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Gas Pump Jeopardy

I stopped by a gas station that I will leave unnamed lest I be sued for slandering them or at the very least, chastised for mocking them, and I began yet another round of, GAS PUMP JEOPARDY! I pulled up and got out and popped open the gas lid on my truck. Then I turned and took a deep breath and gave a long hard stare-down to the pump host of “Gas Pump Jeopardy.” Every once in a while I get lucky and get a simple lightning round question like, “Pick Your Gas,” you know, like 87 octane or whatever. But that scenario is getting less common. Just in the nick of time I remembered that my responses are supposed to be in the form of a question, so I say, “What is, 87 octane? For a hundred, Alex.” On this occasion I’m pretty sure I was playing Championship Gas Pump Jeopardy. There were lots of questions and if I played long enough and came up with the correct responses there was a chance that I’d get to buy a full tank of gas at an absurdly high price. I took a deep breath and stepped forward and thought, let the game begin and then pressed a button on the face of the game machine.

“Are you a rewards member?” it asked.

“What is, No,” I answered by pushing the red button that had “no” written on it. In anticipation of making the gas pumping process more complicated I am presuming that sometime in the near future they are going to change the default colors to something other than red and green.

“Would you like to become a rewards member?”

“What is, No.” Red buttoned pushed again.

“Are you an idiot? Are you sure you don’t want to become a rewards member?” This is a bit of a trick question isn’t it. The answer to the first question is no, but the answer to the second is yes. I went with the second one, but to be honest I didn’t feel good about it.

“How about a car wash?” The questions continued and I looked around and didn’t even see a car wash. Maybe it was behind the store. Or maybe the pump was just making an observation that the truck was dirty, but wasn’t actually offering to wash it for me.

“What is, no.”

“Coffee and bagel?”

“What is, no,” I answered with a deep sigh.

“Beer? Condoms? Dancing hula girl car scent thing to hang off your mirror? Windshield wash fluid?” I shook my head back and forth hoping that would be sufficient, but in the end I submitted to pushing the red button one more time.

“How are you going to pay?” it asked, and then put the options on the screen.

“What is, Credit/Debit,” I answered.

“Do you have one of our cards?” it asked, just rephrasing the rewards member question.

“What is, No.”

“Insert card.”

I inserted it and waited while it pretended that it was doing a bunch of stuff, but I’m confident that it was really just messing with me. Sort of like a Jeopardy Test His Patience round.

“Enter zip code,” it eventually instructed. I always wonder about this one. It doesn’t seem like the zip code thing would be an actual security protection thing, but what do I know.

“What is, #####.” Entered.

“Cash back?” it asked. This one made me ponder because I couldn’t quite figure out how a gas pump would give me cash back and I was tempted to say yes just to find out how where the money would come out. Then I smiled and nodded my head up and down when I realized that this was like a Double Jeopardy question that will likely lead to more difficult questions if I answered incorrectly. You know, like a pin number, or zip code again, or do I want to pay a $3 fee in order to get $20 from the mystery location.

“What is, No!” I doinked the “no” button quite hard, feeling like victory is near.

“Remove card and lift nozzle,” it instructed and requireed no answer, but still required me to do something. I pulled the card out and put the nozzle in the gas tank hole in the side of my truck.

“Select grade.” This is another trick question. The truth is that we have no idea what grade we are getting. I once saw a guy in NYC fill up the decaf and regular coffee containers from the same pot of coffee. Who knows what’s in those underground tanks? I read an article last week that said McDonalds French fry oil can be used to fuel jet planes, so I’m not really sure that the octane level of our gas could be all that critical. I mean, jets can fly on French fry oil but cars need a particular level of octane to run correctly? Really? Anyway, I pushed “What is, 87,” and moved on. Meanwhile, I pondered what difference it would make to use 87 octane with 10% ethanol versus plain ole 87, other than I would have to pay more for one of them. Another Double Jeopardy question.

Once I picked 87, I knew what the next step was going to be. I waited. Sometimes for just a second, but usually I had to wait at least long enough that I would eventually look at the pump to see what’s taking so long. In my head I’m hearing, dum dum dum dum dum dum dum… that’s the Jeopardy song, just in case you haven’t figured it out. On this round of Gas Pump Jeopardy I get the disappointing losers response.

“Oohhh… I’m sorry. That is not correct. The correct response is, “What is, See the attendant.” Damn! So close. With a deep sigh and hanging my head I walked to the door and went inside to claim my consolation prize. The attendant took my card, asked the pump number to which I responded,

“What is, number seven.”

I wandered back outside and filled up my tank with what I presumed was 87 octane, no ethanol that I am aware of, and then returned the nozzle to its resting place and put the cap back on my gas. At long last, it was time for Final Jeopardy.

“Would you like a receipt?”

“What is, Yes.” Green button pushed with only a slight sense of satisfaction and no sense of victory.

“Noooooo. So sorry once again. Please see the attendant… again.”

“What is, SON OF A ……..!”

Author’s note: When I was a kid, my parents would pull up to the gas pump, give a guy ten bucks and he would put gas in their car and wash the windshield, and maybe even check the oil. Fortunately technology has enabled us to do all of those things for ourselves today, if you answer the questions correctly. Once again, it does not feel like evolution and technology and AI is making my life any simpler or the least bit better. Driving up and having some guys say, “Good morning. How may I help you today?” seemed quite a bit nicer and much more civilized. Well, I’m off to the grocery store where I get to fill my grocery cart and then check myself out, no cashier required. I can already see myself searching for lettuce on that little scanner screen.

“Boston or Iceberg?”

“What is Iceberg?” I’ll answer, not really knowing the difference between the two.

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