Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Gas Caps and the Trash Bags (not the Rod Stewart song)

Item Number 1
Is Life on Earth Too Complicated? Read this and decide.

Today, we look at two annoyances of modern life, one of which I have had to deal with recently and the other that is a gnawing pain in my side. First, the automobile gas cap. Innocuous, you say? Au contraire.

After the gas jockey at Wawa – I was later to learn that they are officially known as gas jockeys – finished filling my tank with liquid gold, he spun the gas cap around so many times I thought I was under heavy machine gun fire, so I assumed the cap was on tightly. However, the next day, the dashboard light advised me to CHECK GAS CAP. Why, I wondered quietly to myself, would I have to check the gas cap? I know where it is.

No sooner did the gas cap light come on, that the CHECK ENGINE light came on as well. The owner’s manual tells me that the Gas Cap light makes the Engine light come on, which will make my turn signals blink uncontrollably, which will fog my windows and finally, the car will stop running altogether, saving me thousands of dollars in gasoline.

Now, I am riding around with the dashboard aglow, and just for fun, I decided to unbuckle my safety belt, so that I can have the full array of warning lights. Meanwhile, I’m squirting washer fluid for no reason other than to encourage the EMPTY WASHER FLUID light to join the party. At this point, I’ve unscrewed and replaced the gas cap so many times that the car has developed a rash, and yet, the lights remain lit.
Gratefully, this morning on the way to work, they went off. I’m assuming the bulbs blew out.

The issue here (is there one?) is – why does the simple act of filling the tank with gasoline have to be so complicated? It’s the only thing that we have to do, so you would think that it would be as simple as possible, but no. The owner’s manual has an entire section devoted to the art and science of the gas cap. How to unscrew it, how to insert the hose, how to replace the cap – one-quarter turn from the white arrow. Anything with the term “one-quarter turn” in it is unnecessarily complicated. Let the mechanics deal with one-quarter turns. As for me, I’m doing a full turn, whether you like it or not.
There, now I’m talking to my gas cap. I hope the Ford Motor Company will pay for my psychotherapy.
Item Number 2
The Amazing Disappearing Product (i.e. The Gnawing Pain)

I yearn for the good old days, when throwing out the trash meant setting a metal can out on the curb, brimming with a week’s worth of discarded memories and stale food. There was no such thing as a trash bag, and I never realized how happy I was that life was so simple. Now, trash goes into a bag, that goes into the dumpster that is trucked to the landfill. I loathe the trash bag and all for which it stands.

I have developed an irrational disdain for buying trash bags. In fact, I hate it. It’s hard enough to spend money, but to spend money on something whose expressed purpose is to be thrown away annoys me. I absolutely refuse (pun intended) to buy a box of more than ten bags. If you can go to Sam’s Club and buy the 5,000-count box, peace be with you. For me, it somehow lessens the pain if I only have to take ten of them home at a time, especially since I know none of them will survive the stay.

I try to get the maximum usage out of the bags by compressing as much trash as I can into the bag, and it’s holder, the plastic kitchen container. I will stress the container to the point that it’s puffing like a cartoon boiler under stress, until not even the scraps of yesterday’s cat food will fit into it. Then, and only then will I pull it out of the trash can – with its accompanying whissssssssh and the resultant air-vacuum that lifts the can off the floor – and carry it out to the dumpster. The bag looks like one of those Consumer Reports tests, with no air space, and barely enough slack to tie the ends together. It’s packed so tightly, you can read the ingredients on a cereal box. I burn 50 calories carrying it outside, and it is so heavy, that throwing it into the steel container makes the neighbors think there’s a thunderstorm approaching.
Then, I begrudgingly peel another bag out of the box. There are only nine left now, and soon, I will have to go back and lay out another $2.89 for bags that I use to throw the box away that they came in.


meg said...

But buying fewer of them means that you'll have to do it more often . . .

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anthony said...

Yes, I realize the fallacy, and after all, it is an irrational fear.

But I am torn between spending more or having fewer. Having fewer wins.

Carmen said...

Ok, first, the rest of us have to pump our OWN gas, so we make sure to put the gas cap on correctly. ;)

Trash bags. never thought about it that way. Now I don't want to buy trash bags either!

Anthony said...

I'm converting a select few to the trash bag ordeal - nice to know you're on-board.

Our governor here in NJ is proposing self-serve for us, too. Only Oregon and NJ have people pump gas for us, so I guess it's about time to get with the program. Others have tried, but there's strong opposition.

But, I don't like my hands smelling like gasoline - or getting out of my car in the snow and cold.