There at the gas station, before the attendant, Robert, started pumping, I verified that they took credit cards. After assuring me that they did, he proceeded to fill the tank and top off my oil, a process that took all of about 10 minutes. Gassed and ready to go, I handed over the credit card for him to swipe it. That’s when the fun began.
After about a minute of waiting, the receipt spit out of the reader. “Try again later.” So we did, with the same results. Then we tried another card, again receiving the unwelcome advice. At this point, it was getting late. The manager was called over; another reader was tried, all with the same results. I was stuck with an $80 gas bill and no way to pay it.
I thought about the 15 minutes I had driven from my house just to reach the station, “How about one of you comes along to the ATM so that I can make a withdrawal and give you cash?” After a quick conference, Robert jumped in and off we went. We arrived at the cash machine in about 5 minutes where I jumped out and attempted to get the amount I needed. “We are unable to complete your transaction at this time. Try again later,” read the screen. What had started as strange had quickly evolved into the ridiculous. Now, we were to plan C.
Plan C consisted of a 30 minute road trip to my house in order to get the money that I had left behind. Getting approval at the station, Robert and I, fast becoming friends, headed off to get the cash. On the way there, we talked.
I asked him how long how long that he had been at the station, and that opened up the door to allow him to ask me about myself. Having long since dismissed the idea of making my Maya class, I told him what we did, and he began to open up about his family situation: separated parents and a constantly drunk father. Before we knew it, we were at my house where Kelly met us with the money and a healthy tip for Robert’s lost time.
On the trip back, I got a chance to speak to Robert about my history. A former Catholic with 4 separate beliefs represented in his 8 member family, he seemed to have assigned religion to something like personal taste in music, but I challenged this idea, speaking of how Christ had changed me and of how the Bible is the only set of sacred scriptures that deals with reality and offers a solution to the human condition. As I was relating to Robert’s situation and answering his questions, I realized that after nearly an hour getting gas, I wished I had more time.
We arrived at the gas station and shook hands after we had finally made the transaction. He returned to his pump and I drove away praying that the words that I shared would hit home. At the same time, I was determining to return to that gas station hoping to continue the conversation.
So a funny thing happened to me on the way to my Maya class. In middle of an an inconvenient and awkward experience God presented an opportunity for real-life ministry. Perhaps I should pray for more credit card machine failures?
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