A different kind of pain at the pump

By: Joe Weaver - Contributing columnist

This morning on the way to work, I stopped to get gas. There are a few gas stations near my house, but three of them are in the opposite direction of my morning commute. I would have to drive a little out of my way, only to come back past my house on my way to work. Normally, this isn’t such a big deal, but this morning I was running a few minutes late. I decided to go to the big superstation on my route. The gas light was on in my car, so I didn’t really think I had time to lollygag around town looking for cheap gas, so I went to the expensive superstation. I wheeled my little car into the lot and pulled up to a pump.

The pump looked different than the last time I used it. Smack dab in the middle of the pump was a TV. I’m calling it a TV because it was bigger than the TV I had in my first apartment. There was some goofy faced guy on the screen going on and on about 100 percent Colombian coffee for a dollar and how many reward points could get me a free Tornado (whatever that is, but where I come from, no one wants any kind of tornado, free or otherwise). I swiped my debit card and the big screen told me in big white letters on a big blue background that I could begin fueling. This is where the whole thing went downhill.

When you pump gas, the numbers on the display that tell you how much gas you are getting and how much it is costing you normally go by pretty fast. You know, where the first number looks like a flickering eight and you can only tell when the tens of cents and the dollars change. It starts off slowly and then speeds up and you can hear the little inside machine whirr and hear and feel the gasoline coming through the hose and nozzle. You can imagine the force of that pump because that hose is about 10 inches thick and you can still feel the rush of the fluid in the nozzle. Let go of one of those suckers with that handle locked down and you will see quite a show. Don’t bother asking how I know, because I won’t tell you. I will say that I am no longer allowed at any Sinclair gas station in Downer’s Grove, Illinois.

This pump was clicking away, but slower than an elderly tortoise driving a Toyota Prius in the fast lane. For six-and-a-half minutes, I watched the pump disperse me 1½ gallons of gasoline. For a tenth of an hour, I was dispersed six quarts of gasoline. I was on empty. I was filling the tank. My gas tank has a 13-gallon capacity. At this rate, it would take me 78 minutes to fill my tank, roughly. My morning commute is 40 minutes. It would take me double my commute to fill my car with fuel. For the next two hours, I would spend two-thirds of it filling my car with gasoline. In two hours from my house, I can be in Raleigh, Wilmington, or, wait for it, Virginia. I was not driving to Virginia. I was sitting still at a gas pump listening to the guy next to me play very loud and very profane hip-hop music while an eyedropper filled my car with gas.

I did not wait the two hours. After six-and-a-half minutes, I finally gave up. For the longest 390 seconds of my life, I waited patiently. The pump did not pick up speed. I hung up the hose and went inside the superstation. I don’t like the superstation. It’s big and bright and crowded and the employees are humorless drones who only know pump numbers, bad food and the prices of cigarettes.

“Are all the pumps running slow?” I asked one of the drones, who had her name tag on backward and had a spider web tattoo under her right ear.

“What?”

“Are all the pumps slow?”

“You’re on pump five.”

“No, I am the little red car at pump one. Are all the pumps running slow?”

“I dunno. We don’t know until someone tells us.”

“I’m telling you your pumps are slow.”

“We really can’t do anything about it right now. We’re backed up.”

She points to at least a dozen people stuck at slow gas pumps.

“You’re backed up because all of your pumps are slow.”

“No one has said anything.”

“I’m saying something,”

I get a spaced out look from her and she mumbles good morning and I leave, finally understanding the presence of the TV screens at the pumps: You can watch an entire movie while your car fills with gas.

Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.

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Joe Weaver

Contributing columnist