I’m not much of a handy man. Or as we say in the south, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Still, I can handle basic chores like mowing the lawn and trimming the weeds. That is why I was so bumfuzzled last week when I couldn’t open (or close) a gas can.
First, a little background is in order. In my gas-pumping days, I filled many a gallon milk jug with gasoline for customers who needed to fuel their mowers, weed-eaters and chainsaws. In fact, for many years, my dad used those plastic jugs as gas containers. Eventually I did too, and somehow nothing blew up.
Evidently some folks stored that gas a little too long, and the plastic contaminated the fuel, ruined a few carburetors, and may have caused an explosion or two. So, no more milk jugs.
The government then advised us to use metal cans, and has since approved a higher-density plastic container.
The last time I bought a gas can, it was a plastic container, with a vent tab on one side, and an easy-to-use pouring spout on the other. I’ve had that can for at least twenty years.
The hardware store sent me a “five dollars off” coupon recently, and I just had to use it. I strolled down the gas can aisle, and figured I might as well get a new one. My old one had served me well, but I had to save five dollars on something.
I noticed the lid and spout looked a little different, but that didn’t stop me. A new-fangled gas can was no match for my intellect.
When I stopped to get some gas to take home, I couldn’t seal the lid properly, so I didn’t fill the can to the top. That was my only good decision of the day.
I got home and there was still some gas in my mower, so I went to work. I knew it would run out, and I would then fill the tank using my new gas can.
Soon it chugged to a stop. I looked at the new can, with its high-tech spout, and realized I needed a third hand, and a NASA engineer to make it work. I even looked at the directions. That, my friends, is desperation.
I will now quote from the directions. “Squeeze and twist open.” That I could do. “Now, using cap, tighten spout onto can.” I thought you said to open it.
“Vent spout before using. Click in safety lock, then push down to vent.” You lost me at hello.
“Insert spout into tank, push to start flow. Don’t forget to click in safety lock.” While I’m at it, should I play the accordion too?
“Rest notch on tank lip, push to start flow. Click safety lock again.” In their efforts to make it child-proof, they made it adult-proof!
After squeezing, twisting, tightening, venting, clicking, inserting, pushing, and re-clicking, I grabbed my trusty old funnel, threw that new spout into the next county, and poured gas into my mower as God intended.
I then used the ancient funnel to transfer the remaining gasoline from my 2018 government-approved container into my disco-era plastic gas can. Me and that old can are now inseparable. I love the instructions: open the vent plug, insert spout into tank, and pour. Actually there are no instructions, but I figured that out for myself.
I shared my gas can sob story online, accompanied by a sympathy-inducing photo of my sweaty, grass-stained self. I learned I was not alone. Many described a similar scenario. Some even took their new can back to the hardware store, and were told by a clerk, “We can’t figure it out either.”
“I haven't even been able to open my new can,” said one friend. “I have a college degree, but it's beyond my capabilities.”
Some say the new cans were touted as a way to reduce spillage, but after getting soaked, they gave up too. One woman wrote, “I hate those #@$#& cans! Try controlling the flow into a small weed-eater tank. I ended up pouring gas from some unknown opening all over me and the mower!” She concluded, “It's easier to load up the mower and just take it to the gas station.”
Several described the cans as the government’s latest “fail.” One man said, “Our new toilets no longer flush properly, and our light bulbs are dimmer. Hey government: stop trying to help me!
Yes, Uncle Sam created these standards that every state had to adopt by 2009, saying, “The new Portable Fuel Container (PFC) regulations are an important part of our efforts to improve air quality.” They added, “PFC’s are also known as Gas Cans.”
And I’m known as a SHOTMOC: “Stubbornly Hanging On To My Old Can.”
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best columns. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org