posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:38 AM
(Just some Monday morning musings about a gray area in life.)
So yesterday I became a snitch.
Smoking while pumping gas is not only not a good idea, it's illegal. Who doesn't know this, right? Well, apparently yesterday I ran into someone who
doesn't know this. Or maybe she knows and just doesn't care. Or maybe she thinks that the laws of science and society do apply to her. Or that maybe
it was okay just this one time. Whatever her reasons or excuses were, apparently, when I asked her to stop, I became just a meddling busybody and made
her very, very angry.
My son and I had stopped at a gas station on our way out to dinner, and While he pumped, I sat in the passenger seat and watched a woman pull into the
pump bay next to us. She got out of her car with two children, ages about 4 and 6; took about 10 steps back from the pump; and, as she instructed the
older of the two children on how to pump her gas for her, lit a cigarette and started smoking it. Children pumping gas also happens to be illegal.
Then to top it all off, another woman gets out of the same car on her cell phone.
You may think this is a little thing, her smoking at the pump, but it bothered me. And compounded by the other things going on—the child pumping
gas, the other woman on her cell—it sent my head spinning. All sorts of things went through my head in a few nano-seconds—Does she know this
isn't a good idea? Doesn't she know this is illegal? Why the hell is she letting that little kid pump the gas when she's barely big enough to reach
the gas cap? What if this little kid pumping gas spills some? Man, if her car blows a lot of people could get very hurt here, especially her kids and
my son and me!
Before I knew it, I had the window rolled down and was saying, very politely and quietly so as not to embarrass her but also very firmly, "You're
not supposed to smoke near the gas pumps—see the sign?" The other woman got back in the car at this point, and the first woman's reply to me was
something along the lines of, "Mind your own bleeping business—I'm nowhere near the pump."
Well that went about as expected. So now I'm thinking to myself, do I let this go?" Do I let the gas station attendants know so they can decide what
to do? Am I out of line here? She's clearly not concerned and not going to listen...
Just then the child pumping the gas fumbled the hose, and the woman lunged forward to catch it, lit cigarette and all. This helped push my decision
along, so I got out of the car and went into the gas station to let them know. Now, as I got out of the car, I looked at her and she looked back and I
knew she realized what I was going to do. It also became pretty clear what was going to happen—the attendant would come out and she'd deny it all.
So what? As long as she stopped and didn't blow us all to smithereens, I didn't care much past that. I wasn't turning back now. She was challenging
I got inside and told the three attendants that this woman was smoking at the pump and didn't stop when I asked her too. The words smoking at the
pump alone had all three of them literally jump to action in alarm. One went for the pump shut-off valve and another for the phone, while the
third one came around the counter quickly and asked me which pump number. As I glanced back to get the number for him, I saw her looking over and
putting her cigarette out. As we walked back out together, I said to him, "And oh, by the way, she had her kid pumping the gas, and you know she saw
me going in, so she put out her cigarette and is going to deny it. In fact, there's her cigarette right there."
He picked up the snuffed out cigarette, and continued over to talk to her. I got back into my son's car to watch and listen. She, of course,
vehemently denied it, as predicted. He showed her the cigarette, and she then proceeded to scream about what a snitch I was and another word that
rhymes with snitch. I wasn't going any further to feed her defensive verbal attack and just let it go at that. Like I care what she calls me. I took
my lumps, got what I wanted, and maybe she'll think twice next time.
My son, meanwhile, who's been oblivious to all this, mainly because he's partially deaf, finishes pumping, gets back in the car, and asks, "What
was that all about? Why'd you go in?" I replied, "Well that woman was smoking and..." He says, "Yeah, what a dumbass." Ugh.
What I did I would do again—I have no qualms at all about it. To me, it was the right thing to do. However, the strong reaction that it brought in
her made me wonder if there was something about this entire incident and my actions that I needed to revisit or could learn from.
Was I being a busybody? Did I do something wrong? Yes, maybe it was none of my business. Okay, yeah...laws are stupid. Eyeroll.
Did I learn one lesson right off? As in next time this happens, maybe don't confront the person first, and just go report it? Had she simply just
said, "Ooops..." and put it out right then, the issue would have been resolved. Maybe we could have had a nice, civil dialog about how stupid the
law is or something or debated the physics of it all.
But she didn't put it out. And she didn't put it out when I got out of the car either. Just me heading toward the office didn't do it either. It
was only when she saw that I carried through that she put the damn thing out, which was really the end goal here—to get the danger gone as soon as
She didn't consider a request, so I went for help. Was that wrong or snitchy? Okay, maybe it was snitchy, but is snitchy always bad? She probably
knew it was wrong because she got that cigarette right out when she saw me make a move to get help. So she wasn't ignorant.
Would I have done the same if this had been a big burly man? Yep. Maybe not the confronting part first, though.
Was I being judgmental? Not really. Clearly we do have these kinds of laws because people lack common sense or get distracted and to limit liability,
but I wasn't judging her at all. I didn't and am still not calling her stupid or ignorant. It may well be that she doesn't smoke in her car with or
around the kids and just couldn't wait for a hit the minute they stopped. She prioritized the addiction above her own safety and the safety of
others, somehow excused it all in her head, and disregarded several laws. Then got angry and stubborn about being reminded.
Should I even have been concerned or bothered? Well, seeing as I felt trapped (my son had just started pumping, so we couldn't leave easily or
quickly), I think so. You might disagree. Would I have said anything if we could have left quickly? Probably. I would have said something to her about
endangering her children and left it up to her. Overall, maybe I am judging. She selfish and careless and not thinking and then overly defensive. If
it had just been her there alone and the children she was with and we weren't "stuck" there with her, I wouldn't have bothered to say a word—her
decisions, her choices, her consequences. That probably makes me a bad person.
And, okay, I know—a lit cigarette might not always ignite gas vapors or liquid. No harm was done in this case. The child didn't spill the gas when
she fumbled the hose and the woman's lunge to help with a lit cigarette in hand didn't cause a fire or explosion, and the cell phone didn't cause
anything to happen. I've seen the MythBusters on these subjects, but that's not the point here.
Nothing catastrophic happened, but it easily could have. This seems lot to think about from one relatively minor incident—maybe I just think too
much? What would you have done in this situation?