Yesteryear’s Memories – It’s Illegal and Dangerous

May 10, 2022

I’m not sure when it changed, although it’s been quite a long time since we were prohibited from pumping our own gas into our own vehicle. The baked enamel tags on every gas pump in the US were quite official-looking. It was taboo for anyone other than the attendant to pump gas, and that rule wasn’t really questioned. We ‘civilians’ wouldn’t dare break that law, and somehow all the gasoline in all the stations across the country was distributed by ordained and lawfully entitled people who must have been highly trained and endowed with great skill. At least that’s what I thought when I was too short to reach the gas nozzle. Now, today, all that has changed. It’s rare to find a gas station where someone comes out to fill your tank. I’m not sure how people who are elderly, disabled, or just don’t want to pump their own gas deal with it. Maybe they bring someone to help or depend on a kind stranger to get their tank filled, but in the past twenty years I haven’t seen anyone working at a gas station pumping gas. It’s a real mystery.

I’m sure the change was mostly driven by the cost of labor. Imagine gasoline costing seventy nine cents a gallon being dispensed by a worker being paid perhaps a dollar or two an hour. The profit to the station owner couldn’t have been more than a few pennies. That was when the only other things for sale were oil and maybe cigarettes and a couple of dusty candy bars. Now, the average gas-peddling establishment has fourteen brands of energy drinks, T-shirts, stocking caps, cellphone accessories, and firewood for backyard barbeques. Some even sell movies on DVD and fancy walking canes — evidently for their older customers who can’t pump gas. Puzzling.

So many things have changed over the years. Things that were illegal are now legal, like pumping gas, smoking marijuana, and dumping money into a slot machine in most states. We can now own gold again — that was illegal in the Unites States from 1933 up until 1974. No gold bars, no gold coins — and the punishment was prison time and huge fines. Amazing government we have. They get to determine so much of what we do or don’t do. It used to be that prices were determined by supply and demand. I don’t think that determines much anymore. The gas station owner has to figure in the tax on gas, tobacco, worker’s compensation, and the monthly cost to comply with safety rules. Cellphone accessories that cost twelve cents in China are $16.95 (remember, it’s a convenience store) and air for your tire is a buck fifty.

Things have changed, all right. But I satisfied my defiant nature this week. I ripped the tag off a new pillow. I ignored the warning label, “under penalty of law” and it made me feel pretty powerful. Unrestrained by tyrannical laws. A real rebel. And then I bought gas at almost five bucks a gallon. But I got to pump it myself.

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