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Smoking and Pumping Gas

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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 me.

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 possible.

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?

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:46 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

LOL! That sounds like a bigger fiasco than just smoking while pumping. I have to agree with your disgust and actions on that particular case, but I will disagree in the general concept of smoking while pumping.

I pumped gas for my Mom from age 11 or 12 on up. My Dad always owned convenience stores and gas stations when I was a kid, so I have pretty much seen it all, including a gas station go up in flames and take out my favorite ice cream shop!

They say cellphones are dangerous while pumping too. They also say that any container must be in contact with the ground to avoid any static sparks. There are literally hundreds of rules to follow when pumping gas. There are also toxic fumes and carcinogens that we all inhale all the time from it.

I used to do a little experiment for my guys in the shop. I would take a coffee cup of gasoline, light a match, drop it from about 18 inches above the cup and let them watch as the gasoline snuffed out the match. No boom. Very anti-climactic. See, liquid gas is not very flammable at all, but gas vapors are extremely flammable, so the danger isn't always where you expect it to be. The danger from fumes accumulating under a hot exhaust are far more dangerous than the fumes reaching a lit cigarette.

I still have to entirely agree that the smoking, fumbling, and erratic behavior you describe would have scared me too, and I think you did the right thing taking action. Good for you, but don't panic over every smoker or cell phone talker, LOL!

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:46 AM
I can relate. I worked a gas station for more than a few years. Smokers, cell phone users, etc, have NO idea how dangerous FUMES are. It's not the liquid, folks, it's the fumes that are so dangerous.
Wanna talk bright? I had one lady pull into my station, under the canopy, with her engine on fire. ON FRIGGIN FIRE!!!! Oh yeah, a gasoline station is about the best place to take a flippin flaming car!

People, lets' try and beat the moron tax and live to see another day, huh?

Good job! Rat 'em out. I don't need to pay for other's stupidity!


posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:48 AM
I would have done the same thing! I wouldn't have waited though. I would have asked her to put it out and when she refused I would have just gone inside like I was going buy something and rat her out. Smoking at the pump is beyond stupid and letting a child pump gas is just as stupid. She sounds like someone who shouldn't have kids. I can only imagine how she treats them at home and what she lets them do. Scary.

When we were kids we werent allowed to touch the gas pump and the few times my mom or grandparents let us they were holding it and our hands were over their hand. I guess we thought it was cool or an adult thing to do back then. Oh how times have changed and Im only 32!

You did the right thing, that woman didn't. It clearly states NO SMOKING. You can be arrested for that.

Some people never cease to amaze me in this world in what they think they are entitled to. I mean it takes less than a min to pump gas. She couldn't wait to light up when she drove off?!
edit on 2/14/2011 by mblahnikluver because: grammar error
will make me nuts if I left

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:52 AM
Charles Darwin would have a few words to say about this:
Survival of the (mentally and physically) fittest.................
Or as Forrest Gump would say, "stupid is as stupid does."

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:55 AM
reply to post by getreadyalready

Haha. must have been the alignment of the planets or something. I alluded to the MythBusters in my post and that part about laws because I'm aware that neither the smoking nor the lit cigs are not always as dangerous as it might appear to some and the laws are mainly to prevent excessive liability. You can drop a lit cigarette in a glass of gas and all that happens is the cig goes out if the right combination of spark and vapor doesn't ignite it first. However, while rarer that some might think, the right set of circumstances can and sometimes does cause a fire or explosion. I'm typically not an alarmist, but with my luck lately (those planets again), it would happen when we were there. You know how sometimes you just get that feeling?

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:55 AM
reply to post by CosmicCitizen

Yup. And, like I said, if she had been alone and we could have gotten out of there...none of this would have even happened.

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:58 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

Oh ya, it is rare, but it does occasionally happen! I was searching for the gas station that blew up near my house, and I couldn't find it, it happened back in the 70's, but while searching, I found plenty of other stories of people getting fatally burned while pumping gas.

I used to fill propane containers at my Dad's stores also. We had to take a class, and be re-certified every year, it was extremely dangerous, but here in Florida there is no regulation. The Ace Hardware store up the street from me lets just any of there employees go out and fill containers? Scares me when they do it!

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 08:59 AM
reply to post by Cuhail

Wow...thanks for that story. Have you seen this video? This woman does exactly the wrong thing...she pulls the hose out! She's so lucky...this could have been a lot worse.

