Lazy elitists turn up noses at gas pumps

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune
Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown -

I was driving in Vermont one time and had to stop and fill up. While I pumped, my eye fell upon a little sticker on the gas pump. It said that Vermont law prohibits topping your tank. It must’ve had something to do with spilling gas, release of fumes and/or global warming.

When the pump handle clicks off indicating the tank is nearly full, I like to pump just one more squirt and top off my tank. I can get in up to a half-gallon more that way. I don’t like stopping for gas, so when I must, I cram in as much fuel as possible.

So in Vermont the pump clicked off, and I stared into the face of menacing, foreign state law. I did not blink. You bet I topped off my tank.

I don’t have much patience at the store. There’s not much in there that interests me. I want to get in and get out. Fast. Including at the gas pumps.

So I got a chuckle at news out of Oregon that folks there squawked when they started having to pump their own gas.

Folks in Oregon did not know the pleasure of pumping their own. New Jersey folks still don’t, believe it or not. But Oregon changed state law and partially lifted the ban last month, dragging the state into the 1970s.

Ridicule and scorn were heaped upon the leftist state on the Left Coast.

“Oregon was made to look like either a collection of feeble-handed troglodytes too dumb or lazy to do the deed themselves or an assemblage of elitists who turn their noses up at the plebeian pump,” reported with flare The Oregonian newspaper in Portland.

As a public service, the newspaper published — I hope with tongue in check — 10 tips for pumping gas:

1. Park the car. (Not even North Carolinians can pump gas while driving.) 2. Pop the fuel lid. 3. Remove the fuel lid. 4. Decide how much gas you want/need. 5. Pay for your gas. 6. Remove the nozzle from the pump. 7. Insert it into your car and start pumping. (They had a cartoon video of a hand pumping gas.) 8. Wait. (“The pump can sense when it’s full,” the newspaper noted.) 9. Return the nozzle to the pump. 10. Screw the fuel cap back on and close the lid.

I’m sure that helped Oregon recover some of its reputation.

Some of you fellow oldsters remember when we first learned to pump our own gas. At country stores where only one clerk worked you might have to wait a while for the clerk to finish with someone at the register before they could walk out and pump for you.

Finally, Reba Money, who ran the popular North Elkin Grocery country store in the 1960s where Sheetz is located today, quit having anyone to pump gas. It took a while for us here in the hometown to get the message.

It felt odd getting out at Reba’s for the first time and pumping my own gas in the late ’60s. There was a lever on the right side that you pushed to release the mechanical numbers on the front of the pump from the prior customer and reset to zero. Afterward I walked in and handed Reba my cash (nobody used plastic cards yet).

It wasn’t long before new stores in the 1970s like Wilco (now Speedway) at North Bridge Street and Oakland Drive (no Claremont Drive then) put up a sign, “Self Service,” at the pumps next to the road and “Full Service” next to the store (only two islands then).

Full service cost a bit more. A few old people stubbornly pulled in still for full service for a while but that was about all. By the end of the decade, the signs and full service were gone.

We North Carolinians, meanwhile, have progressed to self-service at store checkouts. I’ve noticed a few still go to checkouts with a live clerk. But that too shall pass.

Sheetz requires you to punch in on a computer screen your fast-food order. Wendy’s executives have said they’ll install self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 restaurants by the end of the year. McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Taco Bell are installing them as well.

So what’s next? Can self-surgery be far behind? Chatham hospital with an express lane.

Wonder what Oregonians will have to say about that?


In memoriam: Last November on this page I described a chance reunion after nearly 50 years of two co-captains of the very first East Wilkes High School football team. The star of that team, James Barnes, of Roaring River, passed Feb. 10. I’m glad we had that one last get-together. RIP

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune