By Superintendent Luke Francois
After returning from a vacation that traveled through many states out west, I was thinking how lucky Wisconsinites are for not having to prepay for gas. I was always troubled when I would have to park, go inside to prepay, then back outside again to pump gas. It was not efficient, and I considered it an inconvenience.
It was 6:30 am on a Tuesday morning when I pulled into the Mobile station for gas. As I pulled in to line up the gas tank with the pump, I had to jab the brakes unexpectedly. A driver looked at me with a shocked expression and then made a quick and comprehensive maneuver around me. And then they were gone. I remember thinking, “Geez buddy, what is the hurry?” In a short time, I was going to find out.
As my mind bounced between prepay and the erratic driver I just encountered, the manager of the store approached. I stated, “Hello,” to which he responded shortly with, “Did you see the car that just left?” I replied yes, and he shared that they just drove off with $30 of gas without paying. My gut sank. What an awful thing to do. I described the person and the car the best I could.
I asked, “Do you have cameras?”
The manager stated he does, and that he will eventually look at the cameras, but said, “cameras didn’t much matter.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
The manager replied, “When I report drive-offs to the police department in Madison, they state that they are too busy with other priorities and are unable to help.”
“Even with the license plate?” I asked.
He said, “Yes, even with a license plate the police will not track the person down.”
“Since when is stealing not a priority?” I replied.
He shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to write down some information from the pump. I shared that I had just been thinking about how nice it was not to prepay as I had in other states and then a drive-off happens in front of my eyes. The manager stated that his station’s corporate office wants all Mobile stations to go to prepay, but proudly his station is one of the last to hold out. I thanked him for doing so and hoped more bad apple drive-offs didn’t ruin the ability to pay after pumping.
So what is the point of this article? Perhaps it is as simple as don’t steal. Maybe it is a commentary on how sad it is that police departments do not have the time to serve every constituent’s need. Or the point might be the importance of placing people before policies with a call to arms to model your own actions after the gas station manager that allows pay after you pump despite drive-offs and corporate pressure to change policy to prepay.
Regardless, while I continue to contemplate the reason for writing this article – please pay for your gas.