So it”s last Friday night, and we are all feeling happy. Everyone is in a costume or a pseudo-costume. The kid next to me is a wizard. The girl to my right is some kind of kinky devil. (Why do girls always have to wear trashy costumes? It”s like, “I”m Whore Snoopy! Who are you?”)
We had been playing quarters with some quality beast for awhile when Harry Potter suggests that we play the game “Ten Fingers.”
In case you are unfamiliar with this pinnacle of party boredom, here are the basic rules: Everyone sits in a circle, holding up ten fingers. Then they go around clockwise, naming things they haven”t done. If something is named that some people have done, they get to put a finger down. The last person with a finger up wins. Woo.
It can get pretty risqu, and it”s a sort of no-contact spin-the-bottle.
So we”re all like, “I”ve never been in a threesome,” and “I”ve never picked my nose.” Then my friend Jordon goes, “I”ve never pumped my own gas.”
What the hell? Everyone groans, knowingly. They all grudgingly lower a finger. But I”m so confused. How has he never pumped gas for his car?
So I ask him how old he is and if he has a car. Apparently he”s 21-years-old, and he owns a Chevy Cavalier.
But Jordon is from New Jersey. (I have never been to New Jersey.) And Jordon informs me that every gas station there is full service. (Read: The attendants pump it for you.)
“Don”t you feel like, left out?” I am not ready to drop this.
“Nope,” says Jordon. “In winter, it”s great to stay inside the car.”
And I consider his point.
But I don”t think that he”s right.
Because there”s something wonderful about being able to pump your own gas. I can remember the first time that I did it.
It was 1998. My parents bought me a Suzuki Sidekick for my 16th birthday (yes I”m spoiled.) Careful planning and a November birthdate had allowed me to duck the new, extended requirements: This psycho law was instated in Michigan just as it was my turn to take driver”s education. Now kids here can”t drive until they”re a bit older. (Read: “Mom, will you drop us off at the prom?”)
So I drove up to the Sunoco gas station by my house and, I”ll confess, it was a challenge not to hit the curb where the pumps are situated. But I put my vehicle in park. It took me like, an hour to figure out how to make the gas emerge from the tube, because I was too stupid to notice the sign reading “PUSH START BUTTON” and too embarrassed to ask for help. It was as awkward as the first time I visited Rite Aid to purchase tampons.
But when the unleaded was finally flowin” into my lil” Suzuki, I felt a huge sense of autonomy. It was almost a moral victory. I felt so competent.
And that was just the beginning.
Subsequently, I loved to get gas. Midnight gas station runs were an integral part of my adolescence. My friends would be in charge of the food and I would be in charge of actually procuring the fuel to get us to whatever concert or party we happened to go to that night. I would pay the clerk, “Ten dollars on pump 6, no. 7, well, the back one with the red SUV ”
Then we”d meet back at the car, breaking out red vines and Slurpees and this awesome fake cappuccino that puts most of the Ann Arbor bullshit to shame. It was tradition. Those were the freakin” days.
But the best part about being able to pump my own gas is the game.
You have to know about the game.
It starts when you pick a number, any number, of dollars to put into your tank. It has to be an integer. Popular amounts are $10, $20, $30 Then you let the pump go as fast as possible for as long as possible. When you think it”s close to the desired monetary amount, you click the handle off.
It reminds me of the Skill Claw. Please tell me that you”ve played Skill Claw.
There are even fun variations. Once I put the handle on the automatic level and went to the bathroom and still made it back to stop the pump at twenty dollars.
And different gas stations have different rates of flow. This means that you have to be able to gage whether or not Amoco is gonna take longer than Mobil.
At this point in my life, I consider my pumping skill to be extremely well-cultivated. I am no longer an over-guesser or a novice, so when the dude next to me hits $13.02, I am embarrassed for him.
How stupid do you feel going up to the clerk, saying, “Fifteen bucks and ah two cents on Pump 7? Please?” Whenever I make this mistake I feel compelled to take it to the nearest quarter.
So, when it comes down to it, being able to pump my own gas is a control issue. It”s a sign of independence.
Yeah. So Jordon kicked my ass in “10 fingers,” but at least I don”t live in New Jersey.
Sarah would love to read your thoughts on pumping gas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.