Hey, Don’t I Know You?

Anthony Stone’s gas-pump phots bring him fame, not fortune.Super TrooperAnthony Stone’s Gas-Pump Photos Bring Him Fame, Not Fortune

By Tony Bridges

Fllorida Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Stone is used to the reaction by now. He pulls someone over on a routine stop, walks up to the car and gets The Look – the one that says, “Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”

And indeed, they usually do. Just about anyone who buys gas in this state has seen Trooper Stone before. He’s the stern, frowning lawman whose photo appears on thousands of gas pumps across Florida, warning the potentially larcenous about the consequences of stealing fuel.

Since they went up, those anti-theft stickers have made him the closest thing the Florida Highway Patrol has to a celebrity. Stone says it’s not unusual for motorists to ask for his autograph during traffic stops. And he’s happy to oblige – his signature is right there on the ticket.

It’s not exactly what he had in mind when he agreed to pose seven years ago.

“I didn’t realize it was going to be everywhere, the way it is,” the trooper said recently, with a sheepish laugh. “I didn’t realize it was going to be on every gas pump in the world.”

At the time, he had been with FHP for only a couple of years – with Tallahassee-headquartered Troop H and assigned to the roads near Carrabelle – when the request came in. The Florida Legislature had passed a new law that punished gas thieves with a six-month license suspension.

The Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association was running a campaign to promote the law and wanted a trooper to pose for the ads. An FHP lieutenant recommended Stone.

That makes sense. Stone has the quintessential state trooper look. He spent eight years in the Marine Corps and has a reputation for being particular about his appearance. He’s trim and muscular, polishes his shoes and presses his uniform every day, and never goes anywhere without his trooper hat, which he wears tilted slightly forward over his eyes in military fashion.

Neatness counts, the way Stone sees it.

“The first impression is what matters,” he said.

The campaign launched in the fall of 1999. Since then, gas retailers have ordered more than 15,000 stickers, according to convenience-store association president Jim Smith.

The association sells them for a buck each to members, three bucks to nonmembers. The money goes to pay for public education campaigns such as the new one promoting the “move-over” law. (The law requires drivers to slow down and move out of the lane closest to emergency vehicles that are stopped on the shoulder of the road.) Stone doesn’t get any of the cash.

But he does get the recognition – everywhere he goes. Especially during traffic stops, where people sometimes are surprised to learn that he really is a trooper and not just a model posing as one.

“It happens all the time,” he said. “They’ll recognize me from the picture and ask for my autograph, or they’ll take my picture with their cell phone.”

A couple of years ago, he was working down at the Black College Reunion in Daytona Beach when a man recognized him from across busy A1A. The man dodged several lanes of traffic just to run over and pose for a photo with him.

Then there was the time he stopped his patrol car for gas at a station in Eastpoint. A newspaper reporter from the St. Petersburg Times happened to be at another pump and recognized him. The reporter asked for an interview on the spot and ended up writing a long story about him.

Even off-duty security jobs at the Civic Center in Tallahassee frequently are interrupted by event-goers who recognize him and want to talk. And talk. And talk. Until finally, someone from the Civic Center staff has to shoo them away so he can get back to work.

“It can get to where it really occupies a lot of your time,” he said.
Of course, not everyone’s so starstruck. Some like to add their own little irreverent touches to his gas-pump photos. They add mustaches and horns and word balloons with naughty quips.

Stone said he’s seen them. Among the memorably rude: one that had him saying, “I’m a pimp,” and another that had him holding up something other than a driver’s license.

“I usually just laugh,” he said. “I don’t care. I’m pretty mellow.”

Mellow enough that he would pose again, if asked? Sure, Stone says, why not?

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