As a lifelong denizen of the Upper Midwest, nothing terrifies me more than the prospect of stepping out of my well-heated vehicle in the middle of January to fill my car with gas when the windchill is 30 below. The wind will be whipping at my pant legs, my hand will be debilitated just by slipping off my glove to take out my credit card, and my fingers will feel as if they are going to freeze to the gas nozzle. The last thing I need during this unpalatable task is an overly inquisitive little gas pump needlessly extending my time outside at the pump.

All of us are familiar with this — those pesky preliminary questions your gas pump asks before it lets you extract any of its precious little petrol, acting as if it’s doing you the favor. In the summer, these questions are just annoying. In the winter, when you feel as if your toes are turning into icicles, they are downright maddening.

So, gas pump programmers of the world (who I assume hail from warmer climates), I offer a few critiques in hopes you’ll restructure the inquisition so we Minnesotans can get back to our warm cars a little more quickly.

1) “Would you like a receipt?”: On first glance, this question seems fair enough. There are lots of business travelers out there who need to get a receipt to be reimbursed by employers. But why do many pumps ask this question before we get the gas? Couldn’t this question be posed after the gas has been pumped? That way, if we don’t need a receipt, we can simply high-tail it back into the car without answering the question. Alternatively, couldn’t the pumps just have a separate button people can press if they want a receipt? I’m guessing the vast majority of people getting gas do not need or want a receipt. Why burden everyone with this question if that’s the case?

2) “Debit or credit?”: If the ma-and-pa Thai takeout place down the street doesn’t ask this question when I pull out my card, why does a multinational gas company?

3) “Would you like a carwash?”: If it’s January, I’m guessing no one is going to press “yes” to this question. In fact, if it’s January in Minnesota, I’m guessing the gas station doesn’t even have its auto-wash hooked up to the water line. I understand companies have to go for the “upsell,” but it would be great if they held off during the winter months when I’m more concerned about restoring feeling in my cheeks than having an aesthetically pleasing car.

Of course, gas companies aren’t the only ones who need to learn to pare down the unnecessary. (I’m looking at the people with the unnecessarily long voice-mail messages. If I’m receiving your voice mail, it’s obvious that you are “unavailable” and I assume you’ll try to call me back. You don’t need to tell me that.) But these other annoyances of everyday life are no match for the frozen frustrations at the gas pump in the winter. So, Exxon Mobil, if you’re reading, give us Minnesotans a break. Let us pump as promptly as possible.


Brent Paisley, of Apple Valley, is an attorney.