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I have a bone to pick with the gas pump, and it isn’t about the rising price of gas — though that does have me in a rather foul mood.
While I don’t enjoy paying more to fill up my tank, the thing that has me riled up is the gas pump itself and how user unfriendly — and frankly — annoying the experience of buying gas has become.
It used to be fairly simple. You’d get out of your car, swipe your card, enter your pin number, push the button for the grade of gas you wanted, lift the pump and you’re off to the races.
Now, the gas pump has gotten “smart.” Now, it asks me more questions than a child who is going through the dreaded “why?” phase.
Buying gas has become its own 12-step program just to communicate with a machine that has you at its unfeeling mercy. When I bought gas earlier this week, after swiping my card, I was asked if it was a debit card, when I answered in the affirmative, I was asked if I knew my PIN.
Is this a new security measure of some kind? What is the point of asking? If I don’t know, we’re both about to find out. Upon pressing the “yes,” key again, I was commanded to enter my PIN number and reminded to cover the keypad. I was surprised my new electronic overlord didn’t remind me to look over my shoulders for suspicious activity.
I was hoping to fill my car up after this, but then the Siri wannabe asked if I wanted a car wash. No. I’ve never used a gas station car wash without getting some sort of scratch or blemish on my car, and if you think I’m spending more at this gas station than I absolutely have to, you’re out of your microchip-filled mind.
Can I please fill up my car and get to work now? No. The game of 20 questions continues. “Would you like a receipt?” Why? Why do you ask this? We both know if I answer in the affirmative, you’re just going to either tell me to see the attendant or spit out a long blank ream of paper because you malfunction more than the ice cream machine at McDonald’s. Kind of makes me wonder what’s actually going into my gas tank, come to think of it.
Finally, I get to select my fuel grade and fill up my car. The whole harrowing experience reminds me of conversing with Aunt Bethany of Christmas Vacation fame.
“Are you at the gas station, Clark? Is this a debit card, Clark? When did you move to Cleveland? Is your car on fire? Do you know your PIN? Are you going through the car wash today? When are we eating dinner?”
This is over-automation at its finest. If it were all about convenience at these “convenience stores” we’d go back to the days of a guy in coveralls striding over to the car and asking, “Fill ‘er up?”
I’m sure the gas stations love that they don’t have to pay someone to perform this function any more, but I think I’d rather have five minutes of awkward conversation about the weather with an attendant than to answer a ton of questions posed by a bucket of bolts. At least the attendant has character and a personality. If I’m going to be late for work, it might as well be entertaining rather than tedious.
I may start riding a bike from now on, or just move to Peachtree City and tool around on a golf cart everywhere.
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