A gas station I sometimes patronize has two rows of pumps. One lane offers regular gas with "full service" for 67.9 cents a gallon. The other lane offers regular gas with "mini-service" for 58.9 cents a gallon.

In both lanes an attendant fills the tank. The principal difference between full service and mini-service is that in the full service lane you get your windshield cleaned. One who must pay for as many as 28 gallons of gas at a filling learns to clean his own windshield and save $1.62.

What's more, on this particular morning even a man buying gas with a stolen credit card wouldn't have chosen the full service lane. Rain was falling. Cleaning a windshield would have been a waste of time and effort.

So there I was in the mini-service lane watching the digits in the dollar column climb toward a "final solution" for the $10 bill in my hand when a beat up old car roared into the full service lane.

When I say "old" car, I mean of the 1955-57 era, when high tail fins were popular.

Rust showed in patches through the car's paint, a faulty muffler appeared to account for the roar I heard, and the rear end sagged ominously.

The driver was about 24 years old, and a companion on the passenger side appeared to be the same age. Between them sat a young woman of perhaps 19. Her flaming red hair might have been attractive it had been combed. The two males were even more unkempt, Their hair and beards were in disarray. They wore dingy-gray T-shirts that gave no indication of recent laundering.

An amendant approached the driver and asked, "Fill it?" The driver counted the coins in his hand and said, "No. Just give me 83 cents worth."

In a few seconds, 83 cents worth of gas were in the car's tank, and its high tail fins were back in the morning traffic. The amendant came over to the man who was filling my tank and handed over the coins. "How far does he think he can get on 83 cents worth of gas?" I asked.

"I don't know," was the answer, but you gotta admire the fact that he's going first class.Did you notice - he stopped to read the signs that pointed out which was the full service lane before he pulled in there."

"Listen," said the other attendant, "if you think 83 cents is bad, just stand here for awhile. You'll see them come in for a quarter's worth sometimes."

Remember the guy who came in with 7 cents?" asked the first attendant. His colleague nodded. "The funny part of it was he said he was on his way to Boston, and when I said to him, 'Man, you can't get to Boston on 7 cents worth of gas,' he just grinned and said, 'That's what you think. "It really makes you wonder."

So I drive out wondering. The only thing I can surmise in that if an auto stops on the shoulder of a busy high way and the driver raises his hood, eventually some kindhearted fellow will stop and offer money, the gasoline he carries for emergencies, a ride on the next gas station, or some combination of the three. This is not what would call traveling first class, but it does have the advantage of being economical.