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Oregon, It’s Time to Pump Your Own Gas

Let this Jersey boy teach you how

New year, new laws: 2018 has ushered in changes to states’ legislation on everything from police conduct and voter ID to divorce and marijuana. For the most part, it seems we’re adapting just fine — except in Oregon, where citizens are throwing a major shit-fit over House Bill 2482, which partially lifts a ban on self-service at gasoline pumps.

In short, Oregonians really don’t want to get out of their cars to fill the tank. (Many of the incensed commenters who reacted to a local CBS affiliate’s Facebook poll on the matter, didn’t seem to realize the provision only applies to sparsely populated counties—and is in no way mandatory.) And so, folks from across the rest of this pump-savvy nation piled on with the ridicule, with some singling out furious Baby Boomers as “snowflakes.”

But you know what? I’m not going to dunk on these fine Americans, who are surely capable in other areas, like kayaking or butchering deer. Truth be told, I sympathize — because I’m from the only state that enforces a total ban on self-service at gas stations: New Jersey. For the teenage part of my motorist career, I had to interact with grown men in stained coveralls if I wanted the $5 worth of regular unleaded necessary to drive myself and my girlfriend up to the woods to fool around, and they judged me every time. It probably didn’t help that I was in a hideous red Ford minivan.

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Yes, I well remember that first time stopping for gas on the way to college in rural western Massachusetts. Pulling in, I had no idea my world was about to crumble. But as I sat there with a $20 bill in hand, the minutes ticking by and no attendant in sight, some strange fear rose in my throat. It wasn’t until I saw another customer pumping their own gas that I understood I’d been pampered back home — that here I would have to face the task of refueling all alone. And guess what? I did. I pumped, I drove, I lived. Fifteen years later, I can’t change a tire, but I can help you conquer your nozzle-phobia.

First of all, you’ll want to figure out which side of your car the gas tank is on. I’m assuming you already have some idea where it is, since not even a full-service stations have extra-length hoses for people who park the wrong way, but just in case, there’s an indicator arrow on your dashboard. (I didn’t know this until recently, which caused me to look like a bigger idiot than usual on Twitter. See, we’re all learning! No shame.)

Remember to kill the ignition when you’re ready to start pumping. I have no idea what would happen if you pumped with the engine running, but I’m picturing the scene from that gas station security video where a guy tried to light a spider on fire. Seriously, though, it’s illegal, and one time Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer burned himself and destroyed his Ferrari by fueling up while idling — and at a full-service station, no less!

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I’m a little trigger-happy with the remote locking once I get out of the car, but did you know this also locks the gas cap cover? It does on my car, anyway. What I’m saying is, if you drive a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta and hit the “lock” button on your keys before popping the cover, you will end up struggling to open the cover for a few seconds. Odds are nobody else will notice; on the other hand, someone might take a video and post it to Instagram with a bunch of laugh-crying emojis, so you can’t be too careful. Next, unscrew the gas cap and place it somewhere you can easily find it later. You’ll be tempted to take a whiff of the tank to confirm it smells like gasoline. Trust me, it does.

Scope out the digital screen next to the pump. Is it so bleached by the sun that you can barely read the grayscale pixels meant to guide you through the payment process? That’s normal. Just treat it like you would a sticky, semi-functional ATM in an off-brand convenience store and give it as much personal financial information as it wants. Then you can pick up the nozzle and push the big button associated with the cheapest gas. The other buttons, as far as I can tell, are simply for show, to placate rich people.

Gas Station Cars GIF by University of California - Find & Share on GIPHY

As with sex, you should be able to tell when the nozzle fits correctly in the fuel pipe. (Virgins should never pump gas without supervision from someone cooler.) Once you’ve got it nice and snug, you can squeeze the handle to start the gas flowing. Instead of whining about having to hold that grip, look for a little metal flap in the handle that can be positioned to keep the trigger on while you use both hands to send a mass text to your entire contact list about how you’re a gas-pumping expert now. When your tank is full, the nozzle will shut off automatically. Try not to drive off with it still attached, please.

And that’s it! In theory you could have cleaned your windshield or checked your oil, but then your mechanic would have nothing to shame you for next time you stop by to have them investigate a weird clunking noise. Soon self-service will feel as natural as plugging in your laptop or eating 20 chicken McNuggets when you’re hungover. You’ll be free to drive wherever, even across the state line and into… Idaho?

Well, it’s something.