The Frantic Mindset of a Self Serve Gal

I very rarely go to full service gas stations. I’m not sure if this is a service that people learn to utilize growing up or not, but my parents never used them so I assume that is why I never use them. Something about another human being pumping my gas for me… feels rude. I know they are getting paid to do it, and I’m sure for some of them the job is a blessing and they are proud to be providing for their families. Still, isn’t pumping gas the threat you throw in someone’s face in high school when you want to imply they aren’t going anywhere in life?

Needless to say the other night it was 11 degrees outside and my gas light went on (as always) and I caved. The problem with this isn’t so much that I’m against full service, because as I just explained I’m thrilled that it provides jobs, but since I never go to them, I’m not ever sure what the proper gas station etiquette is. This leads to, 5 to 7 minutes of incredibly awkward and strained interaction between the gas pumper and myself that goes like this:

I pull up to the station and if someone doesn’t come out right away I will start to get out of my car to find a person, or worse, one time I got out and started pumping my own gas. I thought I was being super polite and saving the worker the trouble, but he just came out and yelled at me, saying that I was taking up space in a full serve spot. I then had to move my car mid pump to another spot, as he no longer seemed interested in serving me, I was after all a hooligan behaving all willy- nilly about gas pumps… for shame.

Times when I successfully stay in my car and submit to my fears about full service I always panic a little as the attendant approaches my car. I think to myself, “Try to look humble. Make sure they think you’re not a snob, look casual and appreciative.” Then I pretend to be the type of person that I actually am. Wait, does that make sense? I go out of my way to exaggerate qualities that might be coming across on their own. I’m nuts.

While they pump the gas, I turn off my car right? Or does that make me look too casual? Crap.

Usually they walk away while the car fills up because they have the pumps that still have the little metal doohickey that holds the handle down. Why did they take those off the self-serve pumps? Were people really too stupid to be allowed those? There is always someone messing it up for everyone else. But wait… now what are the attendants getting paid for? They aren’t even officially pumping the gas at that point. I was told that full service used to mean that while the gas tank filled they would check under your hood and top off all your fluids. Did that practice stop because someone with authority changed what full service meant? I actually think all the laborers got together and collectively stopped providing the extra service all at once hoping people would forget or just feel too uncomfortable to say something (“Excuse me sir, aren’t you supposed to be checking under the hood?” No way I’m saying it).

The worst part is paying. I say thank you about a million times to make sure they know I’m not a stuck up jerk. Wait… ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO TIP!?!? I always tip when I go places, I even think I tip above average, but I recall being told that you aren’t supposed to tip gas pumpers because it gets worked into their pay. Plus, the credit card receipt doesn’t have a place to tip so is that a sign? Do I play it safe? What is the harm in tipping them a few bucks even if they aren’t supposed to accept? Oh right, I never have small bills.

Great, so my angst about full service originated in not wanting to make another person feel used and now I used them and didn’t tip. Now I’m an asshole.

2 thoughts on “The Frantic Mindset of a Self Serve Gal”

  1. In Michigan we still have the little metal doohickey so I guess Michiganders are just more trustworthy. Haven’t sent a gas station up in flames yet!

  2. My mother is 57 and has NEVER pumped her own gas. She refuses to. I think her reasoning is half “someone is paid to do it and me going here keeps his job for him” and half “the wind might mess up my hair.”

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