Catching Fire While Pumping Gas

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Pumping GasI’ve never been one to worry too much about the day to day dangers in the world around us. Sure, I could get shot by the gangsta I just cut off on the freeway, or poisoned by bad sashimi at the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, or choke on Bon Scott’s vomit, but it’s PROBABLY not going to happen. But I’ve never really been good with the whole death thing; and as I get older, it’s not getting any better. On top of that, one of my greatest fears is to go out as a result of some stupidity. You know, the true life equivalent of jumping too many barrels in Donkey Kong. I really really, really don’t want my last words to be, “OH, Shit!”

Which is probably why I was a bit alarmed a few months ago when I caught this piece on the local evening news. I know what you’re thinking, these are the geniuses that bring you such brilliant teasers as:

“Drunk Drivers! They’re Drunker than ever! And they’re out to get YOU! Film at 11:00”.

But somehow this piece about the dangers of cell phones & gas pumps stuck in my mind. According to this newscast, the electricity generated by an active cell phone is more than adequate to ignite gas fumes. It was accompanied by a black and white minimart surveillance video run frame by frame, that went something like this

Man is pumping gas into his SUV.
Man registers surprise at noise coming from his pants.
Ahh! It’s a cell phone!
Man looks at phone, pushes button.
Man bursts into flames.

My first thought that while watching this slow motion pantomime of doom was to issue a Nelson-esque “Hah HAH! Dumbass!” and move on with my life. But since then I have noticed that it is impossible to pump gas without someone taking a call within 20 feet of me. Apparently people can’t go more than 2 seconds without multitasking these days, so the pumps at the Chevron are a veritable hotbed of cellular activity. And each time I tell myself, “Dude, relax, what are the odds…” while fighting the urge to run screaming across the parking lot and dive headfirst into the PoWerAde! cooler.

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But it’s not like there’s a lot of warning about this at the actual gas station. If you’re lucky, perhaps a small, innocuous sticker on the back of the squeegee box that says, “Please keep all electronic devices in car while pumping gas.” So I have no backup. But this paranoia has turned me into the world’s hall monitor. It actually makes me want to approach these people in my irrational state:

“Nice phone. Did you know it could kill us all? It’s True. I saw it on TV.” No way. Way too geeky.

“What, are you trying to kill me? Do I look like I wanna go out like Ghost Rider? No? So F#$% off with the cell phone already!”. Nope, too aggressive to affect REAL change…

How about:
Can I have your cell phone number? There’s something I want to try after I pull away from here…” Naahhh. Who would give ME their cell phone number?

So somehow, despite my fear of going up like the monk on the Rage against the Machine CD cover, I have managed to restrain myself. But please don’t be alarmed the next time you are downloading some unleaded while discussing whether or not to pick up some milk on your cell, and you see someone nervously backing away from you. It was just something he saw on the news…

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