Halfway between Washington and Boston two weeks ago, insurance man Chip Folz noticed that the fuel gauge on his black 1979 Grand Prix was nosing toward empty.
When as a last resort, he had to beg $2 worth of gasoline from a New York state trooper who told him "the truckers are going bananas because they can't find any gas," Folz suspected that his route business trip was about to turn into a nightmare.
He was right.
Unable to find gasoline, he limped off 1-84 at Danbury, Conn., 300 miles northeast of Washington and checked into a motel. There, he considered his troubles: a lost client, perhaps, as well as the cost of his confirmed Boston hotel room that night.
At 6 o'clock the next morning, Floz was waiting in line at Dzamko's Amoco in Danbury. An hour later, John Dzamko, the owner, turned on the pumps and told Folz, sorry, but it was an even day, June 22, and he had odd license plates.
Ever the smooth-talking saleman, Folz pleaded. He was from Maryland, and did not know the local rules. Then he cajoled: He was a stranded traveler, merely passing through. "It didn't do any good," he recalls. "They wouldn't sell me any gas."
"Sure he was angry," says Dzamko. "But we have a lot of interstate travelers who spend the weekend across the street at the Holiday Inn because stations are usually closed.
"What could I do? If I'd been caught filling his tank, that's a $1,000 fine and a year in jail."
And Dzamko adds, the way tempers have been flaring around Danbury, his neighbors would have turned him in at the click of the pump. So Dzamko told Folz to call Hartford, the state capital.
Frantic, Folz did as he was told and called Hartford. He reached J. William Burns, a state energy official, who reacted sympathetically to the stranger's plea and passed the word back to Dzamko - fill it up. Folz then pulled into the gasoline lines at Dzamko's station. "The even-numbered drivers," he says, "threatened to kill me - good-humoredly, of course."
Back on the road again, but still boiling, Folz decided that he had to call the governor's office. "I was still mad that interstate travelers should be penalized," he says. Off the highway we went to place the call.
"I'm Ella Grasso, can I help you?" answered Connecticut's governor, picking up her own phone. Folz told his sorry tale and suggested that she change the state's rules affecting interstate travelers. "In Maryland," he said, pressng the point, "we allow anyone to get gas, regardless."
In the days since that incident, Connecticut has indeed changed its rules for out-of-state drivers, allowing the station attendants to play King Solomon and decide on a case-by-case basis whether the tanks should be filled.
Folz could not care less. If he never lays tire tracks through Connecticut again, he says it will be too soon. CAPTION: Picture 1, The American love affair with automobiles was fueled by ads such as these made cars a statement of status; Picture 2, Salesman Chip Folz had trying experience in Connecticut under the odd-even rule. By John McDonnell - The Washington Post