Getting gassed

Ed Rood

Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, life was much simpler. Maybe a little more dangerous, but definitely simpler. People made do. They didn’t run to the store every time they needed an item, they simply substituted something to take its place.

A good example of that is empty containers. If Dad wanted to save, something he would find a container that was big enough to hold whatever it was that he wanted stored. That was about his only prerequisite. I guess that’s the reason Des Moines Bleach bottles were so popular around our house. Those big brown glass jugs with the thumb hole next to the neck were ideal for storing a gallon of whatever liquid he wanted to have on hand.

Dad would stick a small strip of white medical tape on the bottle to identify whatever it now contained – DDT, kerosene or, perhaps, gasoline. That’s right, he always kept a spare gallon or two of gasoline on hand in glass jugs.

Ed Rood

I can still see him walking across the highway to Paul Jones’ Standard Station and watching as Paul carefully filled the brown bottles one at a time. That’s how things were done back in the early 1950s.

I couldn’t help but think back to those days recently as I unleashed a multitude of bad words while attempting to fill the gas tank on my lawnmower.

This spring I invested in a new plastic gasoline container. It was the first such investment I had made in many years but I was not prepared for what lie ahead. The plastic gas can itself was no problem. It was the nozzle.

My old gas container – which, unfortunately I had already disposed of – had a vent at the back with a plastic screw-on cap. The nozzle was a flexible plastic pipe also with a plastic cap. So simple, yet so efficient. 

The new container looks just about like my old one except that it no longer has a vent. Instead it has a nozzle that appears to be something designed by an evil scientist or someone working for the government. 

As I studied the new nozzle I realized that to allow the gasoline to discharge from the gas can I must twist a yellow spring-loaded valve on the nozzle until it lines up with a notch; then push it into the notch. This must be done while I am holding it over the opening of the gas tank on the lawn mower. Doing all these required maneuvers without spilling gasoline is not an easy task.

The next time I was in the store where I had purchased the gas can I asked the proprietor why he sold such junk. He smiled and noted that it’s the law. Our wonderful government has mandated it so. No longer can portable gasoline containers have a separate vent. 

The ventless gas can idea originated in California (surprise, surprise) and is now the law of the land. The original goal behind this crazy can and spout is to prevent spillage. As is always the case when our government gets involved ... it is a fantastic failure.

The new can has helped the economy, however, at least from the oil companies’ perspective. Now, instead of small gasoline spills, the spills have grown and, thus, so have the trips to the gas station.

In addition to the spills is the possibility of an explosion! On hot days these new plastic cans can expand like balloons because of the lack of a vent. Suddenly releasing the pressure can cause gas to fly everywhere. Isn’t that a pleasant added feature?

Now, as I attempt to transfer gasoline from my gas can to my mower I remember Dad and his brown glass bleach bottles. Boy, I feel so much safer!

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.