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A couple of days ago, I was reminded of something that I had known for years, but had totally forgotten. It seems that the good citizens of Oregon (and all passers-by) are apparently too stupid to put fuel in their own vehicles. At least that’s what the state’s lawmakers think.
As usual, I was wandering around the truck stop waiting on The Evil Overlord to finish up her shower. Women are so stinking slow. Anyway, I happened to be looking out the front doors as two cars pulled up to the gas pumps. Then they just sat there. No one got out of the car. “Hmm,” I thought. “Why are they just sitting there?” My question was immediately answered when an employee said, “Excuse me, sir,” as he slipped out the front door and proceeded to start pumping gas.
First off, am I really old enough to be called “sir”? I guess I am, but I doubt I’ll ever get used to it. After all, I’m used to answering when I hear The Evil Overlord use the words “dumb-ass.” Or is that just one word? Sorry. Off on a rat hole again. Back to the subject.
As soon as the guy started those fuel pumps, I remembered. Many, many moons ago, The Evil Overlord and I had been stranded at a company shop near Portland, Oregon. We had borrowed the company car and stopped for some gas on the way into town for a nice dinner at Jake’s Famous Crawfish (YUMMY!!!). Being the lightning fast guy that I am, I had the pump in hand in a flash. That’s when the guy came running out to stop me.
When he first explained that I wasn’t allowed to pump my own gas, I thought he was joking. Only after a few minutes of him pleading with me did I honestly believe that I wasn’t the victim of a Candid Camera joke or something. When asked why they had this stupid rule, the kid just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Don’t know. It’s just a state law.”
Back in the present, I asked the current gas pumping dude the same question. He said, “I heard two reasons. One, was that a long time ago a husband and wife had gotten into a heated argument while the man was gassing up the car. One thing led to another, and he wound up soaking his wife in gas and setting her on fire. The fire spread and the whole place went up in flames. The lawyers got involved and sued everyone. So they passed this law.” I guess my expression showed my doubt as the validity of this story, because he said, “Yea, that one’s a bit hard to swallow.”
“The second reason I heard is that the lawmakers decided that pumping gas exposed people to toxic fumes, so they outlawed it.” I added, “So it’s okay to make one person sniff toxic fumes all day, every day, but it’s bad for everyone else to inhale those same fumes for five minutes every three of four days?” To which he replied, “Yeah. I’m not sure I buy that one either. But I could see them not caring about a guy that’s pumping gas for minimum wage.” I agreed, but added that I didn’t think even the government would be that stupid. I stand corrected. They can be. His story wasn’t too far off.
Thanks to the iPhone and the internet, I quickly found the truth. In 1951, Oregon lawmakers ruled that, due to the flammable nature of gasoline, it was unsafe for “unqualified” persons to pump their own gas. New Jersey had passed a similar law two years earlier. Many other states have had similar laws in the past. All but Oregon and New Jersey have since grown a brain cell. I guess it made sense back then when pumps didn’t have automatic shutoff valves. But times have changed. At least for 48 of our states, it has. Click here for more information about these laws. Incidently, they have modified the rules to allow truckers to fuel their own vehicles. So for once, a trucker was determined to be smarter than the average citizen. Hear, hear!
When I revealed the truth to the gas guy at the truck stop, he didn’t seem surprised. I think he summed it up nicely when he said with a grin, “Doesn’t surprise me. Don’t really care either. People who live here are lazy and this job keeps me off welfare.” Well put, my friend. Well put.