In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Seattle and Oregon

This past week I was in the Pacific Northwest on business. In Seattle, I was at a convention for horse publications, where I sat on a panel to discuss media kits. I know this sounds about as boring as watching a one-eyed pigeon fly in circles, but schmoozing editors and clients was actually quite fun.

However, I couldn’t get over how anti war and anti Bush the city of Seattle was and how opposed to the war the many of the convention attendees were. In fact, at the banquet, the topic of conversation for my table was Iraq. And only one person at the table knew I had been there. They were talking about how it was such a waste and how we shouldn’t be there. Their material was the typical uninformed jargon. Because I was representing my client, I kept my mouth shut, which took a lot of control. After their anti-war conversation died down, they began talking about the weather (imagine that) and how hot it was outside. Without even thinking, I added to their conversation. “Yeah, this time last year, I was cooking like a baked potato wrapped in tin foil.” After I said this, I knew I messed up. It’s not that I wanted to hide the fact that I had served in Iraq; I just didn’t want that awkward moment. Nor did I want to grill them for being so ignorant about their information. When somebody asked… “Oh really and where were you last year that was so hot.”…. I knew I was in trouble. When I talk to total strangers about Iraq, I try to be as generic as possible, especially in professional settings. After I said Iraq, I think everybody felt bad for their previous conversation and then they asked “so what’s it really like.” So I told them. During my discussion, everybody’s eyes were on me. They didn’t play with their salads or sip on wine or fold their maroon napkins. They just listened and after my five-minute spill, nobody said a word. I hope I impacted their views.

After the Seattle convention, I traveled south to Oregon to work with another client. In my opinion, Oregon is the most beautiful state with its uncanny vistas and colorful wildflowers. My job here was to photograph Oregon’s roadsides and forestry tracts.

On one shoot, I was hobbling in and out of traffic as cars passed by. “Boy, you’re going to get yourself killed being that close to traffic. Be a little more careful.” He was right, my feet were right there on the yellow line, but it was a familiar feeling. It was a rush to be so close to death again.

After completing my photo shoots, I drove through Oregon. When the gas light flicked on, I pulled into a gas station. As I pulled to the pump, a kid ran to my car and started opening the gas lid.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“I am pumping your gas.”

“No you’re not. I can pump my own gas.”

Honestly, I thought the kid might be trying to rob me, so he’s lucky I didn’t tackle him to the ground. Needless to say, I left this gas station and went to another. And just like the previous one, another kid ran to my car and started opening my gas lid.

“Get away from my car.”

“But I’m going to pump your gas. Oh, you’re not from around here are you?”

“No I’m not. Now get away from my car before I hurt you.”

My only thoughts were “what the hell is wrong kids these days. Trying to pump people’s gas? That’s a weird way to rob somebody.”

Come to find out, it’s a state law in Oregon that you cannot pump your own gas. I feel like the good people of Oregon are missing out on a very valuable privilege. I mean, they will never know the satisfaction of squeezing off a little more gas to get to an even amount of $30 nor will they ever accidentally drip a little gas on their shoe and laugh about it later. By God, I am a combat veteran and it’s my right to pump my own gas. Of the many freedoms I fought for, pumping gas ranks up there with being able to freely clip your fingernails. Let’s hope Oregonians don’t have that privilege taken away too.


At 11:07 AM, Blogger Ramy said...

Definitely enjoyed that one, Smink! Thanks for the laughs. The first time I pumped gas after I got my license, I spilled a ton of it on the ground! :)

At 12:31 PM, Blogger strykeraunt said...

Sorry you had to see Washington State through the eyes of Seattlites. I think your accidental mention of your hot weather experience from last year had to do a little with fate.

Did you get a chance to stop by Fort Lewis to see and of your friends from the 3/2?

As soon as you said your gas light came on in Oregon I knew what was coming up (crack me up!!)

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Sminklemeyer said...


Don't worry, I don't judge Washington and its wonderful people by Seattle. I've got friends in Lacy and
Tumwater, and they're great people as are many others I've met in your state. I could see myself buying a house there. :)

At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same law is in New Jersey..And folks do not want to change it. The idea is that it protects the elderly and disabled from all...pump your own stations. It's a lot safer at night and people do not have to get out of their cars.

The station owners do not like the law...but the people do....

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

Smink -- Gas is (or was) much cheaper in NJ than in NY and, living close to the state line, we drove to NJ for gas where someone pumped it for me... So imagine my horror when I volunteered to drive my son's car from NY to GA! At an age way, way past 40, I had to learn to pump my own gas!!! My other-state siblings thought it was a big laugh and now I'm glad to have the "skill"! Thanks for the laugh!

