The man in the Florida car had patiently waited his turn in line, police said yesterday, but when he got to the pumps at the Gulf station near 18th Street and Columbia Road, he wanted his tank filled.
There was a $5 limit, the attendant told him. The driver pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. He wanted his tank filled. The attendant filled it. The driver then paid $10, put down his shotgun and drove away.
The Friday night incident was the most desperate so far in a weekend filled with desperate people trying to fuel their gas-starved cars.
The rush to the pumps that saw long lines and angry confrontations until gas stations closed Friday began again before dawn yesterday.
As early as 5:45 a.m., a dozen cars were lined up at a Mobil station on H Street NE. Woodlawn Texaco at 8851 Richmond Highway opened at 6 a.m. and pumped 2,000 gallons - all its management allowed - within four hours.
About 80 percent of the area's 1,500 stations had been expected to be open yesterday, but almost all had closed by afternoon, with most of the pumps locked up at mid-day.
Based on a poll taken Wednesday, the American Automobile Association estimated that 5 percent of the service stations in and around Washington would be open today. But AAA spokesman Glenn Lashley said yesterday afternoon that it is now "hard to say."
"If you find 5 percent in the metro area you'll be lucky," said Victor Rasheed, executive director of the Greater Washington-Maryland Service Stations Association. "I think our Sundays begin on Saturday afternoons now, and that means no stations."
Though lines were long yesterday - some stretching for more than 40 cars, causing waits of up to an hour - and hours more were spent by drivers searching for open stations, the scene was relatively peaceful compared to Friday's fist fights and confrontations.
Both station operators and customers angrily pointed at a number of causes for their problems.
Many blamed what they consider the voracious oil companies. "I would love to see the bookkepper who turned a 3 percent oil export deficit from the Persian Gulf into a 30 percent drop in gas production in this country," said Phil Price of Manassas as he sat in line at a Tysons Corner Sunoco station.
"It's just a bunch of fat cats from their oil companies waiting for the price to come up some more so they can make more profit on the gasoline they already have," Price said.
Many others, particularly station owners, pointed to the media as the cause of the weekend crisis. "They're scaring people to death, that's what it amounts to," said Charles E. Hardison, owner of two Washington Gulf stations.
During the week, he said, pumps often stood idle but after reports of a shortage Friday, he had to call in police to help keep order in the lines at his station.
The AAA's Lashley blamed the weather.
"This is the first time we've had a decent weekend in 24 weeks. There's no way in the world you're going to keep people from heading to beach and mountains, and that means they head for the pumps."
Whatever was to blame, large numbers of Washingtonians wound up spending a sizable chunk of their Saturday, and many gallons of gas, searching for fuel.
"I tried 10 stations, 20 stations. It's partially the heat, but I think I've lost count," said Sun-Yom, a cab driver from Alexandria, as he sat sweltering at a Sunoco station.
"You have to waste gas to find gas and that doesn't make any sense," said another fuming customer.
Inevitably there were several drivers who wouldn't take "pumps closed" for an answer or tried to weasel into the lines.
"This is really getting to be a jungle out here," said Leonard Jacobs, 26, who nearly came to blows with another man challenging him for the last place in line at a Scott station on Lee Highway. The loser made an obscene gesture as he drove away.
"They'll run you over to get to a pump," said the station's manager. A couple of minutes later a van crashed through the oil drums blocking the entrance before its driver was finally persuaded to leave.
Steve Fisher, manager of a Gulf station in Spring Valley, looked utterly exhausted after a day at the pumps.
"There were too many irate customers," he sighed. "They pull in the wrong way and when you ask them to move they try to pretend they don't see you and ignore you. Then you get stern and they go crazy."
Other customers were more subtle. One Mount Pleasant woman said she simply called up the owner of a neighborhood station where the pumps were supposedly closed. He told her to drop the car off and leave the keys in it, as if it were being serviced, and he would quietly fill it up.
Few station operators said openly that they favored friends or long-time customers, but several had worked out their own system of allotting the precious fuel.
"We had to limit the gas to $5 except on some commercial vehicles," said Charles Hardison. "If a doctor or somebody like that comes in we'll give him a full tank.If a person has his family in his car and out-of-state tags, we'll give him more than $5. The other night I was trying to close and I gave some people a gallon just to get back home.
"We don't like to do the government's job for them (rationing), but it looks like that's what we're doing," Hardison concluded.
There were many vows of car-pools-to-be throughout the suburbs yesterday, and as drivers sat in the near 90-degree heat, many swore as well that they would never drive needlessly again.
The main Trailways bus terminal reported about a 25 percent increase in business over a normal Saturday, though the AAA reports that gasoline is still in good supply outside the metropolitan area and long-distance drivers are not likely to get stranded if they can start with their tanks full.
Yesterday, as well, there appeared to be a growing sense of resignation toward the now chronic weekend gas crunch.
"I just said to hell with it. You can't stop living just because somebody says there's no gas," said Robert Williams as he sat fishing on the banks of Hains Point.
"I have a gas can on hand for emergencies," he said. "The only place I have left to go is church . . . and I think the Lord will get me there." CAPTION: Picture 1, Whitey Jaquith's motorcycle ran out of gas on arrival at station in Alexandria. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post; Picture 2, The end of the line for cars awaiting gasoline at this station on Rockville Pike arrived at 12:30 p.m. By Joel Richardson - The Washington Post