I’ll admit, there are times I can be a curmudgeon. There are other times, and I blame my genes for this, that I can go from being perfectly calm to going straight through the roof in short order. Driving contributes to this frustration, setting the floor a bit above normal — driving with Swift men can be an annoying experience.
Earlier today, I was talking with my friend Brian about stupid state and local laws we don’t like. Yes, this is seriously what I do for fun. New Jersey’s gas pumping law came up, and a vivid memory came back to me.
Rewind a few years to when I was a recently minted college graduate. My cousin’s employer, Johnson & Johnson, was having a sort of employer fair at their headquarters in New Jersey. (When I got there, it turned out to be a rehashing of “how not to shoot yourself in the foot during a job interview” — not actual people looking to hire.)
I drove from Cleveland to New Jersey and checked into my hotel. I went to the event, made a few friends, and left not having really learned anything new. I was low on gas.
I pulled off the highway — New Jersey’s highways are great by the way — and pulled into the gas station. I got out, put my card in, and started pumping gas.
It’s been a few years, but here’s how I remember that confrontation:
A guy come out from the side of the building, where the stinky bathrooms that reek of rancid piss are, and looked at me with a glare you’d think would be reserved for somebody who actually was, you know, doing something wrong.
Demanding in one of those comical Jersey accents (he may have been Snooki’s father) he asked “Now what do you think you are doing?”
“Just pumping my gas.” I said.
“You can’t do that,” he said, “I have to do that.”
I replied “I am not paying you to pump my gas. But thanks, though.”
“New Jersey law requires me to pump your gas.”
“That’s stupid, I was raised perfectly capable of pumping gas, and I don’t have any cash to pay you to pump my gas.”
“You don’t have to pay me, I just have to pump your gas.”
“So, I have to pay a higher price to pay for employees to come and pump my gas? That’s stupid.”
I relinquished control of the pump to him. The glare persisted. We both stood there awkwardly until the pump went click. He removed it, looked over at me, and said “Have a nice day.”
I fumed all the way back to Missouri. What a dumb law.
There’s a special place in hell for politicians who continue to keep these absurd laws on the books.
It’s called New Jersey.