Friday, July 22, 2011

Getting Jacked

Here's a revelation: the older a man gets, the more he turns into Jack Lemmon in The Out of Towners (forget about the horrible remake with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn). Or maybe Spencer Tracy, in his last film role in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, when going out for a simple ice cream cone turns into a near-calamity.

What I mean is that simple tasks that you never gave a second thought to suddenly become fraught with obstacles and obfuscation, turning you into the penultimate existential everyman.

Case in point: last week I was filling my gas tank at a station near my home -- Twin Peaks Petroleum, actually, located at 598 Portola Drive. I go there only because it's nearby, and I'm a creature of habit. I knew that my tank was fairly empty but also was aware that there had to be at least a half-gallon of gas left. Imagine my surprise when the dial on the pump rolled over to 10.065 gallons -- because my 2008 Honda Fit holds only ten gallons of gas.

Thinking there must be an error and not having time to fully deal with the issue, I resolved to check this out on my next fill-up. So during the past week I paid careful attention to my mileage, noting that, because I'd been driving mostly freeway miles, I was getting close to 30 mpg and would get 300 miles to the tank. The gas tank light is supposed to go on when there's one gallon left but seems to be actived at about one-and-a-half gallons, so when it turned on at 246 miles, I drove an additional 20 miles, knowing there was at least a gallon left. I returned to Twin Peaks Petroleum and the same pump I'd used last week, where the dial indicated 10.222 gallons (see photographic evidence).

In the past three years I've filled that tank more than 100 times, and even when I've pressed my luck and had only a few molecules of fuel left, it never exceeded ten gallons at any of the dozens of stations I've visited. So I went in to the cashier's office, where I explained to a young Middle-Eastern man that this was the second time in a week this had happened at his station. How did he explain this?

"Maybe you have a leak," he said, looking sheepish and guilty.

"Yeah, maybe the extra gas is in the back seat," I said. "Maybe I'm out here making Molotov cocktails."

I asked to see the manager and was told that the owner was not present. The cashier dutifully wrote down my cell phone number on my receipt and promised that the owner would call me. "Yes, I'd really like to hear what he has to say for himself," I said, "because anyone who fills up with that pump is getting screwed out of about $4 every time. And who knows if the other pumps are miscalibrated, too."

Of course the owner never called me back. But I did file a claim with the California Department of Weights and Measures. Isn't that what Jack Lemmon would have done?

1 comment:

  1. Dan, I haven't even read any of your posts I'm so excited. Do you know how many times over the years I've looked for you? I once tried to contact a Daniel Henry in England because I thought "Well, he lived in London for a while...". Soon as I read the google profile I knew I had at long last found you (cue dramatic musical crescendo).I don't know why it worked this time. Please to contact Oh, it's Lauri Sickler. From Boston.