Hope it doesn't seem like we're picking on women here! Men do their share too

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:00 AM
First. I have a sneaking suspicion that you are a female! I am going to tell everyone in the women don't like consp. theories thread!!! Just Kidding.

Yes. The lady was a dumbass. Youre son was right. She had no right to endager everyone in the gas station for a stupid smoke. The kids pumping the gas I would say is not such a big deal, it's something we all have to learn to do right? Although it depends on the level of maturity of the child, my daughter is 11 going on 65 so I wouldn't think twice about letting her do it, although if she knew it was illegal she wouldn't do it (she's going on 65 y'know?)
I would have been really aggrivated too, you told her politely and quietly that it was a bad idea, gasoline fumes can be airborne too and with all those flammables around it wouldn't take long to set the whole thing alight. The gas station attendants obviously know the danger as they were quick to react, it is their lives, livelihood and rsponsibility. Some people can be stubborn and rude. It is a fine line between standing up for your rights and just being an a$$hole.
I hate snitching too, I would only do it in an event where someone might be really hurt, like in your case. Plus, maybe her kids learned something important from all this, as their parents didn't seem too quick to teach them the fundamentals of science and safety around highly combustable materials.
S'okay Lucidity, even though you snitched on her she deserved it and people could have been hurt, maybe next time she'll think twice about sparking up next to the lighter fluid.

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:09 AM
reply to post by mutantgenius

Ha...funny you mentioned women about when I did in my prior post. Yes, I'm a woman (but don't tell!!!!), and though I'm perfectly capable, frankly I'd rather not be pumping gas at all. I think NJ and Oregon have the right idea.
Plus we'd create some new jobs!

n GA I think you have to be 16 years old to pump gas "legally," but no one seems to care too much about that until there's an incident and liability comes into play. I have to admit my son pumped gas when he was about 10 or 12 too, but no one smoked at the time, and I stood right there too. This child, however, was little. Teeny tiny. And the woman shouted the instructions at her from her 10-feet away cigarette safety zone, ya know?

edit on 2/14/2011 by ~Lucidity because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:13 AM
reply to post by mblahnikluver

They may not have been her kids. (At least part of me hopes not!) And my impression was that the reason she was smoking almost the minute the car stopped was that she didn't smoke either in the car or around the kids. But I might be wrong.

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who does stuff like this. Frankly, it must not happen that often because I've really never seen anyone smoking at the pump before to have had to confront this kind of situation. And you're right...I was probably to obvious about my trip into the store, but she probably would have suspected anyway, as it happened seconds after our lovely conversation.

I hope someone calling me a snitch weighs in too
I know there's gotta be something here I did wrong.
edit on 2/14/2011 by ~Lucidity because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:22 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

I love your posts! I always look forward to reading your threads, you always have something interesting to say. We think a lot alike, too.

I don't think you did anything wrong. This is just my opinion, but here goes.

First of all, people have become far to complacent. We have all seen the videos of the old man that got hit crossing the street, and no one stopped to render him aid. Eventually, after several minutes, someone called 911. This is because people "don't want to get involved".

Now, I can understand this concept, because getting involved in things means you may have to do things like, go to court, confront the person you are accusing, and open yourself to harassment and possibly even violence.

Personally, I think people are afraid of violence, afraid to be confrontational, because they may end up dead.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I got the impression from your description of her response, that she was verbally on the brink of becoming violent. If this woman had already had a bad day, had a fight with her husband, the kids had gotten on her last nerve, it is anyones' guess how she may have responded.

It takes courage. You had courage to do what you did. It also took conviction. You had the conviction that what she was doing was wrong.

Like you said, if you had been able to leave quickly, would you have done differently? And herein, I think lays part of your answer. You were not able to leave quickly, and she was blatantly putting someone elses life at risk. Sure nothing happened, but it not the point. The point was her disregard for the lives of others, including her children.

She did challenge you, and you stood up for what you believed in. How can anyone fault you for that? She *knew* she was doing something wrong.

We need more people like you, people with the courage of their convictions, no matter how small or inconsequential it may be. Of course, we cannot stop every person with a cellphone, no one could even suggest you try, but you stood up in the face of defiance, placing yourself at risk in a lot of ways, and I think that is to be commended.

When people do stupid things that only endanger themselves, thats Darwinism. People can feel free to go and practice that, far, far away from everyone else.

When people do stupid things that endanger others, it is selfish, self centered, ignorant, and well, I hve a whole lot of other words. It matters not nothing happened, it matters that if something had, innocent people would have been involved.

