IF YOUR balls are crustier than most, you’ll remember that back in the day, service stations actually provided service – your tank was filled by a driveway attendant who then offered to dip the Castrol R in your grey motor to keep her running sweet.
As daily life sped up, service stations became self-service stations, but it was still a quick and simple process – you fill up, pay, then piss off. Distractions were minimal and usually limited to grabbing a Chokito, a pack of fags, a can of TAB or – heaven forbid – a car part, all within short reach and able to be quickly bundled out the door to keep the traffic flowing through the pumps.
Now, the car parts are gone, and so is the bowser etiquette. How many times have you sat queued at the pumps, waiting for some nimrod to finish their weekly shop and collect their half-strength skinny flat white before finally moving their car away from the bowser?
Recently I trundled into the local servo on a busy afternoon and pulled right behind a bloke fuelling his shitter. He fills the tank, fumbles with the nozzle, argues with the kids then dawdles inside and stuffs around at the ATM. I can see him through the windows filling his arms with crap and debating whether or not to buy a paper. ‘Oh shit, I better get the kids an ice cream,’ so it’s back to the freezer, and only then does he actually line up to pay. By now I’m blocked in; there’s a car up my arse and the lady driving it is too busy head-down in her phone to realise what’s happening.
It’s 10 minutes before the guy makes it back to his car, and then he delegates the kids’ food from the passenger side: “John, that’s Julie’s sausage roll, you didn’t want sauce, remember?” He puts the groceries into the boot and finally is back in the driver’s seat.
Yay! He’s started the engine and the brake lights are on! Hang on, no flick of the reverse lamps to show he’s going to move – that’s okay, maybe it’s a manual. But then he farts around with the seatbelt, which repeatedly locks up. “Stop yanking on it you moron, smooth and steady!” I mutter aloud; by this stage I’ve tapped divots of impatience into my steering wheel.
Now the belt is on but he still doesn’t move. I’ve had enough. I give the horn a gentle toot and stick my head out the window. “C’mon mate,” I say with obvious frustration – no response. The tradie on the other side smiles and tells me the bloke’s eating his lunch. That’s it; I’m out of my car and up at his window telling him to hurry the hell up.
“Oh, I didn���t see you there mate,” he says. Sure, it’s pretty easy to miss a bright orange V8 panel van with an exhaust leak.
Anyone drive a diesel? Well, then you’re screwed even worse. My work hack is a diesel so I know it’s slim pickings finding a suitable pump to start with.
I pulled up behind a windowless work van one morning that was parked at the only diesel pump. There’s two guys lined up at the counter inside and only two unattended vehicles at the pumps, so figure I won’t be waiting too long. And they’re having a good ol’ chat to the old duck working the register. That’s fine, I can be patient; it’s nice to see some human interaction these days.
Five minutes later they both walk out and head over to the same car – the one that’s not parked in front of me. WTF? So where’s the bloke who owns the work van that I’ve been waiting behind?
At that moment, the van door opens, and the guy I’ve been looking for hops out and starts to fill the tank. He’d just been sitting in there the whole time, doing god only knows what.
Then there was the guy who kept me waiting painfully behind him at a diesel pump, and when he finally returned he was carrying an armful of brown paper bags – he’d just wandered next door to buy Hungry Jacks!
Actually, I better not go there. My blood pressure’s already on the limiter, and my computer keyboard’s screaming in pain.