Note: This isn’t quite a genealogy story. However, it’s one that I think I’m going to write down. After all, if we wish our ancestors had written down a few things, we should at least do it ourselves.
It has been difficult to watch the news lately without seeing something about the new law that went into effect in Oregon about self-service gas pumps.
This post is not about that.
But it did remind me of my own experience the first time I ever pumped gas at a gas station. I was twenty-one years old.
Before that I had always used the gas tank we had at the farm. There was no sensor to shut off the pump. Determining when to shut off the pump was a combination of several pieces of information:
the capacity of your gas tank
how much gas was approximately was in your tank
the gauge on the gas tank indicating how much gas had been pumped
the sound of the gas going into the tank
Once you came close to filling the tank, you listened. You really listened for when you could start to hear the gas in the vehicle start to approach the nozzle. You could hear it,but you had to listen. You could not be “doping around” and thinking of other things. You had to be paying attention to the gas. And when you heard the louder bubbling was when you stopped–not one second later. It may have been the 1980s and gas was cheaper than it is today, but you did not want to run the tank over.
As a kid we rarely went far enough from home that we had to use a gas station. Those times were few and far between. Then I grew up.
I was twenty-one years old, living away from home for the first time and my gas gauge indicated my car needed gas. I did the commonsense thing and went to the gas station. Using the pump that first time was an experience. I was used the pump at home. I knew how to use it. You plugged in the motor. You got the key and unlocked it and followed the “don’t overfill rules.” This was not the gas tank at home.
I managed to read the instructions on the self-serve pump. I chose my gas and put the nozzle in my car. That took what seemed like an eternity. I was certain the attendant was watching me because it was taking me forever to do what most people do in a few seconds. I was certain I looked like some hick who had driven out of the hills and hollers to the big city. The nozzle was in the tank. I had chosen the type of gas. I was ready to pump the gas into my car.
But I could not just stand there and let it fill the tank without holding the gas nozzle myself the entire time. That went against years of training. I simply could not do it. It just seemed beyond belief that the nozzle would shut off in time and not overfill the tank. I was not going to pay for any wasted gas–so the attendant could just think I was a hick.. And so there I stood, holding the nozzle the entire time while I filled my nearly empty tank.
It would be several months before I could fill the tank without holding the nozzle.
And for a long time I would stand there and listen.