I would have done exactly what you did, repercussions be damned.

Don't second guess yourself on this one.

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:24 AM

Originally posted by ~Lucidity
Ha...funny you mentioned women about when I did in my prior post. Yes, I'm a woman (but don't tell!!!!), and though I'm perfectly capable, frankly I'd rather not be pumping gas at all. I think NJ and Oregon have the right idea.
Plus we'd create some new jobs!

edit on 2/14/2011 by ~Lucidity because: (no reason given)

NJ chiming in here...that is correct we have gas station attendants that pump it for us, mostly Indian immigrants, not that that matters haha. I have actually been to gas stations were the attendants was smoking while pumping my gas, that kinda got to me you know, because I am not legally allowed to do it myself, needlessto say I never went bck to that station again.

I get all of my gas at the local station where I am very friendly with all of the attendants and those in the convenience store there too. I have lost count of the amount of times I spent there hanging out after midnight (a few of us do because the guy is alone as its pretty desolate, he's been robbed a few times so we spend some time there to ward off potential thugs). Most of the time I actually do just pump it myself to help out my friends, in fact a few times I randomly pumped it for other people and they had no idea i didnt work there

I've never understood the cell phone connection though, and the guys at the pumps dont know anything about it either....I guess now i'm forced to do some research....damn you Lucidity

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:30 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

You did the right thing. I used to work installing the underground tanks from which gas stations pump their gas, and as has been mentioned gas the liquid is not as flammable as many might think.

But the safety laws are there for a reason. Fumes come out of a tank when gas is being put in. Wind and such can cause these fumes to concentrate in unexpected places.

We don't often hear people say things like "Yeah, I knew it was likely to cause a fire, but I didn't care."... No, it's always "I had no IDEA this could cause a fire!"... it's always the unexpected that causes problems.

It's like standing in front of a rifle range firing line, off to the side. Sure, you can get away with it, probably for a long time. But it's a dumb thing to do. REALLY dumb.

You did the right thing...

edit on 14-2-2011 by Open_Minded Skeptic because: fix spelling

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:33 AM

Originally posted by Open_Minded Skeptic

It's like standing in front of a rifle range firing line, off to the side. Sure, you can get away with it, probably for a long time. But it's a dumb thing to do. REALLY dumb.

You did the right thing...

edit on 14-2-2011 by Open_Minded Skeptic because: fix spelling

I have some stories about dumb guys at the range too...
For another time....

Those stories make me ANGRY, and today is a day of love.....

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:42 AM
You did what every self-respecting Human being should do.
Preservation of Life

I applaud your actions and feel that we need more people like you!
Imagine, if everyone held everyone accountable...

Reminds me of the day I got into it with a grocery shopper who wouldn't put the buggy back.
A car hit it, and dented the fender.

Not exactly an illegal activity, but I'm all for responsibility and principal.

People need to stand up for things they see, that are wrong.
Morally or ethically.
Laws just make it easier to yell at those who are ignorant.

The woman with the smoke by the pump probably has numerous issues...
So risking her own(and other) life at a gas station was miniscule in comparison.
But then again, there are many people with this attitude.

I can't believe she tried to deny it!!!

Just further proves my point, that the majority of people....
.... don't want to be held accountable for their actions!

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:44 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity

The worst part about the whole episode was the involvement of the children.
Too bad that a police car didnt pull up next to her at the pump.
If people want to harm themselves that is one thing but not when it affects others' lives.

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:47 AM
I think you did the right thing. This is a classic benchmark case of the differance between a responsible citizen and a nanny state.

My personal ethos is to leave people to do what they will so long as it doesn't hurt myself or those under my care. If I was parked at a gas station and someone was smoking next to the pump while letting their kid pump gas, that immediately becomes an explosion hazard.

I think you handled it correctly as well. You politely pointed out what she was doing that was inappropriate. When she decided that she was above all that, you escalated the issue to the people that could handle the situation - including turning off the pumps. I am sure they were appreciative as well that you told them.

This is differant than the whole "see something say something" concept with implies that anyone who does anything out of line should be treated as a suspect terrorist. This is just a human holding their ground and looking out for their saftey and the saftey of those under their care.

posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 09:48 AM
Just to let everyone know cell phones will not ingnite fuel vapors. I spent a year testing it at Delphi fuel systems. nothing we did triggered anything dangerous. I don't have a copy of the final report but the governent does .

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