Take, for example, gasoline. I’m filling up my car today, minding my own business, thinking completely serious and responsible grown up thoughts when I notice this label on the pump:
It may as well read: “If you’re the type that a) can read and b) bothers reading things but c) is unaware that gasoline is not so much a health drink as it is a petroleum derivative used to fuel internal combustion engines then please pay careful attention even though that clearly hasn’t been your ‘thing’ up until this point: Do not swallow gas. Do not huff gas vapors. Do not involve your face in the gas pumping process. Do not get gas on your eyes and skin. Do not put gas in your mouth. And, hey, your need to read this tells me you’re a Michael Bay fan. You know how in his movies cars explode and then lots of stuff is on fire and it’s totally awesome but it would totally suck if that happened to you? A lot of that stuff happens because of GASOLINE. So be careful.”
So I’m thinking about this health warning as I’m running errands. Particularly the “Never Siphon by Mouth” part. Because, really, if something shouldn’t be in or around your lungs, skin, eyes, or face and is possibly fatal if swallowed then it seems unnecessary to add that you also should avoid situations that involve your mouth in the pumping process.
But presumably Shell wasn’t like, “Let’s get that dumbass in the mail room who idolizes the cast of Jackass to list stuff he would like to do with gas and then put “don’t do that” in front of those things. BAM! Legal problems solved.” Their legal division probably put a lot of time and thought into the exact wording of this health warning. (I’m going to save imagining those meetings for some day where I’m experiencing low job satisfaction and need a “things could be way worse” style pick me up.)
So why is mouth siphoning on there? Either someone sued Shell because they felt Shell lead them to believe that mouth siphoning was a better way to go than just pumping gas into a gas can and then pouring gas directly into their gas tank or mouth siphoning is otherwise a prevalent enough way of dealing with gasoline transfer that failing to mention it would be remiss.
Thank God I have a smart phone. Otherwise these pressing questions would have been left unanswered for upwards of 2 hours.
Googling “mouth siphoning gas lawsuit” and “people who siphon gas by mouth” results in lots of information on how to steal gas, how to siphon gas with a siphon pump, how to get gas in the event of the zombie apocalypse, and a youtube video of an idiot. It’s not an extensive lexus nexis search but, still, pretty much nothing suggests that mouth siphoning gas is something anyone actually thinks is a good idea.
So why is the mouth siphoning health warning on there? Now it’s a ‘thing.’ I MUST SOLVE THIS MYSTERY.
My husband kind of knows about cars. He worked on a farm during the summers as a teenager. And I’m pretty sure he was in charge of fixing a forklift at some point in the not too distant past. So it seems like he’d have more insight into this than I would.
More importantly, though, I routinely send him texts like, “M is watching an episode of ‘My Little Ponies’ where the ponies have to learn to stop being racist which makes me wonder about what de facto Jim Crow policies might have been going on in Ponyville up until this season” and “Arbor Mist: ‘Wine’ for people who think of “Twilight” as literature.” so he won’t find questions about mouth siphoning gasoline odd at all.
So I text him.
Me: Do you happen to know why gas pumps have warnings against mouth siphoning gas? (Other than you shouldn’t do that.) Is it, like, a thing? Google isn’t very helpful.
Him: (1/2) Um..inhaling aromatic hydrocarbons is big long term cancer risk, gasoline is remarkably flammable, (read about a guy who died after lighting a cigarette with gas on his shirt and hands).
Me: Right. But why do they have a warning label about it on gas pumps? It seems kind of like putting a warning label on a bike that says, “Don’t bike into stuff.”
Him: (2/2) And having done it once gas fumes irritate the hell out of your throat. Also gas tastes bad.
Me: WhyTF were you mouth siphoning gas? Didn’t you read the warning label at the pump?
Him: We were in a field about 20 miles from a gas pump. Also those were the good old days…
Me: Do you mind if I tell the internet you mouth siphoned gas?
And the moral of the story is YOU CAN NEVER REALLY KNOW ANYONE. I went and had a kid with one of the reasons gas pumps have warning labels on them telling you not to put gas in your mouth and I’m only finding this out now.
So my mom comes to visit and I may or may not have brought up this topic. And she’s all, “Well, yeah. Of course mouth siphoning gasoline is a thing. Where have you been? Let me tell you anecdotes about my childhood in Africa…”
And my husband is like, “Yeah. I know, right? I mean, really? EVERYONE knows it’s a thing.”
How have I missed this? I’ve been bred from and bred with people who are completely familiar with the concept that mouth siphoning gasoline is totally something that completely sane people would do.
I should be way less surprised when people are like, “Wait. WHAT DOES THAT DRAWING OF THE GUY CALLING IKEA MEAN ON MY IKEA INSTRUCTIONS?”