A september day, year 1978
from the diary of Maria Lega, gas station attendant in Turin (Italy)
“We always wake up early, and me, this morning, half an hour earlier: it starts to get cold, I’ll have to turn on the wood stove in the kitchen.
His uniform is ready, carefully ironed and placed at the bottom of the bed along with underpants, stockings and, on the floor, the shoes that I have polished, as always, every Sunday morning.
So when he wakes up he won’t have to rummage in the closets, messing up, asking me: “where is this, where is that ..?”
Soon our grandchildren will go down to have breakfast with us, before going to school, this morning their mother left early for work.
He is shaving.
I prepare myself, I wear my uniform, I am ready, I have already taken the booklets of the counts, today the tankers for the refueling will come, I will have to note with absolute precision the gas unloading.
We’ll be on time at 7 o’clock on the square; I will open the small office, which we call ‘gabbiotto’, hoping that during our absence no one passed by to spite or to force the door to look inside for the money that is not there.
Our workplace is not far from home, it takes five minutes.
The ‘boss’ is ready, we leave.
We ventured together, years ago, with my husband, running this gas station, the days go by fast, after so many years it’s as if everything had been automated.
He, my husband, is the ‘boss’ (I call him in this way during the working day) and he is proud of it; his responsibility is to manage the ‘dirty’ work on cars such as oil changes, fuel supplies to vehicles and, in the dead times, it takes care of the rose garden that surrounds the square.
My tasks are many: from the management of collection, suppliers, accounting, answering the phone, sometimes refueling to vehicles, reorganization and cleaning of the square, office and services.
Today, like every day, there are many motorists who, faithful, go to refuel with us, we serve them for years, before going to work they come to tell a good morning, a chat, fill the fuel tank, a cleaning to the car windshield and, see you next time! Always kind.
Will I miss this everyday life?
The retirement is not so far away, I already have plans in mind, I will be able to take care of my interests, read, travel, stay at home, spend more time with my friends, spend time for myself, and most important I’ll do everything calmly.
At 12:30 o’clock the gas station closes for lunch, at home I have time to prepare the meal, tidy up a bit and, after a coffee, we will return to the square until the closing time.
For a part of the afternoon we will have our niece with us, I will keep her busy in the office: she likes to draw, listen to the radio, our customers cuddle her, bring her presents, congratulate her, and she likes being with us.
The tanker has arrived, the discharge of fuel is a delicate and very dangerous process, over the years the procedures have become safer and I have learned, after a long time, to keep away my fear that a distraction, a spark makes everything explode , including us.
I carefully noted the fuel quantities.
Tonight, at home, I will match the income and expenditure of the day, as I have been doing for years, every evening after dinner, in the accounting book of the gas station, while my husband slumbers on the couch.
Today everything is smooth!
No hitch, even though I am now trained to deal with all kinds of problems.
At 7 pm the gas station closes, even today we have earned the ‘loaf’.
Tonight I will have to wash his dirty grease of cars, making it boil in a large pot full of soap and water, I saw it done by my mother, many years ago, when she worked as a laundress.
Then there will be the dinner to prepare and serve, the grandchildren to follow, my counts, my husband’s change of clothes that will have to be ready in the usual place tomorrow morning.
I relax a little, the tiredness is now felt, sitting at the dining room table I keep my eyes on the crosswords and, absent-mindedly, I listen to the TV.
And then, finally, good night.”
Written by Giulia Bortolini
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