Saturday, April 14, 2018

Irma's Gifts

For someone like me who works night shift and frequently finds himself riding through Big Coppitt in the hours of darkness the lights of the Shell gas station are an island of respite on the road.
And that is especially true when going home, passing this gas station just before taking the plunge into the unlit blackness of the Saddlebunch Keys to the east.
By night, by  day, they sell fuel here.  By day the gas station is fully staffed but by eleven at night the place closes. However with a credit card you can help yourself to gas as the pumps remain open for automatic delivery.
I took this picture, below, September 11th 2017 the day after Hurricane Irma blew through with 140 mph winds. The store is still closed, supposedly being restored, but only imperceptibly slowly like so much around here.
The fuel pumps which were wrecked were not blown over. Most of the pumps between Key West and Marathon were physically torn from their pediments. This, below, was the Shell station  in Big Pine Key last September.
For people living around Mile Marker 10 the Shell station was a shopping center not just a convenience store, one of two in relatively isolated Big Coppitt. Now it is reduced to a tin box offering chips candy sodas and change between the hours of 6 am and 11 pm. As you can see they kindly offer a porta-potty and hand washing station as well as trash collection.
Behind the other loo there is the compressed air station which I didn't use but seems to be working by all appearances. The wild chickens survived the storm and appear to be flourishing. I'm not sure how I feel about that but I don't have to live with them and their noise and their mess.
 Oh and there is ice, that staple of fishing expeditions and picnics.
The gas station office closes each night but as I said the pumps are left on for customers with credit and debit cards to use self service. So it's not exactly Puerto Rico around here but the makeshift nature of the place is a healthy reminder that it takes time and money and patience to overcome natural disasters.
I know many many people who are still struggling to get their homes fixed, to get insurance payouts, to get promised help from the federal government even as local governments are attacking the Feds for not forking over promised cash for the clean up efforts still underway. Hurricane season starts June First. Happy memories with they say, more to come:
As one of my neighbors pointed out last September in Big Pine as they doled out fuel from a tanker truck beginning a week after the storm: "At least it's free. My taxes at work..." That's the way you have to look at things sometimes through the lense of a glass half full.