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Why Some States Won’t Let You Pump Your Own Gas

Do you ever wish someone else would pump your gas?

For most of us, pumping gas is no big deal. We just stand there next to our cars, watch the numbers tick by on the meter and try not to make awkward eye contact with the driver on the pump next to us.

But for residents of two states, pumping one’s own gas is equivalent to walking into a Waffle House and having to cook your own meal. That’s because pumping gas is actually illegal in Oregon and New Jersey, where gas station attendants do the pumping for you.

That is it was illegal until Jan. 1, when Oregon began allowing people in rural counties to fill up their own tanks.

For those of us who have been doing this all of our lives, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. But if you read the comments on a Facebook post containing an announcement of the change, you will see that this news caused widespread panic among many Oregonians. As Twitter user @Kristytipsy noted, it was hilarious:

Needless to say, the natives’ reactions to the new law went viral because. I mean, come on.

“I had to do it once in California while visiting my brother and almost died while doing it,” one commenter wrote. “This is a service only qualified people should perform. I will literally park at the pump and wait until someone pumps my gas. I can’t even.”

Can’t even, indeed. Sure, some of the comments were mocking in nature, but there was genuine concern from many. Between the people worried about being attacked while pumping gas to people who were worried they would catch fire, clearly this is what people in Oregon imagine the rest of the country does when filling up the tank:

Oregon lawmakers listed a whopping 17 reasons why they—until recently, at least—did not allow people to pump their own gas. Among them: safety concerns, creating jobs and, my personal favorite, “small children left unattended when customers leave to make payment at retail self-service stations creates a dangerous situation.”

But at least Oregon lets some people pump their own gas. New Jersey, the only other state to prohibit it, still does not let anyone pump their gas. While some lawmakers have expressed frustration with the rule, it appears the people of New Jersey like having attendants.

According to NJ.com, New Jersey passed the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act in 1949 citing safety concerns, though at least some people believe it was a way to control gas prices. Of course, while it’s illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey, the state doesn’t seem terribly concerned with actually enforcing the rule, as NJ.com said you basically have to do it right in front of an official in order to be subject to fines. And as one gas station owner pointed out, it’s not like attendants are going to be terribly eager to report people who try to pump their own gas.

“If I tell you, don’t do it and you do it, am I supposed to call the police and turn in my own customer?” the owner asked the New York Times. “If I want him to come back and buy gas again, that’s not going to happen.”

Even some prominent New Jersey politicians publicly flout the law.

“I break the law in New Jersey on a regular basis,” State Senator Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr. told the New York Times. “Someone can come to my door and cuff me if they want.”

With Oregon relenting and 48 other states letting people pump their own gas, you have to imagine that it’s only a matter of time before New Jersey follows suit. After all, how often do you hear about people doing stupid things at gas pumps? You know, aside from this bozo.