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Jumping back to the past is a gas, gas, gas


The belly of the beast was grumbling this week and, already running on fumes myself, I dared not risk sputtering to a stop somewhere in the Medford wilderness.

Rebel that I am, I pulled into a gas station that has found itself at the center of a NIMBY boycott and told the courteous attendant (he even alerted me to 16 cents a gallon in savings) to fill’er up.

As I sat waiting, wondering just what I would do with the new-found $1.76 soon to be burning a hole in my pocket, my thoughts — as they are wont to do — drifted away … and I found myself thinking of the Oregon Legislature and my high school guidance counselor.

His name was Mr. Quick and, let the record show, he wasn’t.

Mr. Quick was a slow-talker of whom you were never quite sure whether he was deep in thought, or simply lost in the middle of a sentence. What he had to do with my pit stop, though, is one of the two things I remember most about him.

I’ll start with the other one.

It involves his wife, whose name (I kid you not) was Mrs. Quick. For some reason or other, a baker’s dozen or so students gathered at their home one Saturday for what today, I guess, would be called a New Age experience.

As Mrs. Quick stood at the front in a rather large rec room, she had us lay ourselves down on the floor — placing our heads (face up, mind you) on the stomach of another student in boy-girl-boy-girl-etc fashion.

Mrs. Quick lowered the lights and waited for us to stop laughing (try it sometime at a dinner party, it isn’t easy to keep from getting the giggles) before she put Neil Diamond’s soundtrack album to the film version of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” on ye olde turnstile.

She once again waited for us to stop laughing, and then read passages from the book after we were instructed to slowly close our eyes and set free our thoughts.

As I find myself connected to both a lovely blue-eyed blonde and a charming exchange student from Thailand, my thoughts were fueled by wondering which would inflict the least amount of pain when turning me down for a date — as if listening to the melodramatic swells of seagull-inspired schmaltz wasn’t torture enough.

(I’d like to interject here that this particular experience qualified as the strangest that I had during high school … but that would be a fib.)

Back to the task at hand — which, if I remember correctly, involves filling the tank and Mrs. Quick’s husband, Mr. Quick.

I found myself in his office one winter’s day. My objective, beyond trying to garner his attention, was to discuss college options.

His objective, on the other hand, I still haven’t been able to ascertain … for when I mentioned the names of a few schools to which I was thinking of applying, Mr. Quick focused long enough to ask a penetrating question:

“Can you ... even,” he said before an extended pause, “pump your own gas?”

As high school guidance counselors go, Mr. Quick was sub-optimal.

Now — as I sat nyah-nyah-ing the NIMBYites and wondering how far that $1.76 would take me — my thoughts drifted to Mr. and Mrs. Quick, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the blue-eyed blonde and the exchange student and, eventually, to a proposal stalled in the State House that would allow us to grab those nozzles by the horns, breathe in fresh fumes of freedom, and delicately click off our refills at nice round numbers.

I mean, I get it. Oregon and New Jersey remain the only states where attendants (no matter how pleasant) have to pump our gas … and no one I know in Oregon wants to be associated with New Jersey in regards to anything.

Yes, there are stretches across the desolate plains of Greater Idaho, where the ability to pump your own gas would cut crucial minutes off the trek to John Day.

And, certainly, with the would-be workforce seemingly shriveled on the vine, it might soon affect the ranks of what one classified ad once heralded as “Gasoline Replenishing Technicians.”

Finally, who wouldn’t want to stop getting hosed by gas prices so that you could pull away from the station with more than $1.76 in your pocket?

All are legitimate reasons for wanting the Legislature to act in unison (HAHAHAHAHAHA … sorry, got the giggles there for a moment) and give its citizens at least the option of independence.

But, and I ask this in all sincerity … What about me?

I’m the one sitting there, thanking the attendant for his courtesy, saving paper by not asking for a receipt, and finally — after 47 years — having an answer to the obtuse query of my high school guidance counselor.

Yes, Mr. Quick, I can pump my own gas.

But I don’t have to.

Mail Tribune columnist Robert Galvin’s warning light is blinking at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com