Filling up is definitely not a gas

Around the middle of January is where I take stock of all the things I expected others to change throughout last year, a sort of New Year’s Festivus. These are not necessarily things I’ve discussed with them. They’re the kinds of things they should already know have been bothering me and should have been part of their own New Year’s resolutions more than a year ago. The extra few weeks in January are sort of a grace period.

I continue to be irritated by gas pump technology, which hasn’t come a long way from the devices that could only be operated by a designated pump jockey in company uniform.

Here are several benchmarks where I want to see improvement:

Gas pumps have been available in Canada’s frozen north for quite some time. So why do the liquid crystal displays of the pumps still freeze up on cold days so that there’s a five-second lag between what I do and what I see on the little screen? I’m feeling cold enough already without watching the rime-crusted display slowly flipping over numbers like they’re struggling through Jell-O.

Many gasoline pump displays feature a tiny monochrome display board that looks like a Casio digital watch circa 1985. I’d rather watch a colourful Pac-Man bouncing around the screen, chasing Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde as the numbers escalate. Maybe some artful jiggling of the pump could influence the game or cut a dollar off my gas bill if I eat the right piece of fruit. Pumping in a little extra gas could continue the game.

The little notice that says the gas station may explode if you don’t turn off your cellphone: Remember that gas station that exploded because the guy was yakking on his iPhone? Neither do I.

If the pump card reader fails to function as it should, the gas pump displays a message: “Please see attendant.” The tone of this message reminds me of an elementary school note at the bottom of a bad test: “Please see me after class.” In most cases, the attendant is too busy shooing coffee kiosk customers out of the gas lanes to want to be seen. If the original message on the pump said: “Card not read” and you do make your way up to the attendant, he or she will dutifully explain: “Sir, the machine could not read your card.”

When paying at the pump by debit card, the pump message says “Pump authorized.” Authorized to do what? I want it to begin spewing liquid gold the moment I see that message, not 10 seconds and a hundred futile clickety-clicks of the pump trigger later.

When using the debit card, the pump asks me whether I want to start the bidding at $100. Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t give the pump permission to do that. There’s always the fear that, somehow, the unused portion of fuel will find itself on my tab and I’ll be drawn into a long “dispute resolution mechanism” so I can learn more about “company policy.”

Say I tell the pump I want a limit of just $40. As the pump nears that limit, it slows down to a bare crawl. I imagine a dopey pump carrying on a conversation with the oil company CEO. The background music — Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

“$39.12. Uh … Don’t worry, boss. I see it coming, boss. I will not overshoot my mark, boss … $39.42 … because … duh … $39.57 … every extra penny I put in that guy’s tank is like stealing from the company and … $39.69 … I see it comin’ … and … control yerself, control … $39.88 … aw, crap, I’m goin’ too fast, slow down … slow down … SLOW DOWN!!!!!!!!!! Here’s a drip … and a drip … and a drip … and a drop … $39.98 … and another little drop and … $40. Right on the money! I knew I could, I knew I could. I am a good boy!” (I’m not sure there are any female pumps.)

My mother always told me I shouldn’t offer criticism without saying something nice as well.

Each year, the pumps seem to pump gasoline with greater and greater efficiency. When I pumped $50 worth of gas into my tank 10 years ago, it seemed to take forever. Today, it takes about 12 seconds.

Then, again, if I tried to pump $50 of gas into my tank 10 years ago, the tank would have overflowed.

Old gas pumps don’t ask for credit cards, they just pump gas.
Photograph by: Daryl Mitchell, Wikimedia Commons