Tales from gas pumps in the Carolinas: Long lines, small miracles — and free Slurpees
[May 12, 2021: Scott Fowler and Lauren Lindstrom]
With long lines at the gas pump suddenly a fact of life this week in the Carolinas, stories about random acts of kindness — and selfishness — have been playing out at every intersection.
We asked readers to share some of their own stories from the past few days and learned several things, including this: When you’re waiting in line at a gas pump these days, just hope that you have someone running the show who will keep you updated and give out free Slurpees.
Jennifer Estridge wrote to say that when she saw that a 7-Eleven in Denver, North Carolina, had just received a delivery of gas Tuesday, she got in line at the pumps. The gas pumps needed to be reset, though, and that took a while.
But Estridge said that an optimistic woman who turned out to be the store manager visited everyone at every pump to explain the situation and the slight delay, and then would occasionally stand in the center of the pumps and make loud, hopeful announcements to the crowd to ensure everyone knew what was happening.
Already three hours past when her shift was supposed to have ended, the store manager then stayed to make sure the pumps were working again, and that everyone got gas. The station was able to supply hundreds of customers over about a 12-hour period before running out again.
“She was so positive and helpful,” Estridge wrote of the store manager. “She was walking around at all the pumps and kept everyone laughing and in a good mood while we were waiting. She offered us free Slurpees. She kept us updated. She was wonderful, handling a stressful situation perfectly. It made my day.”
Not everyone has had experiences quite that good while much of the Southeast grapples with long lines and closed gas pumps following a cyber-attack on the Colonial pipeline, a major fuel supplier to the region.
On Wednesday morning, an analyst with fuel-tracker GasBuddy reported 71% of stations in the Charlotte metro area were without gas.
“They had some of those old round gas cans that looked like they were from about 1922,” the reader wrote. “I stopped counting when they were filing up their eighth one. I wanted to say, ‘I’m getting gas so I can go to a funeral out of town. What about you?’”
Another reader posted on Twitter that a Charlotte-area gas pump was blocked Tuesday by a couple who went inside for breakfast first before filling up.
“A couple was inside ate 6 (doughnuts). Drank 4 cups of coffee. Then got gas. While their car was in front of pumps the entire time.”
Another reader wrote via email: “Our family was returning from a camping trip in the South Carolina mountains on Lake Jocassee. We didn’t hear any news (about gas issues) up there. Driving home to York, S.C., we passed 21 closed stations until we had a miracle — with 21 miles to empty and 50 miles to home — and got enough gas to get home. We then passed another 19 closed stations. At the one place that had premium we heard stories about hoarders filling up many gas cans and panicking. Made it dangerous for folks in sincere need for gas.”
Other online reactions ranged from frustrated drivers desperate for gas to get to work to exasperated accusations of hoarding as photos were shared of people filling up multiple tubs, plastic bags and other containers.
Many were quick to find parallels to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people rushed to grocery stores for essentials like toilet paper.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission even had to tweet out a warning not to fill bags with gasoline, along with other safety tips.
Others tried to find levity in the situation. One Reddit poster found inspiration from the Disney movie “Finding Nemo.”
“People from Charlotte, when they see one car at a gas station pump,” the poster wrote, showing a meme with the overly persistent seagulls from the film.
Instead of the refrain of “Mine! Mine!” familiar to viewers, they squawked “Gas! Gas!”
It resonated with many.
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