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Chivalry At The Pump
Show your wife you love her by taking care of the things she hates most.


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Surprise your spouse with a helping hand; they'll appreciate it.


We all have them. Those awkward moments when we do something ridiculous and then wish the ground beneath us would simply swallow us up. I probably have more of those moments than most and it is no coincidence that I am in the field of protocol. I specialize in "awkward moments."

For example, I am certainly capable of performing most domestic tasks, but I absolutely loathe filling my tank with gas (and ironing, but that’s a different story). I am not a frilly little ball of puff that doesn’t want to break a nail, but I would prefer my husband "filler up," rather than myself—and not just because of the gas.

Last Friday, however, I found my tank on empty and much too far away from home to just coast in to my driveway on fumes. So there it was, a decision I hated to make—either pull up to the next gas pump I see or pray for a miracle. I decided to gingerly jump out of my car, put in my credit card and follow the directions.

But something was wrong. The only thing worse than standing outside in 100-degree weather wearing hose and heels and filling my own tank with gas is having to go in to the convenience store, first, to do the prepay routine.

"No ma am," the attendant says, "you can use your credit card at the pump." "I am trying, I want to scream" but, once again, I try the entire procedure all over.

The pump is not working. I am sweating, smiling and holding up the line as angry people viciously swerve around me, mouthing words that look very familiar. Others are going in and out of the convenience store, filling their tanks next to me, drinking their slushies and eating their potato chips laughing as they drive away. It is obvious their laughter is directed at me. I am also certain they are taking bets as to how long I am going to last before driving away in shame. I press the Help button several times expecting an understanding voice to say, "May I help you?" I finally give up and move my car to another pump. The pump I am at is obviously broken, along with the Help button and the voice box that is wired to the cashier inside. I am careful to follow the directions, step-by-step. In spite of this attention to detail, no gas will come out of the nozzle. Have I mentioned how much I hate pumping gas? Insert card. Remove quickly. Select pump. Lift nozzle. Okay, I’ve done it, what’s the problem now. I decide to move to another pump, with the same problem! Two pumps broken and I am out of gas and patience.

About this time a garbage truck slowly pulls up beside me. A very nice man gets out and walks over. (He, too, has been watching laughing and snickering—I can just tell). He asks if he can help. I thank him politely and immediately begin to berate the two broken gas pumps, the voice box, the weather conditions and my husband who obviously doesn’t love me enough to put gas in my car. My new friend surveys the situation and suddenly gets this sheepish grin on his face. With one slow and exaggerated motion, using only his index finger, he flips up the handle of the gas pump. Gas starts flowing like lava from a volcano. I hear the sound of engines starting from all parts of the parking lot, all of whom have been waiting for me to complete my gas transaction fiasco. It suddenly feels like I’ve been in the gas line for days. I once again thank the Good Samaritan who took the time to help me.

Well… it's not my fault! The directions say to lift the "nozzle." A nozzle and a handle are two totally different things, at least in my mind. The directions are clear if you think the handle is a nozzle and if you know that the handle moves up and down—I’m writing a letter to the gas pump people, I’ll let you know what they say.

The golden rule of gas pump etiquette is to know the tools of the trade. Handle, nozzle, voice box and credit card. People getting gas are highly impatient. Usually their little light is on yellow and their car is sputtering as they arrive. And another etiquette rule… pump and go. Don’t leave your car in front of the gas pump while you visit with your neighbor outside or do your weekly shopping inside the mini mart. Common courtesy dictates you don’t hold up the gas line or revel in someone else’s ignorance. Don’t scream profanities at someone whose husband has ignored and neglected her in her time of need. Finally, a message to husbands. Chivalry is not dead. Surprise your wife and mother. Take her car and your credit card and feel free to pump away to your hearts content. Even though she is fully capable of getting her own gas, it is small gestures that make big differences in your relationship. If your wife hates a minor chore that's not a major deal to you, surprise her—you won't regret it.

Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com.


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