There was a time when Wardel Pointer thought his whole life revolved around the pumps wrenches and grease at the Gulf Oil service station he manages in Southwest Washington. It was open 24 hours a day and he was on call for every single one.
Pointer rarely got a chance to bat baseballs and shag flies on area diamonds with the Capital Rockets, the semi-professional ball team he has semi-palyed with for the last ten years.
But now, for better or worse, that has changed.
"We only pump gas two or three hours a day and the station is open only 12 hours a day," says Pointer "Yeah, i've got more time. In a business like this you better have a hobby or the headaches are gonna drive you nuts."
Pointer is one of thousands of area service station workers who are finding moret time on their hands during the gasoline crisis. With stations pumping gasoline only a few hours each day, if at all, even those employes who work spend most of their time repairing cars and cleaning shop.
"You can't have your guys standing aroung looking at you," says Russell Gary, manager of Putnam's Exxon on Georgia Avenue.
And in their new leisure hours, employes and managers alike are turning to hobbies and chores long neglected.
Walter Abney, manager of Abney's Amoco on Georgia Avenue, now grows vegetables on a patch of land he owns in Largo. For the last few weeks, he has spent hours planting, watering and watching his tomatoes grow.
Ben Simpson, who runs the Capital Hull Gulf station on Massachusetts Avenue, keeps busy repairing windows and tending the yard at home. "My little boys enjoys the fact that I have two days a week off now instead of one," he says.
Since the gasoline crunch arrived locally, Abney and Simpson have laid off a total of 10 part-time employes, in keeping with a regionwide pattern. Vic Rasheed, director of the Greater Washington-Maryland Service Station Dealers Association estimates that 3,000 service stations workers have lost their jobs in the last month.
"I think for the most part, dealers are trying to hang onto their skilled mechanics," Rasheed says. "But with allocations dropping by 25 and 30 percent, they've got to cut back somewhere or they'll lose all their profits."
In Simpson's view, the layoffs appear to be worse than they are. "My guys can go and collect $160 unemployment tax free," he says. "They can get low-income housing and food stamps. It's probably a blessing. Who need all the aggravations you get on this job?"
Pointer echoed that sentiment, "By the time you leave here you feel like going to sleep somewhere," he says. "You get 900 calls a day from people attacking you about this or that. At the end of the day all you can say is 'hall elujah'.
"But I know what I need. I get my glove and play some ball."