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Mount Pleasant Motors in Toronto.

Anne Bayin/The Globe and Mail

This e-mail arrived from my friend’s mother. “My daughter tells me you’ve never pumped your own gas. Well, I haven’t either, I never will! No wonder I like you.” She added that for her the notion of full-service gas stations disappearing was “a ghastly business.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Have you noticed? I’ve lost several full-service stations in my area of the city in three years and I’m betting they’re not coming back.

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I’ve still never pumped gas. I’m not saying never-never, but …

I drive miles out of my way for “full service,” instead of “self-service” and will, as long as they continue to exist, as long as we both shall live. I love and fully expect the courtesies and pleasantries that come with. I believe society is worse off without them.

When the Petro-Canada station on my corner shut down, sold to a developer, I was crushed. I’d been a loyal customer for 20 years. I understood the numbers and the reasoning – prime real estate on a busy intersection close to downtown, a no-brainer. Time to cash in.

That it vanished, without warning, over a weekend, still hurts. A few years later, the lot remains infuriatingly vacant. It’s now a field, punctuated with white pipes and overgrown with grasses; a toxic wasteland, I suspect, biding its time. Gas-station soil must exhale sufficient fumes before condos can be built safely.

Luckily, I had a backup full service station on Jarvis Street in Toronto, close to my hairdresser, so my life wasn’t ruined. I had to learn to keep my gas levels in sync with appointments, which I did. Then, in a blink, that station also disappeared, replaced by a burger joint. Then came and went a third; this one near my gym: gone. Something unstoppable was happening.

“Regular or premium, miss?”

Gas bar attendant Saphes Lubega at Mount Pleasant Motors, in Toronto.

Anne Bayin/The Globe and Mail

Those words are now music to my ears. Having a human ask whether he/she can check my oil or have them wash my windshield is a service I’ll happily tip for. I’ll never again take for granted having a gas bar attendant with Visa machine appear at my rolled-down window, while sleet and winds threaten to carry he/she off, like a Florida CNN reporter in a hurricane. Even when the sun shines, I’ll be grateful.

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“What is your problem?” you ask. The future is now. It involves neon-lit 24 hour-mega-self-serve stations where customers routinely exit their vehicles and gas up themselves. Have done for years. Get with it. Young girls do it, old men do it.

My own niece does it. But then she was raised by a prairie Mike Holmes, a dad genetically programmed to fix stuff.

I realize my resistance is old school, a clinging to the past, as much as it is the fear of pointing the nozzle the wrong direction and getting gas everywhere. But so what?

Why am I suddenly expected to learn this crap, especially when prices continue to rise? (Not that this bothers me, because when gas goes up I just poke my head out the window and say: “Forty dollars, please.”)

I worry about the disabled and the really elderly, who have licence to drive but trouble with personal mobility. What will happen to them? I also muse about Oregon, a state where, paradoxically, it’s mostly illegal to pump your own gas, but legal to have assisted death, should you qualify in the slightest.

When our mother was alive and we were at the lake, she asked my sister and me to take her Pontiac Beaumont for a fill up. We drove over Cochin Hill to the gas station, pulled up to the pumps and waited. We waited more, until the guy who usually showed up never showed up.

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The sign had changed. “Self-Service,” it read. When it dawned on us, we got out and circled the car. “We can do this,” we said. We searched for the tank. Couldn’t find it.

Once again, our mother had neglected to explain the facts of life. A tourist in a camper van behind us, impatient for gas, did the explaining. Who knew the tank was cosmetically hidden behind the license plate? He pumped our gas, helped us pay and vroooom we were out of there.

Laughing all the way home, like Thelma and Louise without death at the end, but branded with our shame forever.

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