This happened in, I think, 1998, so it's an old story, but I was recently asked to retell it and so I thought I would include it in my journal for all you folks who think YOU have done the stupidest thing you've ever heard of.
When my grandmother died relatives from all over came to her house. I saw relatives I hadn't seen in YEARS, some maybe ever. It was very nice to see them all, but that after death division of property depresses me and so, after a few days, I... decided it was time for me to go home.
At the time my car was a a Suzuki Samurai Sheri and Owen Hogle gave me. It had a soft top and I had to duct tape it back on every couple hundred miles. It was quite the little ceremony. Anyway, I got in Suzuki Q and headed for the Chevron station right at the bottom of the hill to get some gas and duct tape. I was looking forward to getting back to Salt Lake and thinking about all the relatives and memories... I put the gas hose in the car and ran into the store to get the duct tape while the gas pumped. Trying to be considerate, since it was a small station, I hopped in the car and moved it up so if someone came they could use the pump.
Well, I felt a tug on the car and heard a noise, hopped back out and to my horror the gas hose was still attached to my CAR but not to the pump and gas was spilling all over the place. I ran to the pump to try to turn it off but it didn't stop the flow, so I pulled my car up further and then ran into the store to tell them to turn it off. I will never forget the guy at the counter. He was a large Polynesian looking man in a very florid hawaiian shirt. And as I was telling him I heard this terribler FPOOMP! and all the sudden the pumps were engulfed in flame! The Polynesian guy was telling everyone to exit the building and no one was moving because the fire was out there and I, at least, was thinking of the underground tanks.
I was completely numb. Could not believe this was happening, or that I had caused it. I thought we were all going to die. Then I heard sirens as every emergency vehicle in the whole county began arriving. And the local high school is within walking distance and so we were graced with the presence of every single ambulatory teenager in the area.
Then I heard that someone had been hurt. I don't remember anyone being at the other pump when I went in but apparently a lady in a van was. And she was hurt! They brought her in and I was horrified at myself to think of old Laurel and Hardy films where Stan tried baking and found himself covered with white flour, all his hair sticking up and blinking in that way he had.
I later found out that she had been burnt on the hand and was at the hospital for like half an hour but I sure didn't know that then and I was feeling terrible...and grateful and shocked and many more things. As they took the lady away by ambulance I filtered out the door along with everyone else because they had the fire out. The overhead to the pumps was completely melted. it was a disaster. I was humbly grateful to be alive. People were milling about and murmuring and every once in awhile someone would point at me (I remember I was wearing a pink t-shirt) Eventually an older police officer came over to me and asked me what had happened and I told him, as best I could. I remember he said, "Well, you're not under arrest.......... yet" That rather echoed in my mind and more than anything else I wanted my mommy. Well, she was right up the road! What a blessing! So, I call the house and of course someone else answers and I must have blurted out that I had just blown up a gas station and needed to talk with my mom. They brought her to the phone and in less than 5 minutes there she was! Along with various other relatives in attendence that I TRULY wished didn't know were related to such an imbecile.
I called my insurance agent and told them what had happened. And then I just waited. For a long time. Eventually the crowd filtered away and the cop never came back to me, so I assumed I was free to go. I taped up Suzuki Q, said goodbye to my mom and very tenuously started driving the long miles home. It's not a short trip so I had plenty of time to think about everything that had transpired.
I got to my door, which I was VERY glad to see and Miles and Ilona (his little daughter) were sitting there on my good ol familiar burnt orange couch watching tv. I must have looked awful. I started telling Miles the story, and all these looks were passing over his face (and if you remember Miles his expressions were not all that easily readable) At about the time I was describing Stan Laurel he burst out laughing, and so did I (but I was disgusted with myself for it until the laughter just washed it all away).
My insurance company paid the lady $30,000. I have no idea what the gas station paid her (there was supposed to be an emergency shut off valve and apparently it didn't work) Later I got a letter from a lawyer stating that she wanted to sue me for $500,000. I thought, "Wow, good luck with that." I took the letter to my insurance company and I don't know what happened about it further, but it never affected me again. I still think about the lady though.
As I told this story to my friends, I always advised them to always check the hose. I check it multiple times nowadays. Once was awful. Twice would be just too terrible for words. Many tell me they look and think of what happened to me. My friend Debbie switched to Farmer's when she learned they did not raise my insurance rate after the accident.
The next time Miles and I went to St George, Miles rolled down the window as we passed that station and called out "She's baaaackkkk"