Monday, February 11, 2008

Guess Who Traveled Again?

My wife and I just got back from a week long vacation in California. We had a great time, spent two awesome days skiing on Bear Mountain, and another fun one at Disneyland, visited with my snow-bird parents, saw some sights, etc. But I was vexed, very vexed, with one particular task I attempted. It was a task that at first looked easy, perhaps even mundane, but as usual the devil is in the details. What was this seemingly easy, yet incredibly difficult (and ultimately failed) undertaking?

Filling my dad's car with gas.

Don't laugh (ok, laugh), but that simple, every day activity had me absolutely steaming. Why was it so hard? Because America is stupid, that's why! Well maybe not, but somehow my anger took me there, as you will see. Here's what went down:

My wife and I took my Dad's Dodge to Disneyland. On the way home, I thought it would be awful nice (or at least mildly courteous) of me to leave him with a full tank of gas. So a few miles away from home I pulled into a friendly-looking Chevron station. I approached the pump, which indicated I needed to insert my debit card before I could fill.

"Fair enough", says I, so I swipe it through. Then it asks for my 5 digit zip code. Umm, I'm like, not from here... I don't have a zip. So I use a California one, which it tells me is invalid. Apparently the pump is 'smart' enough to check the zip against the address of my credit card (at least, that's what I assume it did). A little annoyed, but still pretty positive about the chances of getting this car filled up, I head inside to speak with staff.

Now here's where it gets fun. I present you with the transcript of my chat with the semi-English speaking Chevron employee (SESCE):

SESCE: How much?
Me: Fill please. (I hand my credit card)
SESCE: How much?
Me: I'd like a full tank of gas.
SESCE: I need number.
Me: I don't know how much it will take, I just want to fill it up.
SESCE: You tell me number, that's how much you get.
Me: But what if I tell you $50 and it only takes $42?
SESCE: You tell me number, that's what you pay.
Me: But I want to fill up the car, and I don't know the exact dollar amount it will take!
SESCE: I need number.
Me: Fine $40!!

So he runs my card through and actually charges it for $40 before I've even received any gas! Outside at the pump I'm fuming.

Me: How can I tell him a number if I don't know how much I need! I just want a fill!
My wife: Calm down.
Me: No! This is stupid! Why is this so difficult?!?
Wife: Do you think it will stop automatically at $40 or do we need to slow down?
Me: Keep holding it to the max, if it goes over $40 we're taking everything we can get!
Wife: What?!
Me: It shouldn't be "pay me $40 and hope you get some gas" it should be "give me some gas and hope I pay you for it"!
Wife: Sssh! These pumps have microphones, he can hear you!
Me: Good! He should hear this! This is dumb! I've just about had enough of this stupid country!!

Once I'd slandered an entire country for the actions of one gas station, it went downhill from there (I think I muttered random swears until the pumped stopped automatically at $40, which of course hadn't totally filled the car).

Can someone please explain to me why it was essentially impossible for me to fill my Dad's car with gas? Why do I need a zip code to pay at the pump? What kind of insane system makes you pay for something you possibly aren't going to get? If the car had only taken $32 in gas, could I have received a refund? Was there some kind of communication breakdown between me and the semi-English speaking Chevron employee? WTF??

I demand answers, and until such time as this makes sense, I am declaring that America is stupid.