"I'm in business to make money. I'm not going to chase people away with the wrong (license) number," says Hilltop Sunoco gasoline station owner Jeffer Mercer in Arlington.
"Not me, buddy," says Jerry Soroka, manager of the Exxon station at Thayer Avenue and Fenton Street in Silver Spring. "I won't sell to 'em if they come in here on the wrong day . . . Hell, I told my sister the other day I couldn't sell her gas."
With the long gasoline lines of June and July gone from the Washington scene for the moment, government imposed odd-even gasoline sales requirements are now being enforced unevenly and at times a bit oddly.
A spot check by The Washington Post shows that gasoline station owners and managers generally agree there is widespread voluntary compliance with the odd-even rule by motorists, so enforcement is not a big problem.
But many owners and managers said that when the occasional wrong-numbered car does come into their station, they turn a blind eye.
Police throughout the Washington area also said they are not monitoring service stations for odd-even violations.
"We're having zero problems," said Sgt. Roy Jordan of the Alexandria Police Department. "Everyone's in compliance."
"I'm not aware of any arrests [for odd-even violations]," said D.C. Police spokesman Joe Gentile.
"We're taking a liberal policy on enforcement8" siad Theresa Augustono fuel allocation chief for the D.C. Energy Unit. Six energy unit staffers assigned to monitor stations were pulled back into the office for desk work three weeks ago, she said.
The energy unit conducted a random survey, of 100 service stations in the District last week and showed 81 percent of the owners and managers said they want to get rid of odd-even (in order to increase sales), but at the same time fear it could trigger long lines and panic buying again.
Most owners and managers said they want to keep odd-even at least through Labor Day, nominally the end of the peak driving season, according to the survey.
Energy planners for the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia all said they have no plans to eliminate odd-even now. The executive orders under which Govs. John Dalton of Virginia and Harry Hughes of Maryland and District Mayor Marion Barry invoked the odd-even rule in June expire Sept. 30, but can be extended by mutual agreement among the three chief executives.
Travis Markle, staff planner for the Metropolitan Council of Governments, said gasoline lines have virtually disappeared for a number of reasons, including odd-even and minimum purchase requirements. Also, he said, "people appear to be driving less, although that is not yet documented with hard facts."
In addition, he said, distribution of additional gasoline supplies to hard-hit areas under state and District emergency setaside programs appears to have improved the situation.
Metro subway ridership, one of the few currently available indices of possibly changing travel patterns, showed a sharp increase in June when the gasoline lines were longest. Ridership dropped off again in mid-July, as the gasoline shortage appeared to ease. Ridership has fluctuated unevenly since then, according to Metro figures.
Average weekday Metro rail ridership for June, July and early August showed this pattern:
Service station owners and managers are dealing with the odd-even rule in different ways, although most of those interviewed said they generally ignore it.
Irvin Parsley, manager of the Exxon station at Georgia Avenue and Geranium Street NW in the District, has two service islands, one for full service and one for self-service.
"If somebody comes in here with an odd tag number on an even day or the other way around," Parsley said, "I just tell 'em to use the self service pump if they want to take a chance . . . But who's going to stop them?"
Just up the street and across the Maryland line in Silver Spring at Georgia Avenue and 13th Street, the Steuart Chevron self service station has a large sign greeting motorists with "Today Odd Tags Only" or "Today Even Tags only."
"We get pretty good compliance," said manager Peter Doonis the other day, an odd-numbered day. "You can sit here for an hour before you'll see an even tag."
Does he make exceptions "Well, yes, sometimes, like if they're out of gas . . . If somebody has just got their car out of the shop and they've got no gas and it's the wrong day, they've got tears in their eyes. I'll give it to them then."
Several station owners acknowledged privately that they will gell gasoline to regular or "preferred" customers on any day.
"If they're going to prosecute [for servicing preferred customers], they'd have to prosecute every damned dealer in the United States," said Mike Cheppa, manager of the Shell station at Fenton Street and Thayer Avenue in Silver Spring.
All dealers interviewed agreed that odd-even is harder to enforce at self-service station.
"If you just go ahead and get it [gas], I won't say anything," said Jim service station at 3299 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington. "We don't pay any attention."