Priming the Pump: Getting Gas in New Jersey

Monday, July 16, 2012

Did you know that it's illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey? You heard me. In 1949, the Garden State banned self-service gas pumps for safety reasons, though I am still unclear as to what those reasons are. I'm picturing Zoolander-esque scenarios here.

Apparently this is a thing most New Jerseyans like - 63% of them, to be absurdly exact. That article from both amuses & infuriates me, as it seems that residents of NJ make a lot of excuses as to why they like the law - "It's cold outside," "Pumping my own gas holds up traffic" (?!) - but in the end, it seems obvious that these folks just can't be bothered to do it themselves. They have to learn how when they travel to other states!

I have a lot of questions about this system, like: Do I turn my car off? Do I roll my window down or open my door? Do I tip the person who fills up my tank? If I need to run into the gas station to buy something, do I move my car away from the pump before going inside? I eagerly grilled a New Jersey native about it, & though his responses were sound, my anxiety prevailed.

While at summer camp in New York last week, I decided I'd be best served to fill up my tank - by myself - while out of state. Upon leaving camp, I drove a few miles out of my way to the nearest Citgo to capitalize upon the Empire State's DIY gas laws. As I pulled up, a middle-aged bald guy walked out of the station & up to my car, ready to pump - to my horror & dismay.

"Am... am I in New Jersey?" I stuttered, confused about my geography skills. "Is this New Jersey?"

He laughed. "Nope, this is New York. But because we're so close to Jersey, a lot of people prefer not to pump their own gas. So I do it for 'em! We're one of the only ones in New York that do it this way, I think."

I fumbled around nervously as I turned off my car. And then turned it back on to roll down the driver's side window. And then fumbled around some more as I hit the locks instead of the windows. He kept laughing.

"How much you want?" he asked.

"Umm... fill it up?" All of my responses sounded like questions.

"You're not from around here, huh?" he asked. Oh, you can tell? I explained that I'd just moved to New Jersey from New England & had hoped to avoid having someone else pump my gas because I didn't really understand how it worked.

He couldn't stop laughing.

Leave it to me to go out of state to evade New Jersey's weird gas laws... only to find the only gas station in New York state that has a company policy of pumping customers' gas as a courtesy.

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