I Could Kick Myself: The Gas Can Story

Posted by Kurt Smith on Monday, January 9, 2012
Have you ever spent a long time tolerating something that turned out to be easy to fix? And then you kick yourself for not just taking a minute to fix it sooner?

Let briefly share with you my lawn mower gas can story. Like you probably have to do, I had to fill up the gas tank in the lawn mower every time I mowed the lawn. Well for the longest time, I had this ridiculous gas can…it stood upright and was easily tipped over, it was dented and even had a hole in it, which meant I could only put a dollar’s worth in it and had to go to the gas station to refill it often. And it didn’t have a spout either, which meant a minute of cleanup after each refill and wasted gas on the driveway.

I tolerated this literally for years. Years. Why? Because I grew up in a financially strapped family, and as a result I was (and still am) a dedicated tightwad who didn’t want to go to the store and buy a better gasoline jug. Maybe I just thought that it would cost too much, I don’t know. But finally, one day I broke down and went to Pep Boys and got a new fuel jug. It cost, I believe, less than $2. It was made of strong plastic, was wider than it was tall, and it had a nice easy spout. As a result it was much safer and easier to use, and I didn’t have to clean up spills after filling the tank.

Every time I put gas in my lawn mower after that, I pondered why I put up with that stupidly designed, annoying, fragile gas can for so long, when all it took to fix it was a trip to Pep Boys and a couple dollars.

You’ve probably had moments in your life like this. You’ve told people: “I can’t believe I waited so long to…” buy the car you’ve always wanted, sign up for high speed internet, whatever. People who develop dime-squeezing habits often struggle with throwing anything away that is still functional. I have a 250-pound television that I would love to replace with something with a nicer picture that is more mobile, but it still works just fine, and that to me makes it difficult to justify buying a new one.

Sometimes all it takes to make your life a great deal easier is just a little research, which is the reason I spend so much time on the Internet despite my wife’s occasional griping about it. A couple of clicks can find us a cheaper hotel, a better commute route to work or an outstanding chili recipe, and our lives are enriched for it.

When I started this venture, it was because I thought it would be cool to share insider tips, things people didn’t know about. To be the guru that told people exactly where to get peanuts outside. I had no idea how much I would learn myself. I can’t believe I spent years never even considering that there may be a way to go to a ballgame in Philly without sitting in traffic for at least 20 minutes. For years I tolerated that; today I sail right to my parking lot of choice and have more time to stroll around in Ashburn Alley.

That alone has made all of this effort worthwhile.

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