Gas and Dash and Cash

It’s funny how protective we are as a society. We have laws requiring people to wear seatbelts, even though the only practical consequence to not wearing a seatbelt is severe injury to one’s self. We have laws prohibiting drug use, even though the only real consequence is addiction and destitution, same with gambling. Of course taking drugs and not wearing a seatbelt are very stupid things to do. But you know what else is stupid? Drinking to excess, eating fast food every single fucking day, and watching Jersey Shore, all of which are perfectly legal.

In reality these laws only exist to protect people from themselves, and to be honest, I’ve never been afraid harming myself, I trust myself, and if I do harm myself, it’s my own damn fault. But unfortunately many think the government needs to act like our parents and protect us. This month I’m turning 25, I don’t think I really need a parent to tell me what do any more. I’m at the age where it’s no longer necessary.

But this problem really came to a head just recently. As a gas-station attendant was killed because he tried to stop a guy who was trying to drive off without paying. Such a sad story, and a terrible event. Though, I must point out, there were several reasons this happened. For one, the “customer” was an idiot for trying to steal gas, and the attendant was an idiot for thinking that a man stealing gas would stop his car if you stand in front of it. It’s like thinking a man who plans to shoot up a university, or rob a convenience store, will obey the various gun laws we have on the books.

Boy, I’m really tearing our legal code a new one today aren’t I?

Of course when something terrible happens, politicians are asked what they will do about it to prevent it in the future, as if one of their jobs is to prevent stupid people from doing stupid shit. The response from our Premier? A new law forcing gas stations to require customers to pre pay for gas. The infrastructure already exists to make this quick and easy. It’s also known as ‘pay at the pump.’ You insert your debit or credit card into the gas pump, and it automatically charges the gas to your account. Then you’re out of there. Quick and easy. So what’s the problem? Here’s the problem, the government is forcing these companies to make pay at the pump mandatory. What if they don’t want to?

Of course no gas station wants to get robbed, so there is an incentive for them to do this on their own, without the government telling them to. But there is also a downside. The loss of business from those who want to pay cash. If this law is passed, those who want to pay cash will be shit out of luck. Unless they go inside, hand the attendant a $50, go back out to their car, fill the tank, then go back in for the change. It’s so roundabout, and a major inconvenience. All to prevent people from stealing gas. A job that can be easily handled by strategically placed security cameras. Okay, that won’t prevent it per say, but it would certainly make it easier to catch the assholes.

According to the government this is all in the name of public safety. But really, that’s not what this is about. If this is really about public safety, and preventing people from dying, a better solution would be to pass a law saying the attendant is not liable if someone steals gas. That way they have very little reason to put their lives a risk for a damn 50 bucks. We could also ensure they can’t be fired for letting a gas-and-dasher get away. Last I checked, we already have laws on the books preventing wrongful termination, I don’t understand how we can’t just extend that to failing to prevent a robbery. Or maybe we already have that. I’m not sure. But if we do have those laws, then why did the man stand in front of the robber’s car? The only explanation I can think of: he was an idiot. Why else would someone put their own lives a risk when they had nothing to lose by doing not doing it? Just so we’re clear, yes, he was putting his life at risk. Standing in front of a moving vehicle is putting your life at risk.

I’m reminded of a movie I once saw called Black Dog. In it, Patrick Swayze is haunted by the time he was driving a transport truck down rainy highway late at night, when he hit a man standing in the middle of the fucking road! Why would one stand in the middle of the road? To signal down a driver to help him because his car broke down. Even though there are a dozen other ways to signal a driver that is less likely to get you killed. Flashlight in their eyes is a good one, or road flares. Besides, standing in the middle of the road is even more dangerous if you’re doing it in low visibility conditions, or when the car you’re trying to stop is stealing gas. Now true, Swayze’s character shouldn’t have been overrunning his headlights, and the prick who stole the gas shouldn’t have…well…stolen gas. But the fact remains, everyone was stupid, but in both the movie, and the case above, only one of the participants died because of it.

Now, some may ask why this is such a big deal. Well, first off, it’s telling businesses how to do business. That’s not the government’s job. Secondly, it’s telling people how to manage their money. I don’t have a credit card, nor do I want one, or at least, I don’t want one that I will use for anything other than online shopping. Though I could simply use my debit card, but some people use cash only, so they can manage their money better. Professional money manager and host of Til Debt Do Us Part, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, recommends people stick to a strict cash budget, especially if they have trouble managing their money, so they are more aware of where it goes. If this law passes, it means these people are shit out of luck, they will need to keep using plastic to gas up. Plus, some just prefer to deal in cash because it means there’s no record for the government to track, these people are known as schizophrenics. But it’s their right. Also, the gas stations will suffer to a certain extent too. Instead of filling their tank, then going inside to pay, maybe getting a candy bar or a drink, customers will leave without even stepping foot in the store. The confectionery business in these operations will suffer.

But the question is, is it worth it? Well let’s look at it in the most objective way possible, a pro/con list. Pro: It will virtually guarantee no more gas stealing. Cons: It will restrict how these companies do business; It will restrict how individuals manage their money; It will greatly inconvenience those who prefer to deal in cash, and those around them, as they wait for the customer to make two trips to the store front.

If individual companies want to inconvenience their customers in this way, that’s fine, there are plenty of other gas stations in town. But for the government to force them to do this. That is just wrong.

While we’re on the subject, I don’t think gassing and dashing has gone up in recent years, if so, I’d love to see the numbers. So, a message to the NDP: it’s not because of the damn HST! It’s one thing to criticise, it’s another to make shit up! So stop saying everything bad is happening because of the damn HST!!!

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