Washington vs. Oregon

Tuesday July 27, 2004 @ 04:31 PM (UTC)

So I went up, as mentioned, to visit my sister in Seattle for Scrapstravaganza 2004. I left my cooking hometown with a tank of gas near-full, and labored through the sweltering heat to reach Seattle with a quarter of a tank remaining. I lent my car to my sister a couple of times, which no doubt left her with a strange feeling of disorientation, as my car is identical to hers save for its exterior color and current state of tidiness (I can’t take full credit for the tidiness. Or the color, really.)

So it was that when, laden with scrapped pages, extraneous kitchen tools, many candle holders and a white feather boa, I sought to coax the thread of my journey from the great knot of Seattle’s byways, I found the open road only to find also a sadly diminished gas tank. Having already passed out of Seattle’s tentacular mass and not yet entered the aroma of Tacoma, I worried for some time before finding an exit with two gas stations on the sign—an exit for ‘Kent’, Washington. Seeing no reason to clog further a right lane already full of vehicles, I took the left exit lane — only to discover the clogged lane, stretching from I-5 right up to the intersection, offered my only chance of turning towards the gas stations.

Faced with the option of either zigging across two lanes to try to cram into a bumper-to-bumper turn lane or sedately turning left and finding a place to turn around, I turned left. Immediately, a concrete bumper arose between me and the left. No left turns. No right turns, either. The road stretched out before me, bending coyly behind a hill, only to reveal more and more divided highway, without exit or turn.

I turned off my P.G. Wodehouse audiotape, and concentrated on the road. I turned off the A/C to save gas, and, incidentally, to increase the dramatic tension. The divided highway swooped triumphantly up to an intersection and there, sweetly glaring in the summer sun, was a sign: ‘← Arco, 1/2 mile.’ I sang out some ridiculous Wodehousian exclamation, and turned left. An idyllic green park and a small bridge later, I pulled into an Arco, cleverly remembering on which side the Japanese had placed the gas tank.

La dee da. I’ll be able to listen to my tape some more while I’m filling up! La dee da…where are the people? AND WHY IS THAT GUY FILLING UP HIS OWN—oh. Right. In Washington, you must pump your own gas.

Trying to recall the miserable day when I drove my muscle-cramped, norovirus-ridden body from Seattle last, and stopped somewhere to gas up my car while maintaining the body-optimum 90-degree waist bend, I failed to gain insight into the pump that confronted me. The reason was simple—that day, my only other experience with pumping my own gas, I had been at a large, modern gas station. This pump seemed to be a clean and shining antique. Gone were the LCD screen and buttons I remembered. Yet more ominously, gone was the friendly instruction sticker, though its absence as yet struck no chord in my brain.

I pay at the island and return to my pump. I pull the nozzle from its holder. I pull it towards my car. whhhhhhrrrrr says the little zip cord stretching to allow the nozzle to reach. I frown. If I remember correctly, you are supposed to be able to fix the nozzle into the tank opening and have it sit there securely. This rubber-band tension avails me not. So, I start up my car and back it up, closer to the nozzle. I get out and try it again. Now the nozzle fits without any extending clothesline, but there is a collapsing-accordion deal on the nozzle which ensures that I will be pushing very hard the entire time I fuel up to make sure the nozzle doesn’t fly out of the opening and fuel down the side of my car. I press it in, grit my teeth, and pull the trigger.

Nothing. I try again. Nothing. I pull harder. Nothing. I eye the pump curiously as I squeeze. The pump has a nice, static…$15.00???

Fuming at my own incompetence, I locked my car and walked timidly into the minimart. ‘Umm, could I get some help at pump #10," quoth I, "I’m from Oregon, and I’ve only done this once before…" To my relief, the forbidding man behind the counter summoned a female henchperson to help me, and this matter-of-fact woman walked right up, plunked the nozzle in the gas-port, twiddled the little switch in the nozzle-rest, and set the gas pumping. (In my defense, please recall there were no instructions! Anywhere! Just a tiny little metal switch, easy to forget!) Of course, the moment I touched the damnable thing, it stopped the flow of gas, so, whilst I stood around feeling like a backwards child, she good-naturedly filled the tank for me.

I drove away feeling a little humiliated, a little relieved, and a little confused. Are handicapped people supposed to somehow pump their own gas? Little old people with arthritis? Don’t idiots smoke while doing this and send the whole place up in a fireball? The whole thing confuses me mightily. Though not as much as the Oregon state senators who want to make our state a self-pumping state in the middle of an unemployment crisis…


At most self-serve gas stations, you’ll see signs indicating that handicapped or elderly drivers should honk their horns twice if they require assistance. Presumably some friendly employee will hear the honkage and emerge to operate the pump.

Personally, I prefer self-serve. Once you learn how to use the different types of pumps (a cross-country road trip will educate you right quick), pumping your own gas is a great deal faster than waiting for someone else to do it.

Plus, when you have a car that’s extremely sensitive not only about what grade of gasoline gets put in it but also how securely you tighten the gas cap, it’s much easier just to do it yourself. It’s a huge pain in the ass when some gas station attendant pumps my car full of regular instead of premium or causes the check engine light to come on because they didn’t tighten the cap past two clicks.

New comment

required, won't be displayed (but may be used for Gravatar)


Don't type anything here unless you're an evil robot:

And especially don't type anything here:

Basic HTML (including links) is allowed, just don't try anything fishy. Your comment will be auto-formatted unless you use your own <p> tags for formatting. You're also welcome to use Textile.

Copyright © 2017 Felicity Shoulders. All rights reserved.
Powered by Thoth.