Sue Limb:

“Ev­ery­body knows that red or black pumps are for diesel... don’t they?”

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - Sue Limb con­tact @sue_limb

I’ve done some stupid things in my life, but this has got to be the most mag­nif­i­cently, stu­pen­dously stupid. Though the man who came to res­cue me was very com­fort­ing.

“You’re not stupid,” he said, “You’re just a per­son who’s made a mis­take.” A jolly ex­pen­sive mis­take it was, too. I blame God. Ev­ery­body was driv­ing around per­fectly hap­pily with their un­leaded petrol. Why did he have to go and in­vent diesel?

I also blame Shell. The pumps sell­ing diesel have al­ways been colour coded red and/or black, haven’t they? So when, in a mo­ment of inat­ten­tion, I reached for the red pump, I as­sumed it was diesel. It was only when I re­turned the noz­zle to the holder thingy that I no­ticed the ghastly words ‘un­leaded petrol’ and my blood ran cold.

I wasn’t alone. In the car were my daugh­ter, our lit­tle ter­rier, who was hav­ing an at­tack of omi­nous fart­ing, sev­eral laven­der plants, and a wilt­ing Morn­ing Glory.

My mind reeled. What hap­pens if you put the wrong fuel in? The words ‘en­gine is ru­ined’ sur­faced from my mem­ory banks. The fill­ing sta­tion peo­ple kindly put a cone be­hind me and told me to ring the RAC, with whom I have a break­down con­tract.

Hav­ing a cone be­hind your car is al­most as em­bar­rass­ing as hav­ing to wear a big let­ter ‘A’ for adul­tery. (This is a lit­er­ary ref­er­ence, not a per­sonal mem­ory.) I rang the RAC, in pen­i­ten­tial mood. But it soon be­came clear that pen­i­tence was not go­ing to be enough. The woman on the line, who had given up leav­ing spa­ces between words, in­formed me that “there is a charge payable by debit or credit card which you sign up to when you took out your con­tract with us you poor sap that’ll be two hun­dred and twenty pounds.”

Two hun­dred and twenty pounds! Not count­ing the seventy pounds I’d al­ready stumped up for the wretched un­leaded, not to men­tion the seventy I’d have to stump up to fill up with diesel af­ter­wards.

“Do you want togo ahead ?” she de­manded rest­lessly. Well, of course I wanted to go ahead. They had me over a bar­rel – of oil, in this case. What was the al­ter­na­tive? Could we all set off on foot, head­ing for the A38 with an arm­ful of laven­der plants and a stink­ing mutt?

Once I’d agreed to stump up big time, she asked for my regis­tra­tion num­ber and then rat­tled it back to me in some kind of dread­ful code. “‘Is that Kam­schakta Novi­tiate Oregano?” she de­manded. Or some­thing. In­stantly I was in a monastery gar­den in East­ern Asia. I had to scrape the as­so­ci­a­tions of th­ese words off my brain be­fore I could con­firm that their ini­tial let­ters bore some re­la­tion to my regis­tra­tion plate.

Once I’d stumped up, I was as­sured that help would be ar­riv­ing. Now for about 40 min­utes we had to en­dure the satir­i­cal glances of other cus­tomers who came, helped them­selves to the cor­rect fuel, and then de­parted. We com­forted our­selves by as­sas­si­nat­ing their char­ac­ters based solely on their cloth­ing, hair­styles and de­meanour.

A flashy or­ange van pulled up nearby, adorned with lad­ders, ropes, a block and tackle, etc.

“There he is!” I cried fool­ishly.

But it was just a win­dow and door com­pany. Much as I’d like to re­place the car doors with solid oak and the win­dows with lime­stone mul­lions, it didn’t seem the right mo­ment some­how.

An­other or­ange ve­hi­cle pulled up nearby, equipped with lad­ders, ropes, oxy­gen cylin­ders, etc.

“It’s re­ally him this time!” I cried fool­ishly. But it was just a pri­vate car be­long­ing to a man with some kind of be­havioural prob­lems. Ev­ery­body nowa­days seems to want to make their ve­hi­cle look like an RAC res­cue van. Per­haps they like to ac­cel­er­ate past stranded mo­torists giv­ing them the finger as they pass.

Even­tu­ally the real RAC man ar­rived. He re­minded me slightly of Lord By­ron, poet and se­rial se­ducer. He as­sured me that I was the fourth he’d at­tended to that day, and that, over the course of a year, he might pro­vide his ser­vices to al­most a thou­sand. Very like Lord By­ron, in fact.

The wrong fuel was sucked out of my car into a tank in the back of his truck and then the right fuel put in. It’s that easy. You do have to live with the shame for the rest of your life, though.

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