I've decided to call the story "Billy Gets Gas"
I thought maybe he'd find some humor in that.
"Billy Gets Gas"
It's 2:30am. I'm at work again, working the graveyard shift at Cumberland Farms. I haven't had a customer in hours, and I'm half awake. A car pulls up to one of the pumps. I'm wishing whoever it is would have kept traveling...waited until the next town. I don't want to be bothered.
As the person gets out of the car, I notice that it's Bill. He waves. He must be home from school. I wave back and think to myself I should be thankful. I know this is a customer, no, a person, who has a sense of humor.
I push the button on the microphone to the pump and the following takes place...
"Excuse me Sir, you'll have to shut your engine off before I can authorize the pump." I say.
From the look on Bill's face, he knows what's going on. He opens the door to his already shut-off car, and turns it back on. He then gives me a thumbs up, as if to say "Okay. We're all set."
I laugh and give Bill a thumbs down. He reaches in his car and shuts it off again. He then holds his keys in the air to show me I can authorize the pump. To give me re-assurance, he pretends to throw them across the parking lot.
I decide the joke can go one step further.
I ask him to extinguish his cigarette so I can authorize the pump. Bill mimes removing the cigarettes he doesn't have from his mouth and stomps it out on the pavement.
He then yells: "I'm not paying for the gas!"
I laugh and authorize the pump. Bill gets his gas happily and walks in to pay. I wonder if I've irritated him, he looks exhausted. I tend to forget that most people don't have much desire to be at a gas station at 2:30 in the morning.
"I was beginning to wonder what I was gonna have to do to get some gas..." Bill says.
"Nothing scandelous." I say.
Bill hands me the money for his gas, and I hand him his change. He says thanks and goes to leave. Then he stops, and for a moment I believe he saw something most didn't. He saw this kid he went to high-school with who had like him been "the crazy guy", "the class clown", the one who always wanted to make people laugh. He saw the kid who for the most part, hadn't been a close friend, but a guy who perhaps always associated with him due to the crush he had on his older sister Kathleen. He saw this kid had lost part of his ability to make people laugh, and be care-free, because things had gotten him down. So instead of leaving he stands by the door...
"How've you been doing?" He asks.
"Not bad. Working the ever-exciting night shift at a gas station."
"Eh, at least you get to see all the drunks and crazy people. That's always fun."
"Oh yeah, always a good time."
"You still acting?"
"Yeah, I'm doing a show right now..."
"At Hubbard Hall?"
"How have things been at school?" I ask him.
The conversation carries on for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes more, and since a lot of time has passed since, I can't recall exactly what was said. The thing I do remember is that for some reason Billy took the time to stand there and chat with me in the early hours of the morning when he looked like he could have passed out from exhaustion. He was being sarcastic and making me laugh, even cracking jokes about my affection towards his sister. He completely changed my attitude for the rest of the night. It's wasn't just another "chat" with a customer. It was something that made me feel like I'd gotten to see a close friend I hadn't seen in a while. Something that made me remember how much fun it was to be "the crazy guy", "the class clown".
It was something that, as insignifigant as it may seem, still affects me to this day.
It was the last time I saw Bill, and had a brief glimpse at what a rare individual he was.
I don't think I'm one to have the right to feel this way, or submit this story, but I feel like his family should know, and he should know.
The night Bill Palinski got gas, he changed my life...
I hope he'll be able to appreciate such a dramatic closing line.
My thoughts are with his family and friends, and my thoughts are with him.
A Merritt Malloy Poem Kirsty read for Billy at her London Meeting House the Sunday after Billy died
When I die, give what is left of me to the children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers working beside you.
Put your arms around anyone, and give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you with something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me,
Then let me live on in your eyes, your mind, and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands and letting go of children
who need to be free.
Love does not die; people do.
So when all that is left of me is love, give me away.
From the Palinski family's dear friend in Spain, Sra. Rosa de Balanzó
Te conocí poco, pero lo suficiente para darme cuenta que eras un buen chico.
Me acuerdo la semana que estuve en Cambridge. Me mirabas y sonreías
Hablabas un poco de español pero, de alguna manera, cosa muy curiosa , nos
Estuvieron Kat y Ned en Barcelona, tu también tenias que venir, y os
esperaba con mucha ilusión.
Estuvimos hablando de ti. Hablábamos de tus cosas, de lo que hacías, de tu
manera de ser y te recordábamos con tanta ternura, que parecía que
estuvieras entre nosotros.
Para tu familia ha sido un golpe durísimo, te has ido y has dejado un vacío
· tan inmenso ! que les será muy difícil superarlo, pero estoy convencida
que sentirán tu fuerza.
Con el tiempo no hará falta que hablen de ti, porque con una mirada, un
gesto, con cualquier cosa, hará que te recordemos.
Tu paso por la vida, para los que hemos tenido la suerte de conocerte y
sobre todo para tu familia, has sido un ejemplo de bondad y de generosidad.,
has sabido dar tanto, TANTO!! que hemos aprendido mucho de ti.
Te prometo una cosa, vendré a Cambridge a celebrar tu cumpleaños. No se
cuando podrá ser, pero te aseguro que lo haré.
