the clearest benefit to living in New Jersey is the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act, which makes it illegal to pump your own gas in the Garden State. thanks to the law, residents remain in the driver’s seat while someone else pumps it, letting everyone add “getting gas” to the list of “Errands Accomplished in America While Sitting Down.”
my family uses a station run by an Indian man named Pauli. he’s been there for 6 years and replaced a super freak who previously ran the place.
but Pauli didn’t just take over for the other guy. Pauli surpasses him at every level. he’s one of the kindest strangers i’ve ever encountered. the embodiment of tranquility, he handles his work with poise and dignity, bowing slightly as he hands back your credit card and thanking customers sincerely.
even my introverted heart bursts with affection for him. “how are you? do you remember me?” i ask when i visit. i’m essentially a gas station attendant groupie. he should be relieved i have to stay in the car because i want to leap out and bear hug him whenever i see him.
my battle-hardened dad noticed Pauli’s demeanor, saying, “he is the happiest guy in the world.” but his mystified tone implied, why would someone doing that job be happy?
now, is it possible Pauli’s actually an ISIS cell, and his joy stems from giddily biding his time until he gets the go-ahead from superiors to start a record-breaking gasoline fire along the Delaware-Raritan Canal?
sure. but 6 years is a long wait and that hypothetical mainly reflects my desperation for Homeland, Season 5.
no, Pauli’s legit. here’s what my dad doesn’t understand: Pauli would be content anywhere. his well-being isn’t determined by his job. he’d be equally pleased as a coal miner or leader of the free world.
the weird thing about happiness is how desperately people want it and how conditional they make it. their happiness has to appear just-so, like throw pillows on Martha Stewart’s sofa—tidy, customized, appropriate. it simply won’t do if the dog keeps puking on the rug, the car gets scratched, or the marriage crumbles.
as Michael A. Singer explains in The Untethered Soul,
“Billions of things could happen that you haven’t even thought of yet. The question is not whether they will happen. Things are going to happen. The real question is whether you want to be happy regardless of what happens.”
Pauli is remarkable because he decides to be happy no matter what. even though he’s pumping gas in central New Jersey and it’s humid and some wacky brunette treats him like he’s one of the Beatles.
these days, my dad beeps each time he drives by the gas station, which must get annoying, but i’m sure Pauli handles it gracefully. when i was home recently, i noticed a lot of customers chatting with Pauli, even getting out of their cars to do so. word is spreading about the sweet man at the BP station on Route 29. i hope his outlook rubs off on them.