February 15, 2018

I Found God at the Gas Station

gas station
I was running a little late for work when I noticed that my gas tank was getting close to empty. Stopping to fill up would make me later than I already was but not nearly as late as running out of gas. I stopped at the same station I usually use. A tanker truck was there and seemed to be in the midst of refilling the station's underground tank. No other cars were around, so I wondered if they had to shut the pumps off temporarily while they refilled the tanks. There was no evidence of this, so I proceeded.

Everything was normal, and the pump took my credit card without any trouble. As I reached for the nozzle, I noticed that something was hanging from the handle. I figured it might be a notice of inspection or something along those lines, but I took a closer look when the nozzle didn't seem to operate properly. This was not an inspection notice or an out-of-order sign; it was a small brochure advertising a local Southern Baptist church. It had been inserted into the handle of the nozzle so that it had to be removed in order for the nozzle to function. The brochure prominently displayed an invitation to "salvation" and the church's address on the cover.

After throwing it in the nearby trash, I noticed another one stuck to the pump, then another, and several more on the ground. I glanced behind me to see that the other pumps also had several brochures on them. I'd estimate that each one had at least 4 brochures attached to it, but several had apparently blown off and were littering the ground around the pumps.

My first reaction was one of disgust that someone would so carelessly litter with their obnoxious efforts to convert others to their particular brand of superstition. Assuming that littering is illegal (and it might not be here in Mississippi judging by the piles of garbage lining most streets), would any local law enforcement agent enforce such a law when it was broken by Southern Baptists? I'd guess not.

Then I started to wonder whether someone actually thought that blanketing a gas station with religious propaganda would be an effective to convert the tiny percentage of the local population who weren't already Southern Baptists. As much as it baffles me how anyone could think this would bring their church new recruits, I must remember that the majority of Americans actually believe that supernatural beings exist and somehow influence the natural world. Some are even convinced that they are fighting in some sort of divine war against demons. Thus, no set of beliefs is too absurd to be held by large groups of people.

I picked up a handful of brochures from the ground and deposited them in the trash. Unfortunately, my watch indicated that I was now late to the point where it was going to be a problem if I delayed any longer. I didn't think the people waiting on me were likely to understand my desire to pick up religious trash at a nearby gas station.