The old guy leaned against the fender of his car as he watched the display change on the gasoline pump. In itself, that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. People do it all the time. It was what he did when the pump clicked off, indicating a full tank, that surprised me.
Moving his hip away from the car, he smacked it back against the fender three or four times in quick succession. The car swayed and bounced violently back and forth a few times before settling into a little wiggling motion. Then the fellow clicked on the handle of the pump nozzle again.
I laughed. It might have been out loud. The old fellow sneaked a look back at me and I pretended to be fiddling with the gas cap on my own car. I couldn’t help it. It was just such an odd thing to do. And useless.
You see, the only purpose I can imagine for taking such action is to allow a little more gasoline to fit into the tank. The swaying motion of the car would slosh the liquid back and forth, dislodging any air pockets that might be trapped away from the spout.
He burped the car! Just like a tiny baby, he burped his car.
As any young parent can explain, babies should be burped while being fed. Air passes into the stomach along with the milk or formula, causing a couple of problems. One problem is that the child will often have gas pain resulting from the trapped air if not soon released. The other is, since the air takes up space in the infant’s stomach, the feeding may be incomplete. The child will be hungry sooner than is normal—certainly, sooner than the parent desires.
The baby is raised to the shoulder and patted or rubbed gently on the back. Experienced parents are almost always rewarded by the gentle (and sometimes, not so gentle) expulsion of air, and the feeding may be resumed.
While the method of feeding may have some effect on how often this should happen, usually it is essential to the well being of the child.
Not so with the automobile. At best, another few ounces may be squeezed into the tank, yielding another mile or two of travel before the tank is empty once more.
It is a useless thing to do. Still, I would venture to suggest that this man will never—not once—fill the tank on his vehicle without taking this action.
No doubt, at some time in the past, it was suggested to him by someone much older, who drove back when there were very few stations around, as an effective way to stretch a tank of gas. Habit has made it a way of life, in spite of the uselessness of the action.
As I did today, you laugh at the old man at the gas station. But, what about that friend who taps on the top of every can of pop he holds before opening it? His action is even more useless than the aging automobile owner’s. It will never, ever, stop the can from erupting into a spewing, foaming mess if it has been shaken beforehand.
I’m wondering tonight—wondering about what I know. Or, maybe I’m wondering about what I think I know.
We have so many practices, things we believe to be rooted in necessity, which we never give a second thought. It’s possible—just possible—that a fair number of these habits are only rooted in hearsay and myth. They may even be harmful without us knowing it.
By now, it may be apparent to the reader that I am not only referring to our physical quirks and routines. We have spent a lifetime, many of us, learning beliefs and practices which have only human repetition to recommend them.
If I were to attempt to name the silly things we do because it is what we were taught to do, this already-too-lengthy article would stretch on into tomorrow—to say nothing of the arguments it would engender.
You should feel free to let your mind run wild on the subject, though.
I wonder if it would be helpful to have a manual? Could we check that to find what activities would be of benefit or which would harm? (Proverbs 3:13-14)
You know, I’m pretty sure there is such a manual. (Hebrews 4:12)
Perhaps, it is time to refer to it again.
Maybe it’s past time.
But, don’t look for it in the glove box.
If fifty million believe in a fallacy, it is still a fallacy.
(Samuel Warren Carey ~ Australian geologist ~ 1911-2002)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ~ NKJV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.