The Oregon CBS affiliate Facebook page became bombarded with comments concerning Oregon’s recent gas station law that became enacted on the first day of 2018. Some of the reactions have been quite ridiculous and humorous, as is expected from social media. But as a native Oregonian I felt the need to provide a positive perspective on Oregon’s idiosyncratic laws regarding gas station attendants.

As far as I knew Oregon was the only state in the union where it was illegal to pump your own gas until now. Apparently New Jersey is similar in this regard. But suffice it to say gas station attendants are rare in the US. This new law maintains the status quo for about half the counties in Oregon. But it legalized pumping your own gas in counties with less than 40,000 residents.

Google the new law and you find lots of stuff making fun of Oregonians for not being able to pump their own gas. I can barely count on one hand the Oregonians I know who don’t know how to pump their own gas, but the idea of a state full of non pumpers clearly seems humorous to non Oregonians. I guess shows like Portlandia have created a perception that the people of this great state are all ridiculous helpless hipsters. But the opposite is true. Oregonians are mostly rural do it yourselfers who love guns and drive trucks. In fact some of them have historically been slightly annoyed that they can’t pump their own gas. Especially in rural areas where a station may only have 2 pumps and 1 poor guy maning the station by himself. If any kind of line forms you could be waiting a bit to fill up. But that really isn’t any different from a fast food drive thru.

It’s weird, I’m a fan

I’ve always been a fan of the law because it provides low skill jobs in a state that desperately needs them. As a conservative I hate government involvement in the economy but also as a Federalist I strongly support states doing their own thing when it suits them. And this law hasn’t done much in the way of interference except require gas companies to have attendants if they want to sell any fuel. But now the low traffic low usage rural stations won’t require additional attendants, so this seems to help both the gas companies and their costumers since prices could potentially be lowered and service possibly speed up.

But it’s not as if anything has to change. In fact it seems as if not much will. In 3 counties the law only allows self service after 6pm and before 6am. Also stations with convenience stores aren’t effected. So many stations will still have fuel service. The Oregonian reported that many stations in counties covered by the new law are going to continue to serve their customers.

The Net is a Troll Den

The Internet reaction proves yet again that the web is not a place of enlightenment but rather a troll den. Self service gas stations are relatively unique on this planet. I didn’t pump my own gas till sometime in college. I grew up in the Philippines where there is no self service and most of my time spent in the US was in Oregon.

There are a number of advantages to having a fueling service. In addition to providing a low skill job market, service also aids the elderly and disabled. If done effectively it can add an element of luxury to something as simple as getting fuel. And in places like Oregon where bad weather is a way of life you don’t have to become doused with rain to refuel.

My grandfather used to be an attendant. He thoroughly enjoyed and took pride in it. Back in the day they had uniforms and performed a full service on your car. That meant at least window washing and an oil check. Of course this was all choreographed to the Chordettes singing Mr Sandman. You could hand your keys to a smiling gentlemen and grab something from a nearby store while you waited. “Bring me a dream” indeed!

Living in southern California where no one makes eye contact or greets strangers its obvious to me that fuel attendants would make people uncomfortable. SoCalians like to walk around in an impenetrable bubble generated by iPhones and hoodies. With ATMs and direct deposit we don’t even have to talk to bank tellers anymore. I wish fuel service attendants still existed in most of the country. Oregon’s law is a throwback to a more communal less isolated less automated time. The new legal tweaks don’t really change that but also give businesses more freedom in less populated areas. That seems like a good law to me.

Educator, podcaster, & writer

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