As I was waiting at a stoplight this morning with the windows rolled down, I heard a “ding, ding” that I almost couldn’t believe. It was a distant sound from my childhood–the signal bell you always used to hear in a gas station when you rolled over the hose stretched in front of the pumps. I was stopped next to a car wash that was using one. I thought back to the long-ago day when every station was a full-service one. I grew up in California, which went to self-serve when I was in junior high. But as a young child, gas stations were more interesting places. My uncle Bernie in San Diego owned an Exxon and always had plenty of stickers for me. My twin cousins knew everything about cars and probably put together every model set available in the ’70s. Arco stations used to sell/give away cool toys, like an entire Noah’s ark set that you could collect two by two.
I loved going to the gas station then. There was always someone to help, to ask questions of and to get your tank filled. Soon enough, however, taking care of business yourself became second nature, at least in California. I remember an out-of-state road trip with my University of Oregon debate team. None of them had any idea what to do at a self-service gas station when we were in Idaho for a tournament, since they had never had to pump their own gas. As a freshman and one of the few women on a very sharp team of extreme smart alecks, I felt quite inflated when I had to take on filling duties for our van.
As I’ve been writing about gas stations, pieces of my past that I haven’t thought of in forever have resurfaced. What about you? Is there a memory that you can use as a writing exercise? An object, image, sound or smell that triggers stories for you? Writing about what triggers a memory is a great way to connect with rich, inner content for fiction writers. For business writers, the process is no different. Are there ways that things used to be done in business or culture that you could build a newsletter or blog post around? Maybe there are new versions of old practices that we’re surrounded by now, such as the “water cooler” aspect of a Facebook discussion. It’s amazing how tapping old memories shared by others can give you a platform from which to talk about nearly anything.
What’s your favorite memory right now? Leave us a taste here!