Gas pump woes: More than just the price

I just read in this New York Times article that the increasing gas prices in the United States are creating problems at some gas pumps–actually all gas pumps. It’s not because people are throwing themselves on the hood of their cars weeping as the total bill climbs.

I just had a flash of a movie scene. Ben Stiller in the persona of his Something About Mary character–the high school prom guy, cleaning the windshield of his car, weeping–his tears are falling in streams, mixing in with the cleaning solution from the gas station squeegee. Those weird serenaders are in the background singing a gas pump price tag lament.

No, this is not what is happening at the pump. What is happening is that some pumps have pump computers too old to handle the $4 plus a gallon amount. They are stuck at $3.99. As a temporary solution until the new computers arrive, gas station owners are charging half the dollar amount at the pump and doubling the total at the cash register. They have official permission to do so, (There is an application process.) I bet that’s a psychological jolt when someone goes to pay. If you happen to come across an old gas station pump in your travels, this is one situation you might come across.

Another interesting point the article makes is that the modern, computerized machines are breaking down more often because of the speed the pump’s mechanism needs to turn to get higher and higher numbers. The higher the numbers, the faster the numbers turn, so the faster there is a breakdown. This is my understanding.

What is the limit of the new pump computers you may wonder? Just how pricey could gas get if one uses them to project ahead? $9.99. This is like Y-2K, but this time there is a problem. It will take about five months for all the pumps to be updated because of the back log with filling orders.