A Self-Inflicted Adventure

From: Chris Reuter
Subject: Re: how pathetic am i?
Organization: Zygon Invasion Force Advance Scouts

In article <aXZU7.105043$KT.26091204@news4.rdc1.on.home.com>,
I wrote:
[...]
>Oh yeah, and also, it's important to remember that the best adventures
>all happen to someone else.

Oh, and speaking of adventures, here's the story of one that I wrote a
while back, not quite done, and then forgot about.  I just stumbled on
it now so I finished it because it's probably my last chance to up
this year's total posts.

You'll probably enjoy it--it didn't happen to you.


===========================================================================


    I suppose I should begin this screed with the following
disclaimer: I am not normally this stupid.
    It's just that my life has been rather uneventful as of late (at
least in ways I feel comfortable discussing on a public newsgroup) and
so everything I do that is out of the ordinary tends to be a result of
somebody--usually me--screwing up royally.  And if every time I post
something, it's about me screwing up, that tends to put out a badly
biased picture of my life.
    However, the froup's been way too quiet lately, and nothing much
has happened to me aside from this, and it appears to be pretty funny
when it isn't actually happening to you, so I'll regale you all
with:





              A Self-Inflicted Adventure
              ==========================

    
    This is the story of how I learned that the diameter of the nozzle
on a gas pump in Canada is in fact standardised.  Those of you who got
that probably already know how this story is going to go.  You may hit
'n' (or space, or the "Next Article" button) now if you wish but
you'll miss the part about my avoiding a fiery death.
    Anyway, I was going home to visit my parents.  As they live in
Burlington, Ontario and I live in Waterloo, Ontario, this was not a
long journey.  Unfortunately, bus service between Waterloo and
Hamilton (the major city in between) sucks dead goats through a glass
pipette.  The journey used to involve a long and tortuous bus trip.
However, a few months back, I bought my first non-sucking car and so
the trip is reduced to about an hour's drive.
    Now, those of you living in Ontario probably already know about
gas prices, but for the benefit of those of you who don't, let me
explain: The oil companies are giant, benevolent entities whose first
priority is to preserve the environment.  As such, they jack up gas
prices on the weekends to punish those folks who chose to drive SUVs
and other petroleum vampires.  Now, I'm all for this practice, since I
drive a Civic[1] and use about a tank a week.  However, that previous
Wednesday, I'd forgotten to top up my tank and I was a bit low.  Plus,
I'm a cheap bastard--probably the product of my German heritage[2].
    So, as I drove down Highway 6 to Hamilton, I happened to spy a 
coffee and donut shop (Coffee Time[tm]) with attached gas station (Gas 
Time[tm]).  The posted gasoline price was a good three cents per litre 
below the usual weekend price and so I pulled in.  Unfortunately,
lots of other folks had had the same idea.  I got in line, which was
already grating on my mood.
    So, thinking black thoughts and waiting in line, I spied a
free pump.  This station had several islands with two pumps each.  The 
near pump on the leftmost island had a minivan at it but the far pump
was free (hint #1).
    What an asshole, I thought.  Why can't he have pulled ahead to
the other pump. I pulled the car past the line up and drove up to the
pump, turning the car around so that my gas cap faced the right
direction.  I got out and, as I closed the door, accidentally bent a
fingernail back, causing blood to start to ooze from underneath.
This, of course, did wonders for my already dark mood.  The pump was
decrepit, even though the station was less than two years old, and
didn't have one of those splash guards you normally find on a gas pump
(hint #2).
    What a crappy place this is, I thought.  I removed the gas
cap and picked up the nozzle.  It was covered with oily gunk (hint #3) 
which immediately covered my hands.
    So, my finger bleeding, my hand covered with gunk in this utterly
decrepit gas station, I tried to insert the nozzle into the fuel
intake.  It wouldn't fit--the nozzle was too big to fit into the hole
(blazing, flashing neon hint #4).
    Why, I thought.  can't those idiots who run the fuel industry
standardize the nozzle size of gas pumps. I pushed the nozzle against
the hole and began pumping.  I pumped $15 worth of fuel into the tank
and then gave up.  I put away the nozzle, put the gas cap back on, and
went in to pay.
    There was a lineup at the cash register (of course) but it gave me
time to try to fumble my wallet out of my pocket without getting oily
gunk on it.  Eventually, I got to the counter.  The teenaged kid
behind the counter asked, "Which pump."
    "That one," I said pointing through the window.  The pump
numbers weren't clearly marked, of course, so I added, "The one by the 
silver car."
    "The Diesel pump?"
    "That's a Diesel pump?"
    "Yes."
    The kid's manager, who was doing paperwork behind the counter, 
said, "I take it that's not a Diesel car?"
    I nodded.
    "I recommend you don't try to drive it.  You'll destroy your
engine if you do."
    I nodded mutely.  I don't know that much about cars but I know 
better than to try to use non-spec fuel.
    "Let me take care of these customers and then I'll help you," said
the manager.  I said OK, paid for my Diesel and went to the donut shop
to wash my hands.
    Eventually, the manager gave me the phone numbers of a towing shop
and a mechanic down the street who was still open.  I called them both
from the donut shop's payphone and arranged to have my car towed.
Then I called my parents to tell them I'd be late.  My stepmother
answered so I told her first.  She went to get my father, who knows
