“Thanks, Boss! Have a good day.”
The voice startled me out of my early morning haze as I sat shivering in my car, window down, waiting to start the engine. I accepted the bank card and receipt from the hand thrusting through my window with a quick “thanks, you too!”, started the engine and drove away.
Like most folks living in New Jersey, I complete this scene hundreds of times a year with almost no thought – until someone comes to visit and, inevitably, asks the question.
“Why can’t you pump your own gas here?”
That’s right! New Jersey is one of only two states which prohibits you, by law, from pumping your own gasoline. We share this noble distinction with Oregon, where state legislators agreed with those in New Jersey (oh, sometime back in the 1940’s or early 1950’s) that pumping gas was too dangerous for untrained, unskilled automobile owners, like you!
Now there are those folks who maintain that we should fight for the right to pump our own gas. Their arguments usually, but not always, hold forth the claim that it would make gas less expensive. Except, New Jersey already has some of the lowest prices in the country. Then, there are those who say it would be “more convenient” to pump your own gas, though I am hard pressed to agree on days when rain is coming down in buckets that I am somehow “inconvenienced” sitting there in my warm, dry car while a soaked and shivering 18 year old pumps my gas.
Proponents point to the fact, with justification, that law creates hundreds or maybe thousands of much needed jobs. For certain, it has created a small cottage industry or, perhaps better described, an interesting cultural identity that finds expression in clothing and bumper stickers proclaiming some version of “Jersey girls don’t pump gas!”
When I moved to New Jersey, oh, about 25 years ago or so, I would often forget about this prohibition. Much to the chagrin of some attendants, I would jump out of the car, seize the nozzle, and start fumbling with the controls. Most really didn’t mind, but there were those few who took exception with my flaunting of the law and would ask me to return to my vehicle.
Now, I have to be reminded to get out and pump gas when we are traveling out of state. I remember asking my kids, when they were old enough to drive and were leaving the state, not if they had road maps but if they knew how to pump gas! Careful out there among the “self service folk”. Call if you forget where the nozzle goes!
You’re in New Jersey now – and we don’t pump gas!