It was late. I was already having a bad day. Worse traffic than usual caused me to miss picking up the trailer I had arranged to borrow for the 24 Hours of Lemons weekend. Once I found another trailer and secured my race car to it, it was extra late. Then I needed gas, and the world’s worst idea ever ruined that.
I had just calmed down after I accepted that maybe—just maybe—we could fix the car tomorrow. The rest of the team had some kind of optimism about this situation that I didn’t share. We had planned to fix the Volkswagen 411's seat, its carbs and a few other to-do items that night after I got off work, but I was too late already. Bad traffic and the rush to pack up left me in a panic.
I’d done all that stupid work on my garbage Volkswagen 411, and it still didn’t start properly. When I turned the power back on for the first time, it poured gas out the bottom of the carb’s air filter instead. I didn’t have time to fix that before trailering it to Houston, and then I couldn’t even pick it up in time to leave. I’d felt like I’d failed already.
The rental pickup had grown thirsty, and with miles of dark, quiet highway ahead, I knew Luling was one of my last chances for gas. I was all relieved to find a station still open, where I could rest a moment, stretch out of my vaguely Mr. Burns-shaped hunch, and most of all, be thankful that I wasn’t crawling this truck out of the lone medium-sized berg for a while on fumes in a truck getting single-digit MPG.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy that brief, sacred moment of stillness and relief, as the gas pump started yelling dumb ads and Headline News clips at me. It had that special kind of hell enabled known as Gas Station TV.
There is only one thing that needs to happen to Gas Station TV: the entire thing needs to go out of business and never start back up ever, ever again. Its inventors and proponents need to be brought out into the most public of squares and shamed for the cathartic amusement of everyone at home.
I have to specify “at home” for these yahoos because it should be obvious that those of us who are out of the house don’t want to be bothered.
There isn’t a single thing that makes me want to kick right through the little screen at the gas pump more than Gas Station TV. When I leave the house, it’s because I want to escape the terrifying hellscape that is our regular news cycle. I want peace, quiet and isolation from ordinary woe.
Long drives should be a calming experience. Even when you’re towing a broken car to a deeply unsafisfying race weekend, those moments on the road should be a nice, needed break to clear your head and get some fresh-ish, recirculated cabin air in your lungs.
I do not want this moment of road zen interrupted with news on the latest bad Trump tweet, sports controversy, or item you’d like me to buy. Television is the very thing that I wanted to escape when I went outside. Otherwise, I would be at home watching TV.
While some people claim that there are ways to mute obnoxious gas pump ads, none of the buttons ever seem to work on the pumps near me. Luling’s was no exception.
Luling’s Gas Station TV broadcast from what I can only imagine is the deepest circle of Hades itself, as it was stuck on the same three clips, over and over again until the truck’s giant gas tank was full. It could not be muted. Viewing these clips once was already too many times. Having them on repeat was the worst, exacerbated by the fact that the volume on these irritating systems are always cranked up to 11.
Lately, this cancer of the gas pump has spread even to my neighborhood corner store—the good one, with the fancy Euro candies, a zillion beers and an expansive chip selection. Just like cancer, Gas Station TV must be stopped. I’m pretty sure it violates some international law against cruel and unusual punishment anyway.