Some days are diamonds

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. — John Denver

I almost stole some gasoline, accidentally.

I was at my usual gas station, paying by credit card, as I normally do. Only the pump wasn’t cooperating. It kept displaying the message “Reinsert credit card.” I did, several times. I waited there, thinking that after a very short while, the machine would reset and I could start over.

No, it didn’t. So I decided to push all the buttons on the display. Only there weren’t any labels for these buttons on the display. Just the “Reinsert credit card” message. I punched the buttons anyway, hoping that one of them was Cancel.

Lo and behold! A new message appeared: Select grade, remove nozzle and start.

And that’s what I did. When I put the nozzle back, the pump didn’t ask me if I wanted a receipt, like it usually does. Hmm, I thought, that’s different. This machine sure is messed up. And now that I think about it, it didn’t ask me for my billing ZIP code (to prevent use of a stolen credit card), either, before I started pumping the gas. A missed clue! It’s a good thing I’m not a detective.

When I pulled away from the pump, the clerk came out of the little building, flagging me down. “You didn’t pay for your gas,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I replied. “I put in my credit card.”

“No,” he said, “you didn’t pay.”

Okay, I think, this really is a messed up transaction. I park, go in and get in line. When it’s my turn, I explain again that I had, indeed, put in my credit card.

What, then, was the problem? The problem was that in all my button pushing — those buttons without labels? — I pushed the one that triggered the “Pay Inside” transaction. That’s why the pump prompted me to remove the nozzle, select grade and start pumping. That’s why the clerk was expecting me to come inside to pay. That’s why the display didn’t ask me for my billing ZIP code for a credit card transaction. That’s why the display didn’t ask me if I wanted a receipt, because I hadn’t paid yet.


I want to emphasize that the clerk was as nice as can be while flagging me down and when I paid. I thanked him for that. It could have been otherwise. He could have chewed me out. He could have let me drive away and turned the situation over to the police. (All transactions are videotaped, so they had my license plate number to track me down.)

But he didn’t. This man, working at what is probably a minimum wage job, was as nice as can be.

Thank you, nice man!

The moral of the story: Pay attention. Don’t push buttons without labels. Pay for your gasoline!


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