In Praise of New Jersey

As a tenth generation New Yorker, one might imagine that extolling the virtues of the Garden State is a task which I do not particularly enjoy.  New Jersey is often unnecessarily abused and that has usually been fine with me. But today I have arrived at a crossroads and have come to praise New Jersey, not to bury it.

Last week while driving along the Eastern Seaboard, I pulled into what was once known as a gasoline service station. I turned off the ignition, extracted my credit card, opened the door, and headed to the pump. Suddenly, I was confronted by a black man who demanded my credit card, and fuel requirements. Startled by this unexpected confrontation, it took me a moment to remember I had crossed the border and was now in New Jersey.

New Jersey – Home of the Gas Jockeys.

There are over 3,000 gas stations in New Jersey.

In a recent poll conducted by myself, over 99% of respondents agreed pumping your own gasoline is a pain in the ass. It’s not the worst thing in the world but it’s a dirty, smelly, inconvenient, and ultimately a dangerous job that the oil companies recruited you to do for them for free. Pump your own gas, sucker?

Around 1970 or so, most of the United States was bamboozled into thinking donating their time and effort to the oil companies would be a good thing. Mr/Ms Average Consumer would save a few pennies per fill up and what could possibly be wrong with that? New Jersey did not agree with this get rich quick scheme by the oil companies, and retail delivery of gasoline was kept in the hands of professionals.

Let’s say the average gas station in New Jersey employs four Gas Jockeys full-time over a week. That’s over 12,000 jobs. And that’s a conservative estimate. That’s 12,000 people kept off the welfare rolls. 12,000 jobs over a forty year period. Are you beginning to get the idea? 12,000 taxpayers as opposed to 12,000 welfare recipients. The State of New Jersey kept over 12,000 people off the welfare rolls for forty years by not allowing Ms Average Consumer to pump her own gas. The State of New Jersey prevented hundreds of possible service station explosions and fires by not allowing Joe Sixpack to handle volatile, explosive fluids on his way back from a Giants tailgate. The State of New Jersey helped thousands of young kids help keep food on their family’s table while possibly paying for their higher education.

The State of New Jersey (along with Oregon and Huntington, NY) did not allow the oil companies to turn their citizens into unpaid employees. New Jersey kept jobs in New Jersey, increased their tax base, reduced their welfare costs, reduced the number of gas station robberies by having more people around, kept neighborhoods safer by having more eyes on the street, and made everyone smell just a little bit better by not having that noxious gasoline aroma on your hands and clothes.

Until the 1970s, full service was the norm and self-service was rare.

As much as I hate to say this, congratulations New Jersey! You did the right thing forty years ago and you keep doing the right thing today.

My question is why doesn’t each state demand that explosive liquids be kept out of the hands of unqualified amateurs? Let’s say that states average 2,000 gas stations a piece. Let’s say an average of two full time Gas Jockeys per station. That’s four thousand jobs created instantly. Any state legislator who turns down the chance to create four thousand jobs in today’s economic climate should be recalled.

And for you free marketeers, remember, the price of goods isn’t created by the cost of goods, the price of goods is what the market will bear. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. But not at the same time you’re pumping gas.

This country messed itself up forty years ago (except for New Jersey et al). It’s time to atone for our sins. Bring back the Gas Jockeys for a safer America, for a more prosperous America, and, of course, for a less malodorous America.

Bring back the Service Station. Employ hundreds of thousands of Americans as Gas Jockeys right now. Stop pumping your own gas, the oil companies should work for you, not you for them.

“Hey, you know your left rear tire looks a little low?”

Peter Breschard is the author of Circus Rider and My Love Affair with Barack Obama as well as other lesser works of fact and fiction. Read other articles by Peter.