Monday, September 22, 2008

Liquid Gold Olympics

I’m alive, I’m alive, LOL! A couple friends have written asking if everything is okay, because I’ve been so spotty on blogging recently. I apologize for the lack of new content here lately, but should be back in the swing of things shortly. It’s been a tad busy around our place this last few weeks! The good news is I’ve got a ton of things I want to blog about, so look for some new posts coming up!

Meanwhile, this post is a little off-topic from my usual, but I just wanted to share something out of the ordinary that happened yesterday. It is either funny or scary depending on how you look at it, and I realize it’s pretty minor, so I am trying to laugh about it. But it was a tad scary and did make me think.

My husband and father both follow the commodities markets pretty regularly, and lots of friendly arguments usually ensue regarding what each thinks oil, gas, and related markets may do, both in the long term and short term. I am usually a semi-interested bystander for these debates, which is to say that I sometimes offer my thoughts, but more often let these conversations flow around me while I’m doing something more fun, like cooking :-)

But anyway, I am super-spoiled super-blessed and very grateful for it, and can honestly say I have never been to a gas station when they were out of gas. Not once in my 17 years of driving have I ever gone to get gas and found none. Nor have I ever really been at a station where it was super crowded and people were getting antsy. Nor have I ever been stranded there, because I did not have enough gas to go elsewhere. But that changed yesterday!

I rarely let my gas tank get truly low, before I stop for gas. This is typically because I once ran completely out and had to hike two miles for gas do not like to take chances, unlike my hubby who routinely drives on imaginary gasoline (according, at least, to his gas gauge which is usually below E whenever I get in the car). However, yesterday I knew Monday was coming up and I hate to stop in the mornings, so I made a special trip out to fill up. As my last outing had been to the grocery store, and I did not want to stop with frozen foods in the car, I was pretty low on gas. To illustrate, my car supposedly holds 15 gallons, and when I finally filled up, it says I used 15.3 gallons…(maybe the station is cheating and the pumps are rigged or something - go figure). But anyway, that’s the lowest reading I’ve ever had - I’ve never seen it claim that I used more than 15 gallons, so I know I was very close to empty.

As a side note, and you all know how this goes - I had not yet showered for the day (long story), so I looked pretty grungy. I was also looking forward to having a nice happy hour beverage upon returning home, and continuing with my (interrupted) organization projects and pile-o-laundry, so I was not in the mood for a lengthy trip anywhere.

My (first) stop was at our corner BP. I pulled in and noticed that all the pumps were out of service. Thinking this a bit odd, but not really concerned, I took off for the Quiktrip down the street.

Upon arrival at the QT, I saw that their pumps were also out of service. I was a more than a little surprised by that, and more than a little alarmed, because now I had an actual problem: I had no gas to get to another gas station at this point. Our area is pretty suburban and things are spread out, to the point where I do not even know where the next closest station would be...these stations are both on my work route and it’s very rare that I would need to stop elsewhere. I also did not know what the issue was, and thought it might be some kind of regulatory/county-imposed outage, so I went inside to inquire. The nice (and very patient) gentleman working the register informed me that “everyone around here is out of gas.” I was stunned - I’ve simply never seen all of our stations run out before in normal circumstances (when there are no real supply disruptions in our area, etc.). More alarming was that “everyone” - because my car did not have enough gas to even get home at this point. He did say they were getting a delivery, and I could wait if I wanted, about half an hour. So I (thankfully) thought to go ahead and pull into a pump bay and waited...and waited...and watched, as the station QUICKLY began to fill up with similarly aggravated folks who did never intended to spend hours waiting for gas. It’s just very unexpected and unusual around here for any station, especially in our area, to run out.

The story would not be nearly as interesting, except for what happened next. So they finally cut the pumps back on, and by now, cars are three to four deep at every bay. It’s a large QT, with about 24 pumps, so you can imagine the mob scene. I say mob in the generic sense, but people were definitely antsy, which was a little unsettling. I wanted to take a photo with my phone, but I was actually afraid I might annoy someone (people were getting testy) and I did not want to push it.

So anyway, the pumps came alive and everyone started pumping as fast as they could. Of course, that demand slowed the actual fueling at each (already slow) pump to a crawl, which only annoyed people further. Meanwhile, not to be outdone in this little derby, I rushed through the process of swiping my card, etc. and set about trying to start the pump. And you just know what's coming next... but ... wait for it... waiiiitttt...

Yep, it wouldn’t engage. Now, the procedure for filling a gas tank hasn’t changed a lot since I was 16, and I’ve had a fair bit of practice in the meantime, so I knew it wasn’t me. I quickly called the poor attendant (who was running around taking the plastic bags off the pumps) and she came over, only she could not get it to work either. She ran inside to find her manager, and by this point I was having visions of that single tanker load of gas being guzzled up before I could even START to fill my tank, because how was I going to get in another line at this point? The station was already bumper-to-bumper, with more people coming in by the minute. There was barely room to leave when you were ready.

