Trivial Grumbles #3: The Gas Pump Terminator

October 2, 2007

Although I drive a small, economy car and ride a ferry, I still use a lot of gasoline. Fortunately, gasoline is a renewable resource. As I write, dinosaurs and ferns are dying in Brazil and Congo, decomposing into new pools of gasoline.

In any case, I frequently have to stop to refill my little gasoline tank.

There are two Shell stations I use frequently, not because I have I have any particular affections for Shells over Arcos or Chevrons or BritoPets or similar wild predators, but because they are conveniently located for making a right turn, one inbound after I leave the ferry and one outbound before I board the ferry. I will refer to the outbound service station as station #2. Station #2 inspires Grumble #3.

Each provides self service gas pumps. I insert my debit card; the display says, “REMOVE CARD RAPIDLY.” At Station #1 the display then asks for my date of birth, my mother’s maiden name, my zip code, my place of birth, and a few other similar whimsical pieces of information and then happily sprays dead dinosaur juice into my car’s gas tank.

From time to time, I stop at other gas stations; they all speak the language known as “I happily take money from your checking account.”

Except at Station #2. For some reason, it frequently says, “I can’t read your #@$* card, loser, go kiss the attendant’s feet inside.”

I curse the machine back and play the stupidity chords. (Like my wife, I do jazz riffs. However, her themes are on irritating objects and events of everyday life. Mine are on the theme of How Stupid Can a Person Who Passes as an Adult Possibly Be?)

I go inside and approach the clerk. Most of the clerks in this large chain store are pleasant and helpful. In general I try to be pleasant and considerate to people who serve me in retail establishments. Unfortunately, I sometimes succumb to the urge to tell them stupid jokes, which probably qualifies as a war crime.

However, in this case, I snarled surlily and sarcastically (not to mention alliteratively)–which probably qualifies me for immediate execution without bothering with a trial–about the card reader objecting to my card, to the agreeable and imperturbable attendant. Ignoring my bad attitude, the clerk instructed me to indicate how much I wanted to pay and enter my debit card number at the card reader at the terminal inside the store. I wondered (quite stupidly) How would I know how much it will cost to fill my tank? and guessed a number I thought would not be too much and then tried to fill my tank with exactly that amount.

After about five episodes, one of the clerks kindly explained that I could enter an amount over the maximum I needed, because only the amount I actually needed would be charged, and the terminal would print a second receipt, for the actual amount. Duh. Or Doh. As the case may be.

Then one of the clerks explained that I should try withdrawing my card slowly when the display tells me to withdraw it quickly.

Experimentation indicated that my success rate went from about 30% to about 60%. (Highly subjective and inaccurate record-keeping, in case you’re wondering.)

I am now wondering:

Why do all the card readers in a large county seem to work fine except for this one gas station?

Why would a card reader display say, “Remove card rapidly,” when it wants me to remove it slowly? This sounds like a very bad and very sexist joke.

This is a very large and very busy gas station. Thousands of people a day must go through there. Why aren’t there thousands of blog messages about it?

Am I, like my wife, from another planet because only I notice and blog about such things? Are my wife and I from the same planet? If we are from different planets, that would explain the incompatibility, but how were we able to reproduce and create an offspring?

Would my daughter be irritated and displeased with me if I ask her what it’s like be mutant?

For that matter, if she’s a half-breed mutant, how were she and her partner able to reproduce?

Though I admit Random Granddaughter is rather strange, herself. For example, the above train of thought may explain her peculiar eating habits, not to mention her peculiar table manners. Though on the other hand, the fact that she is three years old may explain a lot. Though on another hand (we aliens have several), perhaps all three- year-old children in our society are aliens.

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11 Responses to “Trivial Grumbles #3: The Gas Pump Terminator”

  1. Cameron Says:

    You always manage to make me laugh at loud, Random. I’m pretty sure the cat thinks I’m crazy…

  2. renaissanceguy Says:

    You made me literally burst into laughter with this bit: “Why would a card reader display say, ‘Remove card rapidly,’ when it wants me to remove it slowly? This sounds like a very bad and very sexist joke.”

    I’m glad that I wasn’t drinking coffee or eating zucchini.

    By the way, this is probably my favorite post of yours to date. It’s brilliant.

  3. modestypress Says:

    To Cameron’s cat,

    Yes, your pet human is crazy. However, you are not supposed to reveal this information to humans. They tend not to take such revelations well, and may neglect their duties to you (feeding, petting, opening door, etc.)

    To Ren guy,

    Thank you for feeding the vanity press monster. However, you are on the edge. If you flatter Random too much, the VPM monster bites instead of purring.

  4. vroni1208 Says:

    That happens to me often. So much so that I dread driving anywhere to avoid having to put gas in my car. My card works everywhere else! But when I go to the station that has cheaper gas (or dinosaur juice, as it were), it fails to work. So I’m forced to go to the station that charges 20 cents more! It’s a conspiracy!!!

    But, I digress.


  5. Mr. R — Don’t you miss living in Oregon, where you can’t be responsible for your own gas, and a nice overworked sweaty member of the proletariat takes your money or runs your card for you?

    It’s like having filling station courtesans.

  6. modestypress Says:

    Yes, David, I rather do, especially a garage/gas station known as “Handy Andy’s” on Multnomah Blvd, run by a grumpy and absolutely ethical and competent mechanic who always treated me kindly and my various sad cars gently. (Unsolicited plug. If you live in Portland, stop by and buy some gas at Andy’s, but don’t tell him that Random Sent you. Put into the random acts of kindness category.)

    Also, see my next post, which will be one of the most boring and time-wasting posts in the history of blogging, and touches upon the topic of pumping one’s own gas in Portland among various other ennui-generating and tedious topics.

  7. trured73 Says:

    My computer monitor is now covered in diet soda! I needed this laugh today. I refuse to use a debit card. In fact, if I don’t have cash, I don’t buy anything…hence the reason I rely on my husband to get gas. I know, sexist, but quite nice for me.

  8. modestypress Says:

    There is an old joke about the guy who asks every half way presentable woman he meets, “Will you go to bed with me?” When quizzed by an acquaintance why he uses such an unlikely and unpromising route to seduction, he replies, “A success rate of one out of a hundred isn’t so bad.”

    By the same token, after presenting an item at retail establishements, I often say something along the lines of, “I suppose you expect me to pay you something now, don’t you. I keep hoping one day I will walk up to a cashier and they will say to me, ‘You look like such a wonderful person, I will give you some money.'”

    This is an alternative to using a debit card. I think it might be called the “debit personality,” or something along those lines.

    Also, soon we will be offering at stores such as Office Depot, Staples, and Office Max, spray dispensers of the “Soda Pop Monitor Cleaner.”

  9. heathenly Says:

    All very good questions. Except for the statements, which were all very good stations.

  10. heathenly Says:

    Statements, not stations. I plead… stupidity?


  11. […] 20, 2008 A while back I wrote a post about an adventure at a Shell gas station. I often stop at this station on my way home. The card readers asked me to remove my card quickly. […]


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