Saturday, September 20, 2008

Big Government Northwest Style

Earlier this week, before returning my rental car to the airport in Portland, Oregon, I stopped at a convenience store to top off my gas tank. As I removed the gas cap, a man wearing a reflective orange vest scampered toward me.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"Uh, I am going to fill up with gas," I replied while wondering why this was not completely obvious.

He quickly explained: "In Oregon it's against the law to fill your own tank."

As a result, I handed the man my credit card, so he could stick it in the slot at the pump. He filled my tank, put the gas cap back on, and handed me my receipt after it was printed. It wasn't really like the service provided in service stations of old: he didn't offer to check my oil, nor does he do windows.

Meanwhile, while driving I heard on the radio a report, also discussed here, that Clark County Washington, having taken care of all the serious crime, is pursuing a ban on a resident's ability to wash his own car. The county considers the runoff from such car washes to be inconsistent with the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. A county official assured listeners that police would not be handing out fines to people soaping up their cars in their own driveways, though the law would prohibit it. Nonetheless, the sorts of charitable car washes commonly conducted by student groups would be shut down under the law.

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