'Pump My Own Gas?… I Can't Even'
I’m old enough to remember when self-serve gasoline stations were an innovation. That was some time after filling station attendants stopped washing your windshield and checking your oil, or even giving you a free set of steak knives or glass tumblers with a fill-up along with actually pumping your fuel. Age perhaps makes my memory imprecise, but I believe the change from full-service to self-service happened sometime after OPEC started jacking up the price of petroleum.
Since it was a way of saving a few pennies a gallon as fuel costs were increasing, self-serve was so popular that it spread across the fruited plains to the point where in many places in America today you can’t find anyone to pump your gas, let alone provide what used to be considered full service. Self-serve was embraced at the gas pump and it has pullulated to other retail establishments. I can’t remember the last time I went through a checkout lane with an actual human cashier when buying groceries, much as it annoys me to have a machine say “Thank you for shopping at Meijer.”
We now live in a self-serve world. Well, except for New Jersey and Oregon. Until now, both of those states have prohibited self-serve gasoline stations, but it looks like starting this year New Jersey will have that distinction all to itself.
For the time being, because many of those rural gas stations have never installed gas pumps that can accept credit card payments, it will be a while before Oregon drivers can pull up, pay at the pump, fill their tank, and drive away. Also, it’s not clear how much demand there will be for less service. Media reports in Oregon seem to indicate that consumers there, even in rural areas, don’t want to pump their own gas.
I can understand some consumers’ reluctance to embrace what they think may be a reduction of service. I can even understand how some might be afraid of the safety hazards of letting regular folks handle a highly flammable liquid like gasoline. There are indeed people who will use an open flame around a gas pump despite all of the warning labels.
However, the reaction of some Oregonians makes me fear for the future of society. We already have a television star as president; I’m not sure if I’m ready for a true Idiocracy.
Maybe I expect too much from a society where advertisers make women feel smart for not knowing how to change a tire, but just look at the comments above in response to a local TV station’s Facebook posting about the new law.
“I don’t even know how to pump gas and I’m 62.”
Someone who is 62 years old has presumably been driving for at least 40 years and in all that time, through scores of fill-ups, they’ve never picked up on how to unscrew their gas cap, grab the nozzle handle, put it in the filler neck, and squeeze the trigger? Then there’s the drama queen (or king, I don’t want to presume xir’s gendyr) who claims to have “almost died” when having to pump his own gasoline once when in California. A horror of apocalyptic magnitude, no doubt. I’m no huffer but I worked in a paint laboratory for 20 years and while there are health hazards associated with long term exposure to solvents, a few whifs of VOCs aren’t going to hurt anyone with normal sensitivities to solvents.
Besides, nobody is going to force anyone in Oregon to pump their own gas, whether or not they “literally,” or figuratively, park at the gas pumps in protest (raising the question of how the gas station attendants will know the difference between someone parking in protest and anyone else simply pulling up to a pump and putting it in park). The law allows station operators to offer self-service, it doesn’t compel the practice.
Just to show you what used to be considered full service in the service station industry, the gallery contains a 1944 vintage trade brochure distributed to service stations that gave them tips on how to maximize profit by providing complete service “within practical limits.”
[Images: Shell Oil, Gulf Oil, author]
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