Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Burn, Baby, Burn

Danger, Will Robinson!

I was going to entitle this entry "Phobia," but a phobia is an unreasonable fear ungrounded in reality. This not about a phobia, but a combination of confession and plea.

For many years I've been honing habits grounded in a longstanding fear of gas stations. I admit I hate going to fill up. This is because I don't know how long it's going to take me to find a safe place. It might be the first station I try, but it might take as many as three or four tries, and that, my friends, is time consuming. It's a simple errand that could throw off my whole errand schedule if I hit it wrong.

Gas stations are terrifying because people are DUMB, DUMB, DUMB! And they do not read. Or are illiterate to begin with. So instead of noticing the signs loudly screaming from every pump NO SMOKING!!!, they get out of the car with lit cigarettes and puff nonchalantly while filling up. Or you see them over by the cashier kiosk taking a smoking break before going on to their next destination. I have even seen perpetrators dressed in the uniform of the convenience store smoking in front of their own store. What is fucking WRONG WITH YOU, people???? This practice is nothing but purenteed lethal! I always scope out others before driving in to a pump bay. I ogled you, and I'm not going there. On to station #2.

Okay. Perhaps at the second station I visit, I do not detect any nicotine-addicted, suicidal assholes. But see that ditzy woman over there? She's just answered her spark-inducing cell phone while standing at the pump. Wrong! Sorry. It's just that I'm not willing to endanger my kids or myself or even hang around with morbid curiosity watching everyone else get blown up, so I'm going on to the next station, y'all. The cell phone people can't read either. It's substantially pathetic, considering that at most gas stations the warnings are posted in both words and pictograms, the latter in case you are illiterate or are not a native speaker of English.

I've seen the two above violations so many times it makes me faint. Since I usually carry a digital camera, I could have recorded it ad nauseam and posted a host of pics here. But, the camera is battery-driven and, heh, heh, I'd hate to cause a spark when I snap it. On to station #3.

Station #3 is the kicker. You see, it's more of a weather-condition thing, and it's undetectable by eagle-eye observation. Apparently, many fires have started at gas stations because of sparks generated by static electricity. Dry weather is bad news. (It doesn't help to be wearing fleece, either.) The driver gets out, doesn't touch the metal car first to discharge the static, starts the pump, and while the pump is on, goes to open the car door again. It's easy to imagine many reasons why this would happen. Reportedly, women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to fall prey to this trap. They are more likely to need to get back in the car: their purses are in the car and they forgot the credit card or cash; they have little kids strapped into car seats who are beating each other up and need to be disciplined; someone is trying to talk to them from inside the car and they can't hear what the person is saying, so they open the door again; they thought they'd take this moment to reach back in for a sip of the Starbuck's in the cup-holder--the list could go on and on. And I can't recall ever seeing warnings about this, although I'm sure they exist.

You see, without discharging the static by touching the car BEFORE starting the pump, the driver sets off the deadly static spark when she reaches to get back into the car. Pleeeeeaaase, folks, remember to be prepared! I, myself am lucky, because my kids and I saw a news segment about this together, and they are so freaked out about it that they always remind me. Actually, they beg me before I get out of the car. Their reminders got me in the habit. It's almost like a superstition, such as automatically not opening umbrellas in the house, or automatically not stepping on a line or a crack. Actually, I should be using positive superstitions, such as automatically knocking on wood. Automatically touch the car.

Ah, here's scenario #4. Suppose I know it's a dead-dry windy winter day. (I'm taking risks on this one, but as I said before, with this one you can never tell). There! I see her! She gets out of the car with a cig hanging out of her mouth. Her kids are screaming in the back of the car, and suddenly I hear her cell phone ring. She's reaching for the door handle . . . beam me up, Scotty!

All right, already, why is this writer so all-fired paranoid about sighting such events? No, no, Dear Reader, I'm not only afraid of witnessing them. I'm even afraid to think about them. I have earned the right to my zeal, because I have second-hand experience of what really, truly can happen. When I was in high school, I briefly dated a guy from a big family whose elder brother was a basketball star. Said brother worked part-time after school at the gas station on the corner half a block away from the school. One afternoon, someone in or near the office lit up. Not just a cigarette, but the whole friggin gas station. Hellfire. The entire corner blew sky high. Everyone working there or visiting the pumps was killed, including my erstwhile date's brother. The corner was a clean sweep; nothing left but a charred crater. Some of life's traumas are insurmountable.

So yes, maybe my entire insignificant errand schedule will get off-kilter and I'll fail to get everything done. I may get annoyed. But I will always take the more tedious route than take a chance; it's better to be incomplete than DEAD.


At 6/06/2005 6:08 AM, Blogger Tuesday said...

Statistically, surely, at our age we are more likely to die of a heart attack WHILE pumping gas than to die in a gas station inferno.

OR to die in a traffic accident on the way to a gas station.

OR to be run down by a clown on the way to fill-up.


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