Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gas Pumps in Oregon

I had recently sent a link for Portland Trivia to a friend who lives far away from Oregon.
After reading through it she replied, "Portland really has no self service pumps? I think that would drive me crazy!"

Hm. Well, it drives me crazy, so I understand where she's coming from. I had a little time and so I sent her a little story about Oregon gas pumps. If you've ever received a personal email from me you've learned they tend to be lllllooonnnnnnnggg. (When in 9th grade I once wrote a letter so long it had to be sent in a shoebox. Thank God for computers and email and stuff. I type a lot faster than I write, and there's no hand cramps or tingly-asleep middle and ring finger when I type up 20 pages of nonsense. Now you see why my letters and emails tend to be long. I'm the Royal Queen of Off-Topic-Tangents-In-Parenthesis.)

So here's the story about Oregon gas pumps. If you didn't catch on with my friend's comment and you skipped reading the Portland Trivia, I'll start by letting everyone know that it is illegal to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon. You have to let the attendant or "pump jockey" do it for you.

Oh the gas pump thing was weird when we first moved here; I mean we had just driven in from MN and were about 70 miles into Oregon. We pulled up to a pump and Frank was in the drivers' seat. Keep in mind, he's deaf. So the pump jockey comes up to the window and asked how much gas we want. Frank wasn't sure what the guy wanted and looked at me for help. I told him the guy wants to know how much gas we want. Frank said, "That's ok, I'll do it." He probably thought, "How nice. They see we're from out of state and are being so friendly." Having been previously warned by my Dad, I said, "You can't. You have to let him do it." Frank said, "No really, I don't mind doing it." He was so surprised when I told him, "No, the guy has to do it for you. It's illegal for you to pump gas here."

We got gas again the next day in Salem, when we were getting to know the area and waiting for the moving truck to arrive. It was so weird pulling up and just sitting there waiting for someone to do something I'd been doing since I was 15. It's a little frustrating when I'm in a hurry and the pump jockey is taking their sweet time - or they're busy. Because they have to hire pump jockeys, there just aren't so many gas stations in Oregon. In MN and probably IL you have one on practically every corner. Here we have them on the main arterial roads in town and at truck stops .

Because of the lack of gas stations, it's not uncommon for me to frantically drive around on fumes, looking for a gas station. Downtown has none, I've learned, and the country road that runs along the entire eastern perimiter of town has none at all in the entire seven mile stretch of road. Ditto for the humongous shopping center near me where I go to Target, Lowe's, Kinkos, Michael's crafts, etc. The closest gas station to that big "money-sucking" shopping center is 4 miles away. The gas station nearest to my office here is 2.5 miles away. Thank God it's all downhill so I can coast to get gas when I'm low. I don't think I'll ever get used to not being able to find a gas station when I really need one. No, I don't fill up when I'm at half a tank. With my mileage (16 mpg, YUCK-o) I'd be going out of my way to find a gas station several times a week to fill up.

Meanwhile, we have drive-thru coffee huts all over the place. After the lack of gas stations finally hit me, I briefly wondered where people buy coffee when they're on the road or running errands. This is the Oregonian solution to no gas stations on every corner: competing coffee huts in opposite corners of the same parking lot. Makes sense. I'm still looking for the drive-thru map, pop, and junk food hut... And haven't seen a drive-thru potty hut anywhere, either.

Ok, so back to gas stations. Once you're here for a while I got used to it. I even laugh at tourists who get out of their cars at gas stations because I know they're going to get yelled at by the pump jockeys. Then I decide to run up to Vancouver, WA - or make any out of state trip. After stupidly sitting at the pump for 10 minutes I usually realize I have to get out of The Tank, ok my big red minivan, and pump my own. I'm sure Washingtonians laugh at me because I have to actually read the instructions on the computerized pump buttons to figure out how to turn it on. Then I grab the hose and turn to the gas cap. Oh. I didn't take the cap off first. I'll just hold the hose between my knees while I struggle to get the gas cap off. This is even more thrilling when there's a line behind me.

I can be very entertaining. I'm sure the locals have already placed bets amongst themselves in hopes I'll spray gas on my shoes or all over the side of my van as I try to fill up. In fact, they probably start their betting as they see my Oregonian plates pull up at the pump.
"$30 says she sits there for at least 5 minutes before getting out of the van."
"$20 says she wonders what's taking so long and she's going to look around to see where the pump jockey is."
"You're on."

We are shopping for a second vehicle. Our top priority is one with over 35mpg. My secret agenda includes finding one with the gas cap on the opposite side as the van. I figure that with better mileage I'll only be filling up twice a month (instead of a minimum of 5x per month! Add another fill up if we take the 80 mile round trip to Portland.) - with that in mind, there's a good chance I'll drive up to the wrong side of the pump every time. Entertaining for the Oregon pump jockeys, yes.

Highly profitable for the Washington gas station attendants who already have wagers placed on my stupidity at the pump.
Anything I can do to help, you know?

Besides, this would give a little glimmer of happiness at the Costco pumps for the 20 drivers who've been idling behind me in line for the past 35 minutes as the two pump jockeys run back and forth between the 6 gas pump bays.

"Oh look," they'd say about me. "That idiot pulled up on the wrong side. She's going to have to pull out and get back in a different line."
(Yep, that's right, 6 gas pump bays x 4 cars per bay = 24 cars can fill up at once. Divide that by two worn-out and cranky pump jockeys...)
Filling up at Costco would be an all-afternoon event. We could pack a lunch and bring the whole family.

My greatest fear is that I'll live here long a long time and my ventures outside the state will dwindle. Could I get to the point where I'm so used to having someone pump gas for me that I'll either drive all over creation looking for a full-serve pump or I'll sit in my car at the pump and stubbornly wait a half an hour for someone to do it for me.

Nah, I really don't see that happening. I think I just need to make regular road trips to get gas out of state, just to keep in practice.

...if only I could afford the gas to get there...

Be sure to check Pam's Inbox for today's giggle:
Pam's Inbox

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