“It was 1986, I worked at a full-service station (we pumped your gas) around the corner from my house. And, while one would think that gas stations are ho-hum boring, let me tell you – they are not. You get every nut in the neighborhood. And, some from out of town.
We had a customer who came in about once a week to fill up her 1974(?) Mercury Comet, and buy a pack of smokes. She pulled up and gets out of her car, smiles, and says, ‘Fill ’er up.’ And, I complied. And, if you know the Mercury Comet, you know – the gas fill tube is in the middle of the rear panel, just above the bumper. And, the gas cap is a large circular ornamental type deal.
I know the car, you have to hold the pump handle or it falls out.
The woman says, ‘I’ll need my smokes too,’ while I’m inserting the nozzle. So I tell her to hang on and let me get them, and set the handle on the hook – and she says, ‘You can start pumping, can’t you?’ as I was walking into the station.
I said, ‘No, it will fall out,’
She replied, ‘C’mon, I’m in a hurry – let me have it, I’ll hold it.’
I said, ‘Go ahead,’ as we had no rule about customers pumping their own gas.
As I walked back to her with her smokes, she let the handle go with the pump going – she engaged the auto-lock. And, I dove for it; Too late.
If you have never seen a gas station pump into the open air – let me describe it for you: it is like a fountain – it is like a garden hose without a spray end attached – it pumps an amazing amount of gas in a very short time. The handle fell out and soaked me from head to toe – literally.
I shut it off, and hung it up – AND!!!! – when I looked back at the woman, she was opening her pack of smokes she picked up off the ground and had a lighter in her hand!!!
I started yelling, ‘Get away from me with that,’ and she started tapping a smokes out!
Another customer saw the whole thing and jumped out of his car and pushed her away. The lot was drenched.
She had no clue. She was yelling at the guy who took her out of harms way – and I ran into the station and shut down the pumps and took the hose from the slop sink in the back room and drenched myself with water – then called the manager to tell him what happened and that I was going to have to go home and shower and change. He said, ‘Lock it up and go.’
So, I spread a bag of kitty litter on the spill. The other customer and I pushed her car out of it because we were afraid to have her start it in the middle of a fuming gas spill. She paid me and drove off.
I went home and showered. And, when I came back, the guy was still there! He was guarding the lot so no one started it on fire. He helped me sweep up the kitty litter and shovel it into the containment barrel! What a guy.
I will never forget how cold the fuel was.”