Shopping for kerosene on a winter night

Steve Huffman

by Steve Huffman

I bought a kerosene heater the other year and used it on rare occasions when I was living by myself and too tight to pay high gas bills.

I eventually ran out of clear kerosene and bought some of the red stuff at a gas station. I don’t think my heater liked it. It smoked when I tried the colored kerosene. Made a mess and as a result I hadn’t used the heater in a couple of years.

But with a winter storm and the threat of ice fast approaching, I drug the heater out of the garage Friday afternoon, set it on the deck  and fooled with it until it fired to life. Sure enough, the heater was still smoking.

I syphoned most of the red kerosene and let the rest burn itself out. Meg and I drove about a mile to the Country Cupboard to see what type kerosene they sold.

It was red, but a guy who was buying a couple of gallons told me that the Hess station on East Innes Street across from Wendy’s in Salisbury sold clear kerosene. So Meg and I drove over there.

The parking lot was packed. At first we couldn’t figure out what the excitement was. Then we realized: It was a clear kerosene shopping frenzy.

People were waiting in line to buy the stuff. One guy said the Hess station was the only place in town that sold the clear fuel.

Meg stood outside and talked to the other customers while I went inside to pre-pay (it was required) for my kerosene. There was a line of customers. I had to wait at least five minutes. The guy behind me said he was taking care of some of homeless people and needed kerosene to keep them warm Friday night.

I’ve long admired Meg because she has that rare ability to talk to people of virtually any socio-economic background. I realized as much again when I stepped from the Hess store and returned to the kerosene pump.

Meg was laughing and carrying on with a number of people who (how to put this politely?) probably don’t reside in Salisbury’s country club section.

One guy told her it was his birthday and pulled out a driver’s license as proof. He was glad it was snowing on his birthday, he said.

Meg wished him a happy birthday, then, noting he was born in 1962, said, “You’re just a young fellow.”

“I’m 48,” he replied, laughing. “I’m two years away from 50.”

Then he eyed Meg and asked where her husband was.

“I think he thought I was flirting with him,” she said.

I bought $15 worth of kerosene (the stuff was $3.50 a gallon), then we drove back to Spencer.

The adventure was fun, and we’re all set to stay warm should the power go out as a result of the storm.

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