Jul 29, 2014
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How NOT to behave at a gas station.

What a Gas!

How NOT to behave at a gas station.

I’m fairly certain this hasn’t happened to anyone…but if it has, please share your experience:

On Friday evening around rush hour, I stopped at Warren’s Shell Service at 1201 Chicago Avenue to fill up my tank. With my 8-year-old sitting in the car, I locked the nozzle to fill the tank automatically; I wanted to elicit a long overdue smile from him (he’s recovering from a broken collar bone).

I knocked on his window and got a sad stare. Not surprising.

Then, I pressed an imaginary elevator button and slowly bent my knees. From his perspective, it looked like I was heading down one floor. When I popped up, he was laughing.

I should have stopped there, but once you get a sad kid laughing, you're addicted.

I crouched below the windows and walked, hunched over, to the opposite side of the car. When I popped up unexpectedly, I could hear his laughter from outside the car.

I wanted more.

Creeping to the rear of my car, I pounded on the back window and watched him jump with delight before finding his sneaky mom playing games.

What a rush...and he was having a great time, too.

Next, I wanted to pop up near the driver’s side window. I crept under the gas hose (still pumping gas into my car) and stood up quickly, only to realize I’d accidentally yanked the hose out of the tank.

You’d think there’d be an automatic shutoff when a rapidly-pumping gasoline hose becomes disengaged from the tank, right?

Imagine if you will, this slow-motion vignette:

Hose pulls out of car, snags on the hood of a down coat…owner of coat stands up and feels something wet rushing down her back…realizes it’s gasoline and knocks the hose out of her coat, wondering why the hell gas is still shooting if the hose isn’t IN THE CAR…hose hits cold concrete and continues shooting everywhere…owner of coat reaches down to unlock hose while service station attendant comes running to assist terrified owner of now soaking-with-gasoline coat.

“What the?” the attendant yelled.

“I’m so sorry!” I stammered, knowing I shouldn’t have crawled under the hose.

“It should have turned off!” he said. “Are you okay?” he asked, looking me over.

“I’ve got a lot of gas on me,” I said, taking off my coat. “Why didn’t the hose unlock when it came out?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “but I’m getting some water.”

He went into the station and came back out with a large bucket of water. First, he rinsed my feet, then the side of my car. He used several more buckets of water to dilute the gas that had spilled all over the concrete.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” the attendant said.

“Me too,” I said. “I’d have that pump checked.”

“Definitely,” he said, and I believed him.

“Did you ever see that movie where the guys have the squirt-fight at the gas pump?” I asked, laughing at my own idiocy.

“Huh?” he said.

“It’s a bunch of guys…they’re not really very bright…they squirt each other with gasoline…”

“Can’t say I have,” the gas station attendant said.

“You’ve got to check it out,” I said, just wanting to go home. I was afraid that any little spark might blow me up. (The movie was ZOOLANDER, and here’s the scene I’d been referring to).

“Thanks again,” I said to the (clearly shaken) attendant. “I’m really sorry.”

“Not a problem,” he said, waving goodbye.

I got into the car and rolled down all the windows.

“What’s that smell?” my son asked, using his good arm to hold his nose.

“I spilled some gas on my coat,” I said.

“That's really dangerous...and now it’s really cold in here,” he said, rolling up his window.

“Honey, keep it down,” I said. “Just till we get home.” 

“Are we still stopping at Redbox for a video?” he asked.

Had he not been depressed all day about missing his soccer camp and drum lessons and all the other fun things two-armed eight-year-olds take for granted, I would have shouted, “Nate! I’m covered in gasoline. No time for videos!” Instead, because I’m the biggest sucker in the world, I made a hard right into the parking lot so he could pick out a video.

As we approached the entrance, several employees stood outside.

Smoking.

I had visions of someone flicking a butt toward me…igniting a mother in front of her child…you get the picture.

Well, I made it home alive with the video. My down coat and my shoes weren’t so lucky.  Still, the way I look at it, the outcome could have been far worse…

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