Writing Out Loud: It’s All on the Label

Writing Out Loud / George Stahl

There are over 35 different major additives we can use to enhance the performance of our cars, trucks, motorcycles and boats. They come in several different categories that separate what they do to the fuel we put into our tanks.

There are seven of these categories that are considered the most common and most effective. Of course, their effectiveness is also determined by who buys them and who uses them. Like other products on the market that claim to enhance performance in one way or the other, how effective they are depends, in part, on how they are perceived and believed in.

There are over 35 different major additives we can use to enhance the performance of our cars, trucks, motorcycles and boats. They come in several different categories that separate what they do to the fuel we put into our tanks.  There are seven of these categories that are considered the most common and most effective. Of course, their effectiveness is also determined by who buys them and who uses them. Like other products on the market that claim to enhance performance in one way or the other, how effective they are depends, in part, on how they are perceived and believed in.

These magnificent seven categories are: alcohols, ethers, antioxidants, antiknock agents, lead scavengers and fuel additives in general. That last group is a bit ambiguous, and we can almost even do without it, but it is a good way for the companies that make them to cover themselves in case one of these damages or even ruin your car. Sort of like saying that with excessive use, the effects of any of these can be null and void and that the companies making them are not responsible for any unforeseen side effects. The term ‘fine print’ escapes no aspect of our lives, not even the small bottle of fuel booster you pour into your gas tank. ‘User beware’ is another one of those buzz phrases.So, we have a sluggish engine. The fuel injectors may be clogged, a fuel filter may have a bunch of debris in it, or we might have a faulty accelerator.

Wait, this wasn’t happening until we started using that ‘really good, really improved’ fuel additive somebody told us about.  All we did was buy it, open it, and pour it into the tank. Literally, that was all we did.  What? What instructions on the side of the bottle? Well, we didn’t need to read those, no. Our friend told us how he did it, so that’s what we did. It’s not our fault we didn’t read the label.  We saw those measuring lines on the side of the bottle, but we didn’t use them either; we had a friend tell us how to do it. Besides, how hard is it to just pour that stuff into a hole on the side of your car? It’s not rocket science.

Look! It says right there in black and yellow, “Do not pour entire contents into tank at once.”  What’s that next line? “Use slowly after filling tank completely with fuel.” Ok, there it is then. First, we poured it into the gas tank before we put more gas in. Second, we dumped the whole bottle in at once, and third, we did not fill the tank completely. Yeah, but, my friend told me how to do it! It worked for him, why didn’t it work for me?Okay, don’t panic. I’ll just let it work its way through the fuel system, and it will mix with the gas just fine, over time. I could live with a little sluggishness, some knocking and even a little pinging now and then until it has all exited thru the tail pipe. It’s an additive; it shouldn’t hurt the rest of the systems in the car. Right? You know, then you say to yourself, “The point is, it’s not my fault. I just did what someone else said I should do. He didn’t say anything about reading the label. Maybe he should have told me to do that first. It’s not my fault he forgot to mention that little bit of information.”Clearly, you have absolved yourself of any responsibility, and by letting the additive remain in your car without being checked, you are being even more irresponsible and may even damage the car into a need of repair. But, I guess that wouldn’t be your fault either.

You may or may not have figured out by now that this column is not entirely about fuel additives. I have to tell you, I’m not sure exactly what it’s about, but I can tell you it has something to do with accountability. There have been a lot of things going on in the past few weeks that have put all of us on the edge of our seats and that have confused, grieved, frustrated and angered us. The tragedy in Las Vegas, the devastating fires in northern California and the deadly fires in Bakersfield. The deadly earthquakes in Mexico, and the killer hurricanes on the East and Gulf Coasts. Oh, and there’s that little guy in North Korea still hanging onto his bomb. Sort of like Slim Pickens’s character riding the nuclear bomb to earth in Dr. Strangelove. Some of us have asked the questions, how did we get here? How did we get to this horrific situation? The worst mass shooting in modern American history, a real possibility of a nuclear strike and one deadly natural disaster after another.

Answers?  Don’t look for them here. Maybe someone needs to come up with an additive for human kindness, human dignity and human everything else. Something to enhance our caring for one another, our ability to have empathy, compassion and love. Oh, and it has to have something in it that will enhance, strengthen, and really trigger our human common sense! If someone, some mad scientist, does invent this miracle additive, please, please, read the darn label before you use it!

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