Monday, January 24, 2011

A real pain in the can

As gasoline rained down upon my person and belongings last week, I began to imagine the conversation that must have taken place at the meeting where the new style of portable gas can was developed.

“Hey, let’s design a new kind of no-spill gas can!” someone must have said.

“Boooorrrr-iiiiiiing. How about we make one that shoots gasoline straight up in the air? You know. For some reason,” someone else replied.

“Good idea! That’s exactly what we’ll do,” said their boss, as soon as his keg stand was finished.

If you have recently filled up a lawn mower or snow blower with a gas can purchased in the last few years, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’re also probably reading this by yourself, since you reek of gasoline. Maybe these cans are doing us all a favor, since someday gas will be so expensive that reeking of it will be a status symbol, like driving a car that wastes it.

I first became acquainted with the new style of gasoline splatterer in our old house, when I went to fill up our mower with the can that my wife Kara had just purchased. As soon as I put the nozzle into the mower and let the weight of the can gently open the spout, gas began ricocheting in all directions, putting on a fountain show to rival the Bellagio.

“This is what happens when a woman buys a gas can,” I said, in my head, because saying sexist things out loud is not very smart, especially when you’re drenched in a highly combustible liquid.

I set out to find a can that worked like the one in my parents’ garage, which has spilled perhaps three drops of gas between 1981 and 2011. It was then that I realized Kara hadn’t made a poor purchasing decision. A conspiracy was afoot. Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears – they only stocked the cans that looked identical to the one I already had, the kind that must be very popular with self-immolation enthusiasts.

It occurred to me last week, when I went to fire up our snow blower to clear a foot of snow off the driveway, that after six years of near-weekly use, I still haven’t figured out how to execute a refueling without turning the garage into a Superfund site.

Incidentally, whatever happened to 4 to 8 inches of snow? That’s what we always got when I was a kid. These days, it’s either a dusting or a foot. Mother Nature doesn’t do nuance like she used to.

“You know, they design the cans that way now so they’ll pollute less,” my friend Sergey explained after a recent refueling-fueled tirade.

“No, don’t tell me that. I just want to complain about them without knowing any of their good points,” I said, echoing my feelings about people who disagree with me politically.

As it turned out, Sergey was right. The new cans are designed to be ventless, so they don’t sit around emitting all over the place like your relatives on Thanksgiving. In fact, according to an EPA website, “reduced evaporation from these containers will result in gasoline savings over the life of the container that will more than offset the increased cost for the container.”

While I can certainly get behind the theory of Earth-friendly gasoline cans, I wonder if the implementation couldn’t be accomplished with a design that’s less likely to treat my garage like the Gulf of Mexico. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot innovation going on in this space, though, so I’m only holding my breath because I stink like gas.

Perhaps I can take some solace in the fact that the new cans emit 78% less benzene, which sounds like a good thing, and also suggests that I should find a new breakfast cereal to replace my Benzene-Os.

You can immolate Mike Todd at


  1. You know you're an old man when you rant about gas cans! PS: I love the smell of gasoline!

  2. Dude, Jered, so do *I*! Let's go hang out in Mike's garage.

  3. Also, I swear that Fixodent doesn't hold like it used to.

  4. Amy, is that you? Or are you not related to Mike? lol

    I just booked my flight up to spend 5 days in HJ! I've asked Mike to setup the air mattress in the garage. It's gonna be a party!