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October 2008 PDF Print E-mail

As a young boy growing up in Bergen County New Jersey, I found that during grammar school days, I was embarrassed by what my father did for a living.  To my friends, he was considered a "grease monkey", and what that meant simply, was that he pumped gas.  The upside was he pumped gas as an independent owner operator, not an employee.

In the 60's he owned, and ran two Texaco stations on routes 46 Westbound, and East, and along with his brother, my uncle, and one other guy, serviced the commuter traffic heading to and from New York City.  This was before there were huge concrete dividers, and the traffic back then was no more than what we see on local roads today.  I remember him running across the highway when one side got too busy to help out, and with running and working six days a week, still never managed to break 235 pounds.

He eventually sold those two stations to take over a Texaco station on the Garden State Parkway, situated between the north, and south bound lanes at exit 172, where Jersey meets New York.  For the next 22 years, he ran that station, and did quite well for himself, I might add.

At 13, I used to go up with him on the 35 minute drive, and he would treat me to breakfast at the Paramus diner, which I always thought was cool.  Here we were eating amongst truckers, cops, and assorted suited professional looking people, and no one paid us any mind.

My job back then at $1.00 per day was to walk up and down the entrance and exit ramps picking up garbage, then sweeping up the 2 bay garage while stacking upwards of 200 cases of, that was sweet pay back then.

I never realized that this man, who quit college in his sophomore year when my grandfather died, to take care of his family, was preparing me for a life where I would be able to take care of my future family.  The $1.00 per day was more than was a lesson in self-respect, and hard work, and appreciation for what it takes to earn an honest living.

In all the years I had the good fortune to be my father's son, the two best pieces of advise he gave me were, "be fair and honest in dealing with people", and "if you don't have the cash, don't buy it!"

I have adhered to those two teachings, and in the midst of all this bailout garbage, and times of ridiculously mounting debt, find myself getting more and more angry that our government couldn't even follow those two rules.

We were never rich, but had a nice little house, food on the table, and decent clothes for school.  We never had fancy cars, and never took expensive vacations.  If my father didn't have the cash, he didn't buy was that simple.  I remember friends and relatives who got into financial trouble coming to my father to bail them out...and to this day, I don't know why,  he did.  I do know that a lot of times, he never got paid back, and even though we knew that, never mentioned it to him.

I don't have the answers, and don't profess to be smart enough to come up with a solution to the mess this country is in today, but I do know that by listening to, and taking to heart two little pieces of advice, from a great common man, have provided my family with a comfortable of which I can be proud.

I am not rich by any means, and I work my butt off dealing with an angry, and scared public every day.  I don't owe any one any money except the bike companies, that do a great job of reminding me...but that's ok, because I love what I do.

I often think what my father, who died in 1989, would think of me today.  He did a good job raising me, regardless of what my feelings towards him might have been back then.  He was honest, moral, hard working, and he loved us dearly.  While running up and down the parkway, garbage bag in hand, he planted the seed for what was to become my life's work, and for that, I dearly thank him.

So, if any of you know a politician who might listen, feel free to forward this writing to them, and tell them that all this good advice comes free of of charge from the father-son team who pumped more gas, and checked more oil, and wiped more windshields than bills that were passed in Congress!  Remember, "You can trust your car to the man that wears the star"...whether you know it or not, I still wear that star in my heart!  Thanks Dad!

                                                  "Yours in cycling"  George