SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

The Last Man At The Pump

Pump it up
Pump it up
Felix Reek

MAISACH — “It’s high season, so it’s not really convenient," says Uwe Möderl when we first talk on the phone. Then, moments later, he says, "How would tomorrow night be?"

The 51-year-old Bavarian is apparently not a man who wants to be kept from his work. I had been looking for an experienced gas station pro to interview and Möderl was recommended by none other than his own boss, Dietmar Possart.

Possart owns the small chain of 30 "Benzin-Kontor" gas stations in southern Bavaria, and Möderl is a lessee. When I drive up the next day, he is leaning on a pile of tires with a cigarillo in one hand and an after-hours beer in the other. In Maisach, some 30 kilometers from Munich, all is still well with the world.

About 13,000 people live in Maisach, and there are three gas stations. One of them is the one run by Möderl. Almost exactly 30 years ago his father Joseph came here, and he too worked for Dietmar Possart. After 16 years, as the Millennium rolled around, his son took over. He just sort of grew into it.

"Some people train as bakers, some as butchers; my thing is this gas station. It’s not an easy job, but every day is fun,” he says.

A day in the life

Möderl’s daily routine looks something like this: His alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and by 5:30 he’s in the gas station where the first line of vehicles is already waiting for him. Some people want gas, others to buy a newspaper, coffee or even a beer. The work day has begun. At 7 a.m. his wife joins him. For four years, she has handled shop sales while Möderl focuses on the garage and service. The system works “beautifully,” Möderl says, and keeps both of them busy until 5 or 6 p.m.

The relaxed way in which Uwe Möderl recounts his typical day makes me wish I had a gas station like his around where I live. He’s something of a relic from the past, from back in the days when mom and pop stores – not huge shopping malls – held sway. Maisach has a mall too but shortly before closing time its gas station is empty, whereas Möderl’s continues to bustle with activity.

Between 500 and 700 customers come here each day, and most of them are regular clients. That’s why Uwe Möderl isn’t afraid of the large gas station chains. He’d rather be an independent than "a servant" for some company like Aral or Shell, he says.

Keeping the customers happy

"When you approach the customers — nice, politely and in what I would call a normal way — they’ll thank you for it even if you’re sometimes a little more expensive than the competition." His wife Metke adds: "You get back what you give. Ninety percent of the customers come because of us." Relationships with the customers are friendly, in fact the Möderle’s use the familiar Du form of address with about half of them. If customers are worried about something "they talk to me about it," says Metke. Pastoral care is part of this gas station experience.

The couple says that running a business in nearby Munich would be unheard of for them because everything in Munich is "impersonal." "I would never open a gas station in Munich," says Uwe. "Never."

However, even for the Möderls, the business climate in Maisach has gotten a little less gentle of late. Selling gas alone doesn’t bring in enough to live on, so shop and tire service sales have become essential to shore up the figures.

Uwe doesn’t have a lot of patience with customer complaints about gas prices: "If I go to Munich for a beer, I’m going to be paying 4.20 euros just like everybody else, 10 euros for a pork roast — and 1.40 or 1.50 for gas, and if I don’t like it then I can ride my bike."

Unrivaled service

At his gas station, customers get service that can hardly be found anywhere else. If asked, Möderle will check the oil level, top up the water, and — for some older customers who have trouble with it — drive the car through the carwash. All for nothing. Just like it used to be back in the day. Germany isn’t a complete service desert after all.

But maybe Uwe Möderl is simply one of the last of his breed. The man at the gas station, like the one his parents and grandparents knew. Always there for his customers, even when it eats into his free time. Here is that rare fellow who’s simply happy with things the way they are.

He is also, of course, a guy for whom cars run on old-fashioned gasoline. But he’s not blocking out progress. "The future belongs to the electric car for sure, but by the time they’re being mass-produced we’ll be retired," he says.

Still, for Möderl a real car has either an otto or a diesel engine. "An electric car is like an electronic-cigarette. Either I smoke a cigarette or I don’t smoke at all."

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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