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Monday, January 2, 2012

Nothing about fill-ups is a gas, gas, gas

If you’re anything like me, at some point in the next three or four days you will spend about 10 minutes standing around outside as forlorn as a smoker without a butt.


Of course, you have a butt and you’ll be freezing it off.


You’ll be pumping gas, one of mankind’s most dreary and depressing tasks.


I’m surprised there aren’t more complaints about how time-consuming and inefficient it is.


Let’s set aside for now the arguments about the wastefulness of fossil fuels and their contributions to global warming and other earth-killing pollutants. For as Archie Bunker says, “Ah, what’s the point of fixing something I’m already used to.”


I’m talking about the tedious process of filling our tanks.


My ’07 Saturn Vue gets about 21 mpg; 280 miles on a 13-gallon tank. That’s about $40 a week.


Not bad.


It’s not fuel consumption that agitates. It’s time.


Why hasn’t someone designed a car with a hot-tub sized fuel tank that will allow me to fill up just once every six months?


At current prices, one fill up would cost $840, which I’d gladly pay because it would free up at least 3.5 hours of time.


An unattended fill-up would take long enough to allow you to shop, get a hair cut or play nine holes of golf. Or you could go to the bar and get gassed while your car did.


Pumping gas is the biggest black hole of time with which modern man must deal, other than self-inflicted wounds like facebook, reading blogs or, egads, composing them.


Pumping gas wouldn’t be bad if we actually pumped gas.


But no one pumps gas. We just stand around out there in the cold. We open the lid, unscrew the cap, remove the nozzle from its holster and give the grimy trigger a squeeze.


Then we’re all bound to just stand there for the next five or six minutes hunched or erect while the tank slowly fills.


I’d appreciate it if an innovative chain or station added a feature that allowed us to aerobically pump the gas from the ground into our vehicles.


Think of the benefits. It would be like a super-charged work-out on one of those old hand-powered rail cars.


You could probably burn off as much as 1,000 calories per fill-up, which would let you feel less guilty about purchasing and consuming some of the nutritionally desolate crap they sell inside the convenience marts where we all get gas.


When I say it takes five minutes to pump gas, that’s conservative.


If, like me, you live in a small town where everyone goes to the same two or three places to get gas, you’re hit with a conversational time tax.


I like everyone I’ve ever met, but some of them I like better from afar.


Those are the ones I invariably run into when paying for gas.


If it’s someone I see on the bar circuit, we can dispense with the greeting with friendly gorilla-like grunts, my preferred form of communication.


But it could be anyone. It could be someone from church, my kid’s teacher, my insurance guy or one of the friendly old blue hairs I see up the grocery store.


Now, truth be told, I’m not high up on the list of people they want to run into either. In winter, I rarely bother to shave, over-apply deodorant or give the appearance I’m going someplace that doesn’t stink.


But this is Mister Rogers Neighborhood. The late Fred Rogers was born here and modeled his iconic show after Latrobe. We have a civic duty to be neighborly -- even if it kills us.


So we could stand there next to the stale chips for as long as 10 minutes exchanging awkward pleasantries that never trouble people residing in regions renown for rudeness.


Yes, of course, I hope for a green breakthrough that will allow our cars to charge in sunshine or while we slept.


But barring that, I can only hope one day some genius invents a petrol pill we can pop in the tank that will expand to capacity with a five-second splash of gasoline.


Such an innovation would leave me, er, thrilled? Jazzed?


Geez, what’s the word I’m looking for?


Pumped?



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