Several minutes later the girl comes back and says her manager said there is nothing that they can fix; the pump will have to be examined. She suggested I get in another line. Now those of you who know me well, know what’s coming next. I did not think much of that suggestion, since I was literally one of the first three people to pull in at the pumps in the first place. I was not in the mood by this point to wait in another three-deep line (it was taking about 15 minutes to fill a standard tank) only to have, as I feared, the gas run out before I could get any. So I managed to restrain what I really wanted to say, and politely told her that was not going to be workable, and she’d need to get her manager to come out and hold back the tide of angry motorists and find me a pump :-).

(Wisely, she decided to run back into the station as fast as her feet would carry her.)

Our tale of (minor) woe ends happily, as the manager did make an appearance, and a very kind and patient looking Japanese gentleman did allow me to back up to the pump behind mine and fill up. I kept apologizing to him, because it was running soooooooooo slowly that I just knew he must be ready to run me over. But anyway, this entire experience of spending (literally) an hour trying to simply get gas really got me thinking. We don’t live in a hugely populous area. I mean, it’s a thriving county, but we’re not downtown or anything. And pf course I know plenty of others have had far worse experiences than mine, and may have even lived through the 70's gas shortages. But it was just very interesting to me (once I got away from the mob, which was just plain scary) to see all this unfold. One guy’s car died on him while he was sitting at the pump, and he had to be pushed out of the way. He was being very vocal and pushy even before his car died, and that sort of put him over the edge. Another guy had an experience like mine, where his pump wouldn’t work when they turned them back on. But really, this is crazy. I guess it’s what we have to look forward to, if we can’t figure out how to become energy-independent. I mean, I certainly realize there have been intermittent supply issues all over the country. We just haven’t seen it often in our neck of the woods so it took be a bit by surprise.

Anyway, hope no one else is having fuel problems. That was an eye opener for me, just in the sense that I need to be more careful about relying on the gas station to have gas when I need it!!

(And next time, Mom, I swear I’ll take a shower before I leave the house!)

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Love, Dahrlin’


Angie's Spot said...

Oh my word, that's nuts! I didn't have to stop until I got to Dalton and the station only had 2 out of 16 pumps working and they only had unleaded available. I found that to be surprising because I would think that it would run out first, since it's the cheapest. ??? Sorry your experience was so rotten. Hopefully the weather was at least bearable after having to sit for that long.

And I meant to ask you this weekend what the Fussy award on your left side was all about. Do tell! :-)

Robin's Reports said...

You reminded me of a couple things. I lived through the 70's gas crunch & long lines. I lived through Hurricane Francis 2004 where we couldn't find gas for days (partially because of power, partially because of shortage). People freak out over local, environmental events like this.....can you imagine a REAL shortage?

I'm ready to go with my new flexfuel suburban. I can't wait for energy choices. I've always thought we could use a few solar panels on our roof here in FL.

Oh and you reminded me that I need a shower.

Angela said...

Angie - yeah, it was pretty crazy. I, too do not understand why there is no premium gas when there is unleaded. You'd think they would want to sell the most expensive stuff!

And Robin - you're so right. I shudder to imagine an actual shortage. I'm afraid people would get violent!

Michelle said...

Freaky. I've heard from a few bloggers (and news, obviously!) about shortages in Atlanta and some in Alabama. Freaks me out in a way. BUT I'm lucky that I have sidewalks between me and a) my bank, b) my grocery store, c) my nail salon (spoiled, I know), d) my PO, and e) several restaurants. Worse comes to worse, I've got some options. Which reminds me that I ought to get my bike fixed up again! It needs a tuneup.

Connordog said...

Yeah, I almost killed a lady at the pumps last night. It was a MADHOUSE at the QT at Cumberland and Spring road! Then it took me 10 minutes to GET OUT of the station.

Live.Love.Eat said...

Holy canoli girlfriend!!!!!!! If I was in your shoes I would have only myself to blame because I am THAT person who constantly goes down to E. To me, E isn't for Empty. To me, E stands for Eh, I'll get there!

Aw man, I feel bad you had to go through that. I was stressed reading it!!!!!

Angela said...

Michelle - yeah, it is a little freaky. Every day I keep thinking it will be over, and every's not. Still today, half the stations I passed were empty. One had a truck...and about 18 people waiting already. I passed it up.

Steph (Reilly) - That QT is always a madhouse. I almost never bought gas there because it was such a disaster. I used to go to the Shell down on our corner, which was scarier but at least less crowded. I can only imagine that QT with a gas shortage on!

Stephanie (Live.Love.Eat) - thanks!! I definitely learned my lesson. I won't let it get that low again! I am not usually a worrier about gas, but I let it get a little too low last time.

Katherine said...

Wow what an adventure! Last week I was on E twice and desperate to find gas at any cost. This week I fill up as soon as the needle goes below the 1/2 way mark and I can find gas. They say not to fill up if you don't need it but my experience is that if you don't fill up when you find it, you aren't going to find it when you need it.

Glad everything worked out for you,

Live.Love.Eat said...

I had to come back and leave another comment because I thought of you yesterday when I was on my way home from work knowing that I would get to E and still kept on going because I knew I could reach the very last gas station. As soon as I hit E I reset my odometer to make sure I don't go over 16 miles. It's sad how many times I have done this.

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