At 11:42 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

I didn't leave, just haven't stoped by. Like it matters but I am glad your writing more these days.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oregon may be pretty but I learned real quick living up there that they like to save you from yourself in ways you never even thought of. Hence, I no longer live there...

At 9:50 AM, Blogger AFSister said...

I admire your ability to not only hold your tongue when being battered, but also your ability to calmly discuss the war and your experiences with people who obviously don't support the war or what you were doing over there.

Military discipline transcends physical fitness... it affects your mind and tongue too.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger janie said...

The Emerald City definitely has some people who have certain idea's that would be considered let's say... "moonbat". When I get thanked for the reminder about our Soldiers (via the quite large Support The Troops sign in picture window.) I know I am making people think a little bit.... I have no problem asking people here(in my community where I live) about their yellow ribbon or ribbons they have on their car...I ask how they "Support" and then let them know how TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS! This town is something else..but I really wouldn't live anywhere else.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Household6 said...

The gas station thing tripped me out too the first time I ran into it. I couldn't figure out why a state thought we were too stupid to pump our own gas - LOL.

I also got confused over Washington state's liquor laws and can still never remember if I can get beer at both the market and the state run liquor store or just the market.


At 9:21 PM, Blogger Brian H said...

Heh! The gas thing was just because you're too young and doofus. Used to be, before "Self-Serve", there'd be someone come out to pump the gas, someone else would clean all the windows, and either he or yet another attendant would ask if you wanted your oil checked. Ah, the good old days!

And now you think the employees are trying to steal from you. Hilarious. Not.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wish you'd have said you were going to be in my neck of the woods. this ex-airman would have loved to buy you some of the Pacific NW's fine beer. Sorry you had to deal with the folks in Seattle. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the silence was not due to your getting through to them but more likely their "deer in the headlights" way of dealing with being caught in their ignorance of the real issues being dealt with by our men and women in uniform.

BTW, living close to Portland myself, I will go out of my way to avoid having to put gas in my car in Oregon. I just don't understand the reasoning behind it (mostly to deal with fill it up and run thefts). But my Oregonian friends seem to enjoy not having to pump their own gas. Go figure.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my goodness i live in WA and i agree ppl talk too much about what they don't know anything about

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine working with Version 3.1 and sitting down to XL for the first time. That's what happens when I try to pump my own gas in Washington.

Do I go into the station and pay before I pump? Are there clearly marked instructions? And, since it's self-serve, there are no employees around to ask. Time-saving and freedom aren't valuable commodities when you're stuck trying to figure out the current iteration of gas pumping technology.

In Oregon, your gas is pumped, your windshield cleaned, and your questions about where your heading are answered. At your car. And young men and women are given their first jobs. Or, old retired guys that love hanging around cars.

Go into a Washington maxi-station and try asking the harried clerk behind the control console a question. I like the service. (They'll even check your oil, nice when you're wearing nice clothes.)


At 9:41 AM, Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

Oregon guy,

Thanks for the comment. But I have a few questions... What if you have to go to the bathroom? Do you just leave the car? I also don't understand why all beer must be in a brown paper sack. Can you shed a little light on this issue?

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Brian H said...

Like I said, Smink, yer all too young to know the score. It used to be like that EVERYWHERE. Gas jockey was your basic entry level job, working up to cashier and/or mechanic's helper, etc. And yes, you just walk over to the washroom, locking your car door if you wish.

I'm sure the beer/liquor thing is a result of laws against having open/exposed alcohol in a vehicle. Must be a touch inconvenient for Get A Load On On The Road types.

BTW, the coming thing is robotized gas bars, with RFID payment etc. So you'll be back to sitting and watching. Don't know if window washing robots will be part of the deal or not.

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At 4:43 AM, Blogger nope said...


I'm sorry for being intrusive in to your blog. But I am Melissa and I am a mother of two that is just trying to get out of an incredible financial debt. See my hubby is away in Iraq trying to protect this great country that we live in, and I am at home with our two kids telling bill collectors please be patiant. When my husband returns from war we will beable to catch up on our payments. We have already had are 2001 Ford repossessed from the bank, and are now down to a 83 buick that is rusted from front to back and the heater don't work, and tire tax is due in November.

I'm not asking for your pitty because we got our ownselfs into this mess but we would love you and thank you in our prayers if you would just keep this link on your blog for others to view.

God Bless You.

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Strange day or what? :-)

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