Today, Memorial Day, I traveled from Atlanta, Georgia to West Virginia. Packed, filled up my trustworthy '89 Honda Accord with 130,000 miles on it. All went well, up to the gas station. I inserted the credit card, pressed what they demanded and proceeded with the fill up part. In Atlanta, as opposed to other places I had visited, the gas nozzle does not fit the hole in the tank. Amazing. For the record, Honda Accords come with a little flap over the hole in the tank, probably to keep out rodents if you forget to close the outer lid. I could not let the defects of Atlanta’s retarded mechanical design keep me hostage in that otherwise wonderful city.
A man on a mission – a mission that took me out of Atlanta
I hunted for an object that would keep the said little flap open while I filled the tank. What I found was a solitary French Fry which I knew, without having much scientific knowledge, would become soggy and disappear down the rodent hole if I were to use that. I spotted a ballpoint pen; better suited for the job. I used it, but it was a tedious process. I persevered and I succeeded. I replaced the nozzle. Then the lettering on the gas pump sank in: "Diesel"! Why would they stick diesel fuel in this tank when I specifically wanted "normal" gas? I am not fussy about the octane; a good price is an advantage, but diesel? Obviously there was some mistake.
I went into the store, explained my situation and demanded my money back – for the diesel and the additional labor expended in filling the tank because the nozzle was badly designed. Also because it was Memorial Day, I wanted time and a half. I was sure he would understand. He was probably getting double time for just standing there staring. And I didn't want the diesel; it would have to be taken out and thrown away.
The guy was not quick in comprehending my request. I could tell by the way he opened his mouth and kept it opened for a minute or two. But then, he turned into a half-baked genealogist, becoming verbally abusive. What did the morals of my mother and both grandmothers have to do with a simple contract of purchase and sale of hydrocarbons? He seemed to think they were relevant. At the earliest opportunity, when he stopped to take a deep breath, I brought him back to the immediate matter, which had to do with my three entirely reasonable requests – with one change – I would accept normal time, and forget about time and a half.
The gorilla then cleared the counter in one nimble leap, which, no doubt, came naturally, and forcibly evicted me from the store. I skidded three car lengths on the seat of my pants, realizing that I would have to add new seat pants to my above list. Steering, by deftly and gently applying shoe leather on either the left or the right side, depending on which direction I wanted go, I came to a standstill against the front tire of my car; my knees bent slightly to give the ride a dignified and elegant ending.
I should phone Good Sam, I thought. I rejected this for two reasons: one, what guarantee do I have that they would send a qualified gorilla trainer instead of a common, or garden-variety gas tank expert? Two, the only phone in the vicinity was within easy primate reach of the occupant inside.
Back to the drawing board
Let us look at the matter from a fresh perspective. What is wrong anyway with putting diesel in a car? Many cars run perfectly well on diesel. How did I know this car was not really a diesel car, designed with exactly this propellant in mind? For all I knew, the decal proclaiming "Use only unleaded fuel" was maliciously stuck on by a malcontent autoworker. Diesel is probably unleaded today. If it were a diesel car, it should be using diesel; years of abuse feeding it non diesel could well terminate its service to me, suddenly and within only a few miles. With these new reassuring insights, I proceeded to shake off the dust of this odious gas station from my shoes and pants.
I started the car, joined the happy bumper-to-bumper motorists, crawling north. Communication was difficult with the noise of car engines; sign language became the order of the day. After 200 miles, I pulled into a gas station, searched for the diesel pump. My faithful ballpoint pen was nowhere to be found. I settled on 89 octane gas, pumped from a nozzle, which is the industry standard as opposed to the Atlanta standard.
I am sure the following fact is immaterial, but for the part of the population that thrives on such irrelevant trivia, here it is. When I filled the car this morning, it had 13 gallons of gas in it; I could only put in three gallons of diesel.
This is a true story; in parts. The not-true segment is the conduct of the helpful and courteous assistants at the gas station. They did have a good laugh, pulling my leg. I forgive them. Still, I left with a mixture of diesel and gas all the same.