Safety Last:

Can you stand to hear another story of annoying San Francisco meddling in the name of Saving Us All?

The other morning I had to go down to San Jose. We were having a bit of a cold snap (37 degrees Fahrenheit. Can you believe it?) and in the classic way these things work, I also had to buy gas. So, I stopped at the neighborhood gas station. Getting out of my car and shivering through the purchase process, all I could think of was, "I can't wait until I can get the gas flowing and set that little toggle that holds the pump handle in place." Then, I could put my hands in my pockets.

But, when it came time to set the toggle...there was nothing there! The only way to keep the gas flowing was by maintaining a death grip on the handle like some kind of Fifties-era pump jockey! Thinking there must be something wrong, I looked at the pump next to mine. That one had lost its toggle too! What gives?

At that point, the station owner - a very nice Middle Eastern gent, very old school: wears a tie and fedora while working - saw my distress and came over. I asked, where are the toggles? His response: the fire department made him take them off the pumps. For safety reasons.



Who the heck is being saved by this?? These toggles have been on gas pumps for decades! They're great if you want to do something besides hold a gas pump for five minutes, like wash your windows, or put your hands in your pockets, or, God forbid, keep the amount of time squeezing a dirty pump handle down to the absolute minimum. Now, they're "unsafe?" I say, baloney. There hasn't been a rash of gas station explosions due to inadequate toggle deployment. I haven't seen any obituaries about guys dying from wayward toggle use. If there are safety issues at a San Francisco gas station - aside from what goes on in the bushes behind the gas station, not that there's anything wrong with it - they would arise during an earthquake, but no toggle would be affected by that. No, this is meddling, plain and simple.

Plus, I thought firemen were gruff, macho guys who raced into burning buildings. I guess they've been replaced by querulous old biddies worried about kids walking on their lawn.

The station owner, however, already had a work around. (I suspect he knows a thing or two about getting around petty authoritarians). Each pump had an empty plastic water bottle. He showed me how to stick the bottle into the pump handle, which kept the gas flowing nicely.

The human spirit prevails!

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