I was pumping gas on Sunday and I had paid in cash because the ATM kidnapped my card so I had slightly more time than usual to really get in touch with my surroundings. Gas stations are boring places by nature. They do as much as possible to get you in and out. They politely ask that we don’t loiter. Or skateboard. They don’t even put on good TV anymore. In fact, the one by my house runs it’s own advertisements on the screen. I never understood this marketing strategy—advertising the venue in the venue. The demographic is kind of a shoe-in.
So I started reading the instructions on how to pump gas. To my surprise, there are many. The last time I really needed instruction I was 16 and stopped at my first old-fashioned pump where you actually have to lift the lever to allow the gas to flow but it didn’t make that clear so I put money down and then struggled with the pump handle for five or ten minutes before getting my money back and driving away with that giant yellow E light still blinking back at me accusingly. The cashier had looked at me strangely when I wanted a refund because his gas station was broken.
This is a newer gas station though so the instructions are more focused on what not to do rather than how to do what you’re supposed to do. Turn off the engine- reasonable. Turn off your cellphones- not gonna happen. I’ll take the risk and avoid having to teach myself one more healthy habit. Turn off any other battery powered handheld devices- the only other thing I have with me is a vibrator with no charge so we’re covered.
I did find this one interesting: Don’t siphon by mouth. Yessir… that’s a printed instruction. I have many questions related to this pearl of wisdom. The first and most obvious is how many “incidents” occurred before they felt the need to forewarn the general public.
It reminded me of a story that came out years ago about a man living outside of Sacramento who locked his keys in the car while it was still running. He didn’t want to spend the money on a locksmith so he decided to leave it running until the gas was gone and deal with it later. Unfortunately he had also put a lot of time and consideration into costs when choosing the car in the first place so the vehicle in question was a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder with a full tank.
The next morning and into the afternoon the car was still going strong. He was losing his patience. He decided to speed up the process. How else would one empty a gas tank but with the handheld attachment on his vacuum cleaner plugged into an extension cord? He was rushed to the ER with extensive third degree burns and his condition was still critical when the story went to print.
The worst part about the gas station manual is the futility of the whole thing though. I’ve been driving for six years and only now took the time to learn not to siphon gasoline by mouth. But the high-risk group for this kind of behavior most likely can’t even read the instructions in the first place.