Commentary: A Minor Change In The Law and The Reaction Thereof

Oregon and New Jersey had the distinction of being the only two states to not let their citizens – or any visitors – to pump their own gas. For someone used to self-serve gasoline, it seemed illogical or a throwback to the days of gas pump attendants armed with squeegees and towels.

However, the number of states preventing self-serve gasoline has been reduced to one. But, not entirely.

January 1, 2018, marked the date where the State of Oregon allowed for its citizens and visitors to pump their own gasoline. It is on a restricted basis, where the counties with the smallest populations – up to 40,000 people – can allow the self-serving of gasoline between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM. The rest of the state will retain full-service gasoline as before.

The methodology behind this law is to allow for motorists to pump their own gas during the evening hours if they run int a gas station without an attendant. This is set to prevent being stuck somewhere instead of getting to their destination.

Though the change in the gasoline service law is up for debate, there was some resistance to this change. That resistance was present on social media, including a post from a CBS affiliate in Medford.

Because of social media, the response to those opposed to the change in the law became savage.

Once you put something on social media that allows for free expression of an issue, expect a tidal wave of mocking and savage responses from the rest the Internet. That was exactly the case in regards to this change in Oregon's gas pump law.

There are two things to look at here. One, when a law changes, there will be resistance. That is a given. Yet, were they opposing the law as a change in lifestyle, even in the least populous counties in Oregon? Maybe the point should be driven home as to what happens when you do run out of gasoline at 11:00 PM at night and you still have miles away to your destination. Or, have they settled into a routine where they feel that fueling up during daylight hours is exactly what you do where an attendant helps you to do so?

You can read the comments in opposition to the change in the law with those caveats in mind. Sometimes, we are used to something that it becomes second nature. Or, rather, to revoke the law to keep the outsiders away from their counties. Maybe you can interpret that in any way, shape, or form.

Granted, some of the comments stated by Oregon residents may be on the extreme side of the reaction against it. One social media commenter stated that he tried pumping his own gas in California and "almost died" from it. It was comments such as this that sparked the firestorm from social media.

Focusing on one – or several – comments on social media is a license to expect a barrage of mockery. Yet, no one can regulate the level of savagery that came forth from this. Not with memes from the "Oregon Trail" video game saying they died from pumping their own gas. Or, to show other GIFs and memes of supposed Oregon residents trying out self-service gasoline for the first time.

There is an unwritten rule in social media – giving them an inch, intentionally or not, and they will take a mile or more.

How do you respond to the mockery of social media and the media at large?

One thing came to mind. Remember Chris Crocker's 2007 video telling the world to "leave Britney alone." Perhaps he should do a video asking the nation to "leave Oregon alone."

Instead, I'll say it – "leave Oregon alone!"

Let the residents of the state deal with the change in the law. Let them express their concerns to the legislators in Salem to find a solution to this change.

However, there is a fundamental piece of this law that should be reviewed. In economic terms, the stranded motorist in one of those countries could help benefit business in the state by pumping their own gas at 11:00 PM at night with many miles to go to their destination. Perhaps they had intentions to pump more money into the state by spending a night in Eugene, Medford, or Portland. Maybe that's the silver lining…

One more thing to consider: These reactions, responses, and legal logic could help frame the debate in New Jersey, if and when they consider changing their gas pump law.

There are many lessons to glean from the first few days of 2018. Oregon has not changed a bit. It is still a lovely state that saw a minor change in the law. Just leave them alone and let them sort things out.

Photo by Randy Stern

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