Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

So it's late and I'm standing outside my car in what has to be the single most wretched gas station in the entire world. While a lot of local gas stations have seen fit to try to perk themselves up lately -- what with flowers and clean, soapy water and bright "We Get It" signs -- this depressing little wad of concrete remains firmly mired in the get-away-from-me-I-hate-you camp. This is the "Blade Runner" of gas stations. It is the barren, post-nuclear wasteland of gas stations. It is the Sartre of gas stations.

But I need gas.

I swipe my credit card on the pump and, as instructed, "BEGIN FUELING." But while I'm waiting -- my hands in my pockets against the cold -- I notice the little LED display change.

"HEY, LOOK UP HERE!" it says, scrolling soft blue letters across the fifteen character screen. "THAT'S RIGHT, HERE."

Of course, I look around to see if there's anybody else the pump might be talking to. It's a reflex, gained after years of enthusiastically waving back at total strangers. But, nope, I'm the only one in the station.

Is this a prank? Is it the cashier? Is it -- and this is an inevitability in LA -- fodder for some embarrassing Dick Clark/Ed McMahon TV special? Or is the stupid thing just pre-programmed?

"THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS SMILE," the pump offers. "LIFE'S TOO SHORT NOT TO ENJOY IT!!"

It seems to know that I'm not smiling. Or maybe it's just making an assumption based on the fact that I'm pumping gas late at night in this desolate hell. It could say, "YOU JUST STEPPED IN GUM" and be right, too.

And so I counter with my opinion of the pump's philosophy -- carefully factoring in the surroundings and my state of mind -- and that pretty much proves that the message is pre-programmed.

Because otherwise it would have said, "HEY, SAME TO YOU, PAL."

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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