozen tears with the wind chill at negative 5.

I have one of those pump cards that allows you to fill up and then go in, presumably to spend more and keep QuikTrip the very successful corporation it is.

You don’t become the king of convenience stores by letting your pump-card users run amok.

I knew what I’d done before I’d taken three steps toward the door.

I was surprised – more like completely in denial – the first time I was told I had driven off without paying for gas.

I wasn’t some fossil fuel scofflaw trying to beat the power structure out of 25 bucks. I’d gone into the store the first time, as I had the second, and simply forgotten that I needed to pay for gas.

It’s an embarrassment you can ultimately accept or try to deny. As Shemmy would say, crying is no option for a man who can’t recall what he did yesterday or five minutes ago.

Each time this happened, I went into the store with two important tasks – getting a drink and using the men’s room. After years of experimentation and cool analysis, I’ve come to the decision these are related.

But that doesn’t stop me. I have needs and wants, just like you.

The problem is that more than five seconds had elapsed between the time I pumped the gas and finished inside the store. I’ve forgotten things I came downstairs to do in less time than that.

Sometimes I write it off to a lack of concentration. I am, after all, powered by an engine that owes much of its entertainment value to a short attention span. I’m never at a loss for a new idea; it’s the old ones – sometimes three seconds old – that give me trouble.

For example, while I was thinking about where to go with my next sentence, I saw that empty M&Ms box on the seat next to me.

I thought, “I need to throw that away!” and then spotted a trash can maybe 5 feet to my right. Without a second thought for what I’d begun to consider writing next, I picked up the box and flung it back-handed, kind of like you throw a Frisbee.

When it went into the trash – in all honesty, I’m not that good – I celebrated with a fist pump and a modest “Yes!”

I was in a public place, a doctor’s waiting room, so I surveyed the area to see if there were witnesses. Fortunately, there weren’t, but I wasn’t so lucky when it came to remembering where to go with my next sentence.

That’s what happens in the time it takes to swipe my QuikTrip pump card, pump gas, visit the men’s room and get a drink.

The only missing step – paying the $25.32 for regular unleaded – happens to be a big one for QT.

I figure there are two solutions: I can try to focus harder to overcome my absentmindedness – or simply stop using the pump card.

I suppose I might keep the card in my hand when I enter the store, kind of a mnemonic device to help me lock in on what to do next.

But I’m fumble-fingered enough that I don’t think I could complete my in-store business without a calamity. By the time I clean up the Diet Pepsi I spill on that nice truck driver, police officer or woman with an infant, a 3-year-old and a phone to her ear, there’s the risk I’d forget why I was holding it in the first place.

Or, I could make a list with bullet points:

▪ Go to bathroom;

▪ Get drink;

▪ Pay for drink and gas.

Fumbling the note would be far less calamitous, I suppose, than dropping the card let’s say, in the bathroom.

The most logical solution, of course, would be to stop using the pump card. Pay at the pump and be done with it. Then, if I want, go into the store and do the other things.

That might save some future embarrassment if QuikTrip has a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy for pump card scofflaws. There’s that, and what great-uncle Shemmy would’ve said: There’s no crying in forgetfulness.

You can email David at davidknopf48@gmail.com. He will reply. Quickly.