Te recordaré siempre, siempre. Estarás siempre en mi corazón!
Hi, this is from Kelly house. thanks for doing this. On Sunday April 25, eating tacos at Kelly house as we often do on Sundays, we would not have been surprised if Billy had dropped by, as he would occasionally do for the most random reasons. The last Sunday taco dinner, Billy had stopped in unexpectedly and joined us for our house dinner. He was of course entertaining and his antics included inviting some of us to join him in a threesome after dinner and showing us his new trick of swallowing his own tongue. Certainly much of the laughter during that dinner was created by Billy.
Billy's humor will always be remembered on our house quoteboard. Even though our quoteboard captured only a small percentage of his most humorous moments, here are his quotes that made it to the prestigious quoteboard: "and by funny I mean foreign" and on his view on pulling pranks on the freshman: "I figured, hey, they've been here for a semester, it's open season on those little fuckers." We will miss Billy's sporadic visits to our house and have left candles on our front steps to Billy can remember where we are and find his way back. We also welcome anyone to drop by during our taco dinner to share Billy's stories or show us how they can swallow their tongues.
First, I would like to thank you for putting in the time to make the
remembering Billy website. As someone who was not a close friend of his
but whose life was touched by him anyway, I appreciated having access
to all the fun pictures and videos (since I have none of my own). My roommate
and I wrote this for Billy's scrapbook, and I thought it would also be
appropriate for the website as well. Thank you again.
Billy vs. The Square
Early on Sunday morning on April 25, I pulled out my roommate Gav's copy of "New Faces 2002. We were blessed to know Billy a little, but not enough that either of us had any personal pictures of him. I had to laugh when I saw his picture, because I was reminded that Gav's book had been decorated. Last year we had hung out with someone who used New Faces to mark of all of the attractive male first years. So when I opened it last Sunday, I was greeted by Billy's face, repeatedly circled with large pink hearts.
Gav and I lived on third floor Barrett last year, and Billy became a familiar face to us. We were struck by his ability to disarm difficult situations with his mischievous charm. One interaction in particular stands out as our favorite. I should first explain something about myself. For lack of a better term, I am kind of a... square. I like having a good time, but I tend to become overly impressed with myself when I do anything slightly daring. So I was excited and nervous when my friends proposed a trip to the Dayton club "Celebrity" one weekend.
Billy was the leader of the group, which meant that we only got there after getting lost first. While watching the drag show, Billy approached Gav and motioned to the group of girls standing in front of him. "Which one?" he whispered while holding out a dollar. Knowing what he meant, she pointed at me. He smiled in agreement and swaggered over. "Ok Clara, you've got to go up and give a dollar to that drag queen." I balked and pretended like I didn't understand. "Come on Clara. You just have to stand there and she'll take it. I'll even give you the dollar." I was still reluctant. "It won't be scary, I promise. Here, I'll even go with you." Finally the offer was tempting. He grabbed my hand and led me up to the stage, where I awkwardly held out the money to the obliging diva. Gav was amused, but a bit disappointed that I had been so easy for him to convince. As tight laced as I am, I was no match for his persuasive charisma. It turned out that offering the dollar was the easy part. It was letting go of his hand that was hard.
Clara Berg and Gav Eggert
Billy Palinski was in one of the last Humanities courses I taught,
a section on Irish literature. His travels in Ireland and his extensive
reading made him a lively and well-informed and funny participant in
class. So we had a friendly rapport established by the time my friend
and colleague Amy Mulnix and I inflicted on the college our Air Guitar
act--posing as Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin--to sing "Sisters
Are Doin' It For Themselves." Of the the many kind, fond, and generous
accolades we received that night (from students probably hoping they'd
have better sense when they were middle-aged), none was more endearing
or pleasurable to receive than Billy's: "Oh."
He then offered a gloss on this basic idea, but that first outcry of admiration--for our chutzpah rather than our talent, I am sure--made us feel like the brightest stars of the evening.
Billy was a very dear person, and I will remember and miss him all of my life.
Mary Lacey, English Department
Dear Earlham Students,
My name is Adam Coffin and I graduated from Cambridge High School with Billy. I would just like to say that I was touched with the students and speakers from your school that attended and helped with Billy's services this weekend. Your dedication meant so much to his high school friends as well as the community because it showed us the amount of love that you guys had for him. You guys only had him for 2 short years and even if it had been 80 it would not have been enough. I always had an appreciation for Billy because of his humor. Being a joke man myself it was nice to see that we shared that common interest. Billy was also a soccer teammate of mine back in middle school. In conclusion, I would like to say that it was tremendous to hear how many of your lives that he touched. He was a great man with a positive attitude and it is for that reason that I try and continue to keep a smile on my face for him no matter how much I want to grieve.
Adam J. Coffin
CCS Class of 2002
i graduated with bill, we weren't best friends but we were good friends,
bonded together by our birthday 4/20/84, he wrote in our senior yearbook
to remember the good times, and that our birthday made us better than
everyone else, that day will never be the same but the goodtimes will
always be remembered. r.i.p. bill
condon w. fedler
ccs class of 2002