Remember back in the day when they were called service stations for a reason. You’d roll up to a typically vacant petrol bowser where an enthusiastic attendant would materialise at your window and chirp, “How can I help you Sir?”
– “Five bucks super thanks mate.”
And off he’d go, locking the nozzle in your tank so he could wash your windscreen and check your oil while your car filled with fuel. Then, if need be he’d bound into the shop and back with your order and change. At the end of the transaction you’d drive away happy, refuelled and refreshed without ever having to leave your car.
In contrast, today’s “service” stations are the perfect representation of what’s wrong with society in a nutshell. We trundle in like drones to whatever multinational conglomerate’s outlet that has given us our data mining discount card, to join the queues of vehicles extending from the bowsers. Queues exacerbated by us only lining up to the fuel cap side of the pump all-the-while somehow still oblivious to the fact that most bowser hoses will reach both sides of a vehicle if you just had the skill-set to actually park right next to the bowser and not just in the general area.
After popping the cap we make our selection of either E10, 91, 95 or 98 octane fuel, based solely on what someone said once or on how financial we are at that point in time. While some of us are just content we’ve been able to maintain focus long enough not to fill the petrol tank full of diesel or the other way around.
While the dollars count up we take note of the “DO NOT USE MOBILE PHONES WHILE REFUELLING” signs and even though it’s a totally pointless restriction based on myth started by a hoax we dutifully comply while ironically not giving a second thought to driving with our mobiles glued to our ear.
After fuelling our vehicle and noting the pump number we optimistically look for the squeegee to clean our windscreen but if it isn’t in total disrepair, there’s no water in the bucket or if there is it’s usually that discoloured and dirty even a UNICEF kid would think twice before touching it.
After dejectedly dropping the squeegee back in its bucket we start our trek to pay only to realise we’ve already forgotten the pump number and have to pivot and look back. But of course it’s now obscured by a support so we have to swerve from our path to catch a glimpse of it before reaching the door.
And as we pass through this door even those who do notice the “MOTORCYCLE HELMETS MUST BE REMOVED BEFORE ENTERING THESE PREMISES” sign, most likely fail to detect the absolute futility of this restriction as if a criminal is intent on concealing his identity by wearing a helmet while robbing the joint, it’s hardly likely he’d comply with a sign.
And the logic doesn’t improve as you move closer to the counter as the lady in the queue in front decides to wait until the cashier requests payment before rooting around in her handbag for her purse as though this typical transaction was a totally new and unexpected experience.
Then finally you arrive at the counter and upon meeting the glazed over stare of the exploited Indian cashier, drained from doing the job of two people for minimum wage, you realise that you’ve again forgotten your bowser number. So rising to your toes like a meerkat on guard you look back at the pumps going, “ Nuummberrr… twelve”, then get caught slightly off guard when, totally out of context, the cashier asks if you’d like to take up their Cherry Ripe two for one deal.
“Huh? What?… No thanks mate just the fuel.”
So after swiping your card and the slightly nervous little wait for the “APPROVED” you trudge back to your car, a little poorer in the wallet and a little poorer in the soul and off you depart out of the mundaneness of the service station into the mundaneness of the rest of the world. But then, just down the road, a thought pops into your head…
“Bugger it, I could of gone a Cherry Ripe about now…”