The Fuel Pump that would not Fit

In the early 2000s, I was working at a startup in North San José. My friend Ashwini and I would often go for coffee to a Chevron petrol station close to the intersection of Hwy 237 and 880.

One such day we were chatting and sipping coffee, when a large closed van drove up to the pump. I noticed it because it was one of those with a driver door that had glass going all the way down. Driving it was a girl dressed in black, with platinum blonde hair. I saw her stop at the pump, and then over the next few minutes, she walked back and forth between there and the shop three or four times.

Being a big fan of candid photography, I always have a camera with me on such occasions, and in those days I carried with me my trusty Contax T3 on my belt. I found this girl very interesting and decided I wanted to photograph her. So, I approached her at the pump, told her I was a candid photographer and asked her if I could take a photograph.

She looked a bit amused. Then she said what must have been one of the weirdest things ever. She said, “come, let me show you something” and led me to the van’s tank. She opened the filler cap, took the pump nozzle and tried to put it in. It wouldn’t go in because the nozzle was bigger than the intake hole in the tank filler. So of course I checked that the tank took petrol, not diesel, since that was what she was trying to fill. It did.

She told me “I’m from New Zealand”. I’d guessed she was from elsewhere, based on the accent. “I’m driving around the ‘States, and this is the first time I’ve run into a problem like this. This pump nozzle does not fit. Would you know of a petrol station around here, where the nozzle fits?”

I have to admit I was stumped. I’d always thought that price, brand, even distance are what one based one’s choice of petrol pump on. I’d never considered nozzle fit, so I had to admit to her that I did not know.

She said “I really need to fill this tank, and I’m pissed. So I’m not sure I would make a good subject for a photo right now.” I told her that now more than ever, I needed to take that picture – I’d never heard such a story as her’s, and it had to have a photo to go with it. She told me to go ahead, and this is what I got. I love it!

The pump does not fit!