In Ohio, self-serve gas stations became the norm more than 40 years ago. I suppose there are some stations with full-service options available somewhere in the Buckeye State, but the overwhelming majority of service stations require you to get out of your car and pump your own gas. That’s also been true in every other state that I’ve visited where I’ve used a car.
I’ve never been to Oregon, alas. And apparently Oregon (along with New Jersey) has been the exception to this prevailing rule — until now. Until this year, gas stations in rural Oregon have been required by state law to employ attendants to pump the gas. Now, a new law has taken effect that permits self-service gas stations in some rural counties . . . and as the Washington Post and other news outlets are reporting, the reaction among Oregonians has been incredible, and hysterical. When a TV station issued a tweet asking for reactions to the new law, Oregonians began claiming that they have no idea how to fuel their own cars and also revealing their deepest innermost fears about the issue. Beleaguered Oregonians expressed concerns at being required to exit their cars on cold days, having to touch a gas pump that has been handled by other germy human beings, and failing to properly insert the gas pump nozzle into the tank and ending up reeking of gasoline. Indeed, some responders claimed that “many people” aren’t even capable of operating a gas pump. And thoughtful Oregonians also worried that gas station attendants would lose their jobs and become chronically unemployed, and that the elderly and people with small children would never be able to manage.
Of course, those of us who live in “self-serve states” have managed to pump our own gas for years, without dousing ourselves with hi-test, producing blazing infernos, or suffering from infectious epidemics caused by touching gas pumps. Why, I’ve even pumped gas with two small children in the car! Looking back on it now, I can see that it was quite an achievement, even though it seemed like no big deal at the time.
I wish Oregonians well in their efforts to survive the transition to self-serve gas. And if you’re a self-serve stater who’s going to be visiting Oregon by car in the next few weeks, and on your visit you see puzzled people stopped at gas stations, wondering how to operate the pumps, will you please do the humane thing and lend them a hand?