Pumping Gas is for Chumps
By Dan Ferrara
First off, let me start off by saying this: 99% of New Jersey Citizens know how to pump their own gas. (The other 1% lives in Fort Lee.) We simply choose not to do so. Face it; if you can’t figure out how to operate a gas pump, you probably shouldn’t be dealing with flammable liquids, or driving a car, for that matter. The reason we don’t pump our gas results from a law that was instated in 1949 that states only a trained pump operator or gas station owner can legally operate the pumps.
Back in the 40’s and 50’s most of the country felt that the average Joe Citizen was too dumb to deal with such a combustible substance. After all, at that time most families were buying their first car, suburbs were expanding, and there would be more new drivers on the road than ever before. For fear of thousands of returning GI’s accidentally incinerating their family trapped in their new Chrysler Windsor due to improper filling, most of the country established full-service gas stations. (Remember in Back to the Future when Marty travels back to 1955, and at the Texaco all the guys run out to fill the car and check the oil and stuff? Yeah, like that.) However, all that soon faded when it became pretty apparent that the average American not only had the opposable thumb necessary to operate the pump handle, but also a higher I.Q. than a Rhesus monkey.
As the rest of the country got rid of their gas pump laws and switched to self-service, New Jersey and Oregon high-fived and promptly stated, “Screw that noise.” Today, New Jersey and Oregon still have the full-service laws. Obviously, it is not because New Jersey is dumber than the rest of the country. (After all, New Jersey is the state with Taylor Ham. If the other states were smarter, then they would have caught on.) Laws stay on the books for a reason; people want to keep the law. Why do Jersey Citizens want the law? Because we stumbled onto a secret; Pumping Gas sucks.
Right now, we are about to enter the heart of winter. By the middle of January the average temperature in Jersey is about twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Add a wind chill and it feels about four degrees warmer than former-planet Pluto. When I’m driving, the heat is on, the radio is on, I’m warm, and as happy as I can be with a jerk in front of me who is only doing forty-five but refuses to get out of the left lane on the turnpike. The last thing I want to do is get out in the cold and stand by the side of my truck for ten minutes hoping my fingers don’t freeze to the pump handle. I’d rather pay the extra four-cents-per-gallon and have somebody do it for me. And I know Oregon is on the same wavelength, because their winters are even more brutal. After all, they’re practically Canadian.
Conversely, during the summer we usually get temperature ranging from eighty-five degrees to one-hundred, with a humidity factor somewhere near 247%. And despite what grammar school, high-school, and college have taught us, there are no summer vacations when you have a real job. Imagine heading to the office, maybe you have to give a presentation. You have on your suit and tie. Now on your morning commute, the E light on your dash turns on. If we had self-serve, you would be out in the heat, sweating bullets. By the time you make it to the office, you would be dripping wet, and smelly, as your deodorant melted away from your body. The sweat would make you look nervous, and the heat-stroke you suffered at the gas station made you forget your speech. The presentation would fail, and you’d get fired. Your wife would then divorce you, and you would end up living alone in a studio apartment surviving on Top-Ramen Noodles and Busch Light.
However, full-service gas stations are not just a luxury for us as consumers. Think about how many people New Jersey gas stations employ. According to an article in USA Today, there are over 3,800 gas stations in New Jersey. If each of them employed just four people, that is 15, 200 jobs. Maybe if the rest of the country kept full-service stations, we might not be in this recession.
Regardless, New Jersey will always be teased for not pumping our own gas. However we will smile through our teeth, and pity the poor bastards who will never know the glory of full-service. Because we in Jersey know that only chumps have to pump their own gas.