I stopped for gas on the way home tonight. Parked. Started pumping. Then called to schedule a haircut. Here is the conversation that followed:
"Excuse me, sir, but are you on your cell phone while pumping gas?"
”.. Yes, that I am”
"I’m going to have to ask you to get off your cell phone - you could cause a fire"
(finish phone call, hang up) “No, that’s not true - that’s actually a myth”
"Oh unbelievable. Now what do you do for a living?"
"I work for a large technology compan-"
"That’s good - I’m a Public Safety Officer. You think you’re real smart don’t you?"
"No, just that you don’t understand what you are talking about"
"Unbelievable! Then why do they have a sign up to not use their cell phone?!"
…honestly I said something in frustration that wasn’t witty or poignant. I get flustered mid-confrontation. What I wanted to say was “Because they didn’t get the memo.” Anyway, I’ll let the real conversation continue:
"You’re a real smart one. A real genius. They have these rules for a reason - why can’t you just follow them?"
"So you follow every rule you’re told to? Because I don’t when they don’t make sense"
"Well you’re a real genius"
"Yeah and you’re a prick"
Now for those who were not on the internet back then, this conversation became one of the first great infectious *PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS* kind of scams in 1999 - you can see the original content on snopes through that link. Extensive research, by Oil companies and Internet powers alike disproved it years ago (eHow is the most elegant summary I found), but it appears some still believe it… including bona fide Public Safety Officers. The article on eHow also points out the confusion of a cell phone as responsible for what your static-y pants cause:
Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is static electricity, the spark and shock you sometimes feel when touching a metal object. ESD can easily ignite gasoline vapors, and cause a fire or explosion. To avoid ESD, never get back in your vehicle while pumping gas, and always place gas cans on the ground before filling.
I recalled the inaccuracy of this statement from the last time I did research on this one when my FW:-friendly family member sent it my way sometime around its invention. Since then, Mythbusters has done their share to disprove it as well. They also blow stuff up, so give it a watch when you have a 20 minutes to prove something that is already well-documented:
Part 1 of the episode - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ0aTMMITp8
Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRGrFLRs9xE
So what did we learn today? Boston drivers aren’t shy about arguing. Public Safety Officers don’t necessarily know more than you about the public or their safety. A good myth is difficult to remove from society, especially when its connected to something beyond most of our understanding like technology (or just electricity for that matter. Just think about electricity and I dare you not to be amazed by how it works). And more personally - I learned how much I appreciate science since it allows me a platform by which to definitively disprove an opponent’s opinion. I also believe in the logic of Dostoyevsky’s underground narrator when he states
I find no sort of virtue in [justice] either, and consequently if I attempt to revenge myself, it is only out of spite.
And now, the right amount of comic relief and quite possibly the best argument known to mankind.