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Column: Filling your tank an act of good-old ingenuity

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Column: Filling your tank an act of good-old ingenuity
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — Maybe I shouldn’t tell this story. It embarrasses me. Still — freedom of information — I guess you have a right to know.

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The morning before Christmas I decided it would be best to have a full tank of gas. There would be no getting gas on Christmas Day. It was not a morning I ordinarily would choose. It was very cold, and it was windy. Like yesterday. Or the day before. Or the day before that. You know how this winter has been.

Rather than drive to my usual gas station, I decided to go to a station only two blocks away. It was a bit more sheltered from the northwest wind.

I lifted the hose on the gas pump and pushed it in the spout of the gas tank. There I stood. I didn’t know what to do. Someone had to tell me that you push the second white button from the top on the left, then push the green button at the bottom right, then lift the black plastic dealy that the hose rests in. You’re good to go.

What embarrassed me most? Let me tell you. For 30 years my dad had the Phillips 66 station at the corner of Oxford and Humiston. When I was 12 years old I was out there — hot days and cold days — operating a gas pump, filling cars with gas. Washing windshields. Checking air pressure in tires. Checking oil. Suddenly on the morning of Christmas Eve 2013, I don’t know how to operate a gas pump. That put me in my place.

I have not felt good about gas stations since they eliminated attendants. Of the day-to-day services we all experience, having someone fill the gas tank was among the best. My mother and dad used to help me with things here and things there. My brother used to help. Other than this I was on my own — except when I went for gas. When I went for gas, I could sit back with heater heating or air conditioner conditioning and revel in the moment while someone filled my gas tank. It was a good feeling.

Especially during these days of the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, we have heard TV people hyping how wise “we” are, how far “we” have come, how great is American ingenuity with computers and smart phones and tweets and ATMs and DVDs — you finish the list.

Let me tell you something:

When Henry Ford introduced his Model T to America more than 100 years ago he had a gas tank under the car, out of sight. There was a spout on the gas tank and a cap at the top of the spout. If you wanted gas you screwed off the gas cap, stuck a hose in the spout, filled the tank. Nothing to it.

Today, in this awesome world of technology where American ingenuity has conquered every barrier, there is a tank under each car, out of sight. There is a spout on the gas tank and there is a cap that you screw off at the top of the spout. Then you take the gas hose…

Do you see what I mean? Great grandpa didn’t dream of television, but he would know how to put gasoline in an automobile. We still do it the same way Grandpa did. We have made not one advance in more than 100 years.

What would I suggest? Oh, I have no idea. Maybe gasoline in a plastic container. You could drop the container in a compartment in the car and a special device would pierce the bottom of the container so the gas would flow. When the container was empty you could lift if from the compartment and drop in a new, full container. Maybe keep three or four containers at home just in case.

Putting gas in plastic containers would cost the oil companies something. Oil profits would be reduced. We know that isn’t going to happen. Nothing will be done, nothing will be allowed which would diminish oil company earnings.

So – go to the station where you know the pumps, screw off the cap, lift down the hose. No big deal on a June morning.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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