New Jersey drivers have to put up with a rather long list of horribles, among which are: blizzards, hurricanes, ice storms, toll booths, morning traffic jams, evening traffic jams, summer weekend traffic jams that can turn a 60 mile trip into something resembling a five-hour root canal, certain highways obviously designed by homicidal madmen (e.g. Route 280), New York drivers who never learn to stay to the right, Pennsylvania drivers who can’t figure out how to make a left turn, and other New Jersey drivers who are about as courteous as a wounded boar.
However, we do have one small blessing, for which I am eternally grateful. We don’t pump our own gas. In fact, thanks largely to the efforts of the New Jersey Gasoline Retailers Association, the law prevents us from doing so. (New Jersey Administrative Code Section 12:196). Once in a while the folks in Trenton get it right.
As such, we can buy gas in the rain without getting wet, we can fill up in a snow storm without getting cold, and we can stop for gas dressed in our best clothes, knowing that we wont have to get dirty or try to keep our hands from smelling like gasoline. It’s wonderful.
There is, however, a downside. When we travel to other states and have to buy gas, we are generally clueless. Perhaps the estimated 20,000 Jersey people who work at gas stations know how to operate a gas pump, but for the rest of us buying gas outside of New Jersey is, at best, a most unpleasant adventure.
First of all, no one has to look at the license plates on the car to know that we are from Jersey. They can recognize us instantly as those helpless knuckleheads actually reading the instructions on the pump. Once we finally figure out how to get the damned thing to work, we wander around a bit trying to figure out how to pay for the gas. You mean that I actually have to leave the car alone and unlocked, and go inside to pay for gas? Leaving one’s car unattended and unlocked in Jersey (the car-theft capital of the nation) is never a good idea.
Last June, I was in Colorado, and I stopped to buy gas for my rental car. After finally figuring out how to turn the pump on and then fumbling around with the nozzle, someone called to me from the other side of the gas station, “Hey, where in Jersey are you from?” Mind you, the rental car bore Colorado plates. I naively asked how he knew I was from Jersey. He responded, “Are you kidding?” I must have been about as conspicuous as a turd in a punchbowl. It turned out that he was originally from the Garden State, but had spent ten years living in Colorado, which presumably is a sufficient amount of time to learn how to operate a gas pump.
While you folks from the 48 states where you have to pump your own gas (Oregon is the only other state that prohibits self-service gasoline stations) may laugh at us as we wrestle with an uncooperative gas pump, that’s OK. We’ll think of you when we get back to Jersey and buy gas in the pouring rain.
Oh, and if you ever find your self in New Jersey and in need of gas, sit tight. Don’t even think about touching that pump. We fine people for that around here.