Trickle-Down Pumpanomics


    I believe myself to be a reasonable man. I can roll with a few punches. I can be downright accommodating at times. Knowing that my daughter is most likely proofreading this writing, I will thank her to NOT scoff at that previous statement with very audible “HAH!”



    In spite of being reasonable and accommodating (with my wife in kids now singing “HAH!” in multi-part harmony), there are some things that DO rather irritate me. In this writing, I am going to focus on a location that has provided me with a great source of irritation recently — the gas pump.

I realize that the gas pump provides several different irritations for many people. Given this, I feel that I need to disclaim some things. I am not here to lament our country’s dependence upon a supply of foreign oil. I am not here to bemoan the effects of fossil fuels on the trans-continental snow squirrel. I am not even here to the demise of free roadmaps and cartoon character drinking glass giveaways. These are all very valid reasons to be irritated. However, this is not my purpose here.



    Please, allow me to provide a bit of background here. When I was a young teen, there were a lot of things going on in our country. The country was changing Presidents, enduring a nationwide heat wave, and going through a deep economic recession. This had a huge collateral effect at the gas pump. In less than two years, gasoline prices had nearly doubled. Self service pumps were becoming more and more the norm. This required people to do more creative budgeting with their travel expenses. This also required people to show some finesse at the gas pump. Every penny counted. If you only had $5 in cash, you had to be sure you had to stop pumping right at the $5 mark. Most people would get within 5 or 10 cents of the intended amount and pump one cent at a time until they got the amount they wanted. I became very good at this. I pumped gas for my parents. I pumped gas for my friend’s parents. I was even considering going on a seminar tour on the art of pumping gas.



    However, as gas prices continued to rise, another process came into place — pre-payment for gasoline. You would go inside and tell the cashier you were pumping X number of dollars from pump Y. As you got closer to the pre-paid amount, the pump would automatically slow down and then stop once the pre-paid amount was reached. This usually occurred when you got to within 8 – 10 cent of the pre-paid amount.

Now, we are getting to the true source of my irritation (and a pox on those of you that just said “FINALLY!”) More than 25 years have passed since the gas shortage I mentioned previously. The gasoline prices have continued to rise with the rate of inflation. However, I have begun to notice that as gas prices has risen, the pump begins automatically slowing down sooner and sooner. No longer does it happen within the 8 – 10 cent range. We have long since bypassed that and even left the 50 – 60 cent range to be a distant memory.

One morning this past week, I had left my house much earlier than usual. This was due to the fact that the wonderful city in which I live had experienced its first major lake effect snow of the year and it was also quite bitterly cold. There was already indication on the morning news this had a very bad effect on morning traffic. So there I was, at the gas pump once again. I had dutifully pre-paid my desired amount. I was filling the tank so I knew this was not exactly going to be a 30 second process. I did my best to grin and bear it as the pump chugged along. Suddenly, the pump came to a snail’s pace and hummed along one cent at a time EIGHTY-FIVE CENTS AWAY FROM THE FINAL AMOUNT. REALLY?!! EIGHTY-FIVE CENTS?!! Now, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to be able to finish pumping this gas before supper time or if I should invest in some sled dogs and pick my car up at the end of the day. I figured the pump MIGHT be done by then. I finally finished the process, capped up my gas tank and drove away.



    As I made my way to work, I could envision my family and friends in much warmer climates stating that my irritation was probably made worse by the winter weather. I thought that this was ridiculous. I would have been just as irritated if I had been pumping gas at 9 o’ clock at night in July with 90 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity. The traffic guy on the radio quickly rebuffed that theory when he uttered the words: “Allow extra time for travel”. I DID ALLOW EXTRA TIME FOR TRAVEL. OF COURSE, THAT WAS BEFORE I WAS TO THE GAS PUMPETERIA AND THEY DECIDED TO TEST THE TRICKLE-DOWN THEORY ON MY GAS TANK EIGHTY-FIVE CENTS AWAY FROM THE FINAL AMOUNT! I then decided to stop shouting at the radio. The traffic guy was just doing his job after all. I even decided not to scream at the guy who suddenly cut in front of me on I-390. I instead enjoyed a fit of uncontrollable laughter as the aforementioned driver and I were BOTH caught in a barely moving bottleneck of traffic. Like I said, I can roll with the punches.

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