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Fill'er Up!

Remember those days?  I barely do. Twenty-nine cent a gallon gas is a hazy childhood memory to me.  It was a friendly time.  The attendant would strike up a conversation as he washed ALL your windows, checked the air pressure in your tires, checked your oil and water all while your tank was filling.  Those guys were amazing.  But that's not what this is about.  It's about the really bad stuff that is happening at filling stations today.

I lead a highly sheltered life when it comes to the corner filling station.  I live in Oregon.  Oregon has this strange little law that makes it illegal to pump your own gas.  Why?  I really don't know.  Every couple of years it comes up to a vote and we, the citizens of Oregon, always vote down our 'right' to pump our own gas.  I've stood in the blowing snow below zero in Colorado at 11pm trying to keep my eyelids from freezing shut.  I've pumped my own in Kansas in August when the humidity was higher than the 95 degree temperature.  It rains A LOT here in north western Oregon and I know a good thing when I see it.  It probably adds a penny a gallon to the cost.  Big deal!

I recently had the opportunity to deliver my children to schools and colleges in two 'foreign' states - California and Washington.  What I experienced on those trips has further confirmed my resolve to preserve Oregon's unique heritage and my right to be served the grade of gasoline of my choice from the comfort and security of my own vehicle.  Here's what I experienced -

First I removed the cap from my gas tank.  There was an audible hiss as fumes escaped into the air.  Gads, that stuff can't be good for you to breathe, can it?  It's awful.  Sure, it's not complicated to operate the machinery.  I negotiate the inserting of the credit card, entering my PIN number, selecting the grade of gas, inserting the nozzle into the tank and starting the pump with no problem.  I turn to find some shade while I wait for my tank to fill, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a Coca-Cola commercial, playing in full color and stereo sound on the control panel of the gas pump!  OK, now I have a problem with this.  Not only am I paying way too much for this gas to begin with, but I'm being subjected to an obnoxious commercial that I wouldn't listen to at home, and there's no volume control, no channel dial, no escape except to retreat to the interior of my car.  My wife turns to me and says "what's that smell?" as I look at the grease and dirt on my hands from the inside of the little door that covers the tank.  Mercifully, the commercial ends before my tank is full so I can finish the process in relative peace.  If I lived in that town, I would not fill up at that station or any other that would subject me to that kind of 'assault advertising'.

That was California.  Washington is a little more subtle.  The process flowed a little more 'normally' right up to the end.  I returned the nozzle to its holder and turned expectantly to the control panel for instructions on retrieving my receipt.  The mechanism was there, there was even a little tag of paper hanging out.  The instructions on the on the screen - "You may retrieve your receipt inside the store".  I don't think so.

As a traveler I'm forced to play filling station lotto.  Who are the people that will put up with this nonsense on a regular basis?  I'll tell you who isn't.  A new station opened near my home.  It was conveniently located, had easy access and reasonable prices.  Shortly after it opened I stopped by on my way home to fill up.  I handed the attendant my credit card and he refused, indicating I would have to walk my card into the store for processing.  I politely thanked him and left for another station that I knew I could count on to handle the transaction more conveniently.  A few months later that new station closed and has opened under a new label.  I guess I'm not the only one refusing terrorist marketing schemes.  Hang in there, we may not win, but it'll be a hell of a fight.

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