cars better than I.  While I was waiting, the tow truck came by so I
hung up and went to meet the driver.
    The tow truck was this giant pink thing.  As the driver
started hooking the truck to my car, he said, "You know, it won't hurt 
it.  It'll just lube the engine a bit better."  I decided to let him
tow it anyway.
    "How'd you manage to do that, anyway?  The nozzle's too big."
    "Mumble," I answered.
    I had a few minutes to kill while he finished hooking up the
car so I went back to the payphone and called my father back.  He
suggested that I just try topping up the gas tank with premium and
drive home slowly.  The same thing had happened to him before, he
said, and that's what he'd done.  Of course, he'd only pumped a litre
or so of Diesel before noticing his mistake.
    On the way to the garage, the tow truck driver continued to tell
me that it would have probably been OK for me to just drive away with
the mixture.  The reverse, he said, was problematic.  Gasoline in a
Diesel engine was pretty much instant engine death but this was pretty
harmless.
    I did a bit of arithmetic in my head and figured that I'd probably
pumped twenty litres of Diesel fuel into a forty litre tank.  I asked
the driver what fifty percent Diesel would do and he got a bit quiet.
    I had decided not to risk it.  The car was new and this sort of
thing wouldn't be covered by the warranty.  It was better just to take
my $200 lesson gracefully than risk a $4000 lesson.
    We got the car to the garage, which was run by a middle-aged
Asian man named Sam.  "How did you do that?" Sam asked.  "The nozzle
on the Diesel pump is too thick to fit normal cars."
    "Mumble", I said.
    Sam got to work.  This entailed opening a valve at the bottom
of the gas tank and draining the fuel into a large open tub.  The back 
of the car was on raised tracks.  Periodically, somebody would pull in 
to buy gas and Sam would stop what he was doing to pump it for them.
    After a few minutes, I left him to his work and went to the other
side of the garage.  There was a beautifully restored Ford Model-A and
next to it, an ancient couch.  I plopped myself down on the couch and
began reading the arts section of a week-old National Post that had
been sitting there.  Soon, the aroma of gasoline wafted into my part
of the garage.
    After about fifteen minutes, a man came in.  He was about six feet
tall and thin almost to the point of gauntness.  He wore black jeans,
a black buttoned shirt and cowboy boots.  A billed cap sat on his
shaven head.
    He held a lit cigarette.
    "How much do you want for that van?" he asked me, gesturing
outside.  Like a lot of small operations, Sam had a number of used
cars for sale.
    "I don't work here," I said.  "I'm just having my car fixed.  The
guy you want is over there."  I gestured toward where Sam was working.
"Near the large open vat of gasoline," I hinted.
    He didn't take the hint.  Cigarette in hand, he walked around
toward where I'd pointed.
    Right.  I got up and very quickly left the building and didn't
stop until I had made it to the corner of the lot with a large
van--the one the guy was asking about, it turns out--between me and
the garage.
    It would suck to lose the car, I thought, but it was insured.  My
laptop was on the front seat but it was pretty cheap and I'd backed up
the data on it.  And then I remembered that Sam would probably be
caught in the explosion.  If the Man In Black wanted to kill himself
stupidly, that was his business, but I didn't like the idea of him
taking anyone else with him.
    Carefully, i went back to the garage.  The MIB was standing by the
open garage door, cigarette still in hand, waiting for Sam to finish
something.  I struck up a conversation and casually edged away from
the garage in order to draw his fire source away from the mass of
gasoline vapours.  Of course, now I was stuck in a conversation.
    So after following him to the van he was looking to buy and
examining its camper interior, he asked me what I was there for.  I
told him.
    "How did you do that?" he asked.  "The nozzle's too big."
    "Mumble," I answered.
    So time passed.  Eventually, Sam finished the job and the MIB took
the van for a test drive.  After he'd filled the fuel tank with
premium, we went to the office part of the garage where I put the bill
on my credit card.  Sam lit a cigarette then and I, ever mindful of
the aroma of volatile petroleum products whafting through the place,
said, "Should you be doing that?"
    "It's OK," he said.  "It's my place.  Come this way."  We went
back to where he had been working on the car.  "Look at that," he
said, pointing to the large open vat of gasoline and diesel fuel with
the lit cigarette.
    I nodded mutely.
    "If you'd tried to run your car on that, you'd have ruined the
engine."  I wasn't sure whether to believe him--he was, after all,
making money from this[3]--but all things considered, I was getting
off easy.  So I thanked him for doing this work on a Saturday evening
and drove off.
    And now I'm very careful to make sure that the gas pump I'm using
is actually pumping gasoline.




                              --Chris




Appendum:

A few days later, I had this conversation:

She: So, has anything exciting happened recently?

Me:  Hah.  My life is so boring that I managed to write a two-thousand
     word story about pumping diesel fuel into my car.

(pause)

She: Well, at least you got something out of it.




[1] There's a recent TV ad in which Civic driver mocks a SUV driver as
the latter is standing there (for hours on end, it seems) pumping gas
into his behemoth.  I am pleased to say that I've lived that ad.

[2] I have a whole other rant on that particular behaviour of mine,
but it can wait.

[3] Recently, I asked a friend of mine who's a mechanic about this.
Apparently, Sam was right.

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