Saving the World One Gas Station at a Time

(Originally ran on November 3rd, 2003)

With the help of Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, the good people of Oregon and my anonymous mentor, we are now prepared to resolve major conflicts on a worldwide scale.

I just got word that Brad and Jennifer are preparing for an important diplomatic mission to the Middle East that will present an important case for peace between long-warring Israeli and Palestinian factions.

While applaud their effort to contribute to the good of society, I find it difficult to believe that thousands of years of violence sprung from deeply-embedded conflicting religious and cultural traditions and values will be spontaneously tossed aside at a visit from the guy from "Fight Club." I suppose he could teach them all the fly-fishing techniques he gleaned from filming "A River Runs Through It." Imagine the inspiring sight of Palestinians and Israelis meandering about the Snake River on float tubes, reaching a new degree of nirvana as they break off into fly-fishing rhythms of their own…

No, if Brad and Jen want to make a difference in the Middle East, what they need is a plan. And I've got a good one.

We first look to the example of Oregon. As I drove through Oregon's scenic eastern expanse two summers back, I got quite the surprise the first time I stopped to get gas. When I stepped out of my rented vehicle at the station, an employee was already standing next to the pump.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

I wanted to say "Yeah, I want gas, moron," but that seemed to callous. Apparently the state of Oregon, in an effort to preserve local employment opportunities, has mandated that you can't pump your own gas. It's not quite a complete return to the full-service days of old, but it's a step in the right direction.

A friend of mine, who desires anonymity, has taken this concept to a new level, hypothesizing on the impact of "theme" gas stations. Rather than accept the typically passionless experience of pumping petrol, imagine the excitement and social fulfillment of a total gas experience!

Here are some proposed themes I have devised:

Rock and Roll Heaven Station

As you pull in to the pump, you hear the Righteous Brother's tune "Rock and Roll Heaven." Then before you know it, Jimi Hendrix is pumping your gas, Jim Morrison is checking your oil, and Janis Joplin is wiping your windshield. When you go in to pay, Kurt Cobain is training Johnny Cash on the register, and John Denver is filling the freezer with cold Gatorade. Just don't forget to tip the King on your way out.

Pit-Crew Station

What better way to make gas exciting than to pull your import sedan or SUV into an Indy-500 pit? As you pull into your station, a team of racing specialists descends upon your car and gives it a first-rate makeover. Besides pumping high quality gas, other pitmen use high-powered equipment to inflate, rotate, and if necessary, replace your worn-out radials. Another crewman checks your seatbelt and gives you a healthy dose of chemically enriched energy drink. When you're ready to go, yet another employee waves you back on the highway with a checkered flag. Just be careful; every 500th customer must dodge the simulated "out-of-control, flame-engulfed competitor" that careens into your station.

D-Day Station

At this station a mesh camouflage net is dropped onto your vehicle the instant you pull up to the pump. Infantrymen from all sides approach you on hands and knees, checking tire pressure and fluid levels, pumping gas, and handing you your very own AK-47 to fire at Axis bad guy dummies. It's utilitarian and educational!

Other ideas include the Cultural Awareness Station, the Viking Conquest Station, and the Marxist Station, where Karl Marx pumps your gas and gives you a lecture on the means of production at the same time.

If mandating employee gas pumping can help Oregon's economy, imagine the economic boom that would follow total implementation of theme-gas! The gas companies can certainly afford it, we just have to maintain our dependence on traditional fuels and postpone development of enviro-friendly alternatives. Everyone thinks those hybrid cars look dippy anyway. Our reaffirmed commitment will do wonders in easing the ill will that the folks in the Middle East have for the US. If they can afford their GameBoys and iPods, they won't worry about blowing each other up. The resulting impact will be a tremendous boon to their economy and ours.

If that doesn't work, we can still try the fly-fishing thing.