When I visit my mum in Cyprus and we have to put petrol in the car at her local garage it's very simple. You pull up to the pump, a lovely man comes and asks how much petrol you want and then pumps it for you and takes payment. Simple.
When I stopped to put petrol in my car yesterday at my local petrol station it was a very different story. It was a experience which both amused and enraged me and inspired me to write this post.
So -I pulled in to a pump which offered two types of unleaded petrol. One I will call "normal" unleaded. The other, I will call overpriced unleaded most suited to super car drivers and those with overinflated ideas about the family hatchback which is only ever used for school runs and supermarket visits.
Pumping liquid gold (or the cost equivalent) into my vehicle I spotted a sign telling me I could now choose to pay using my smart phone via a QR app. Well that's a new one. I'm still suspicious of pay at pump so not sure I trust the QR pixies not to share my bank details with every crook on the internet.
Apparently I can whip out my phone, scan the pump's QR code and pay automatically. At what point does the enormous "mobile phone igniting fumes" explosion happen? Before or after I've paid? For years we have had stern warnings not to use mobile phones on the forecourt but apparently that was all nonsense. Or maybe losing a few customers to on-site explosions is worth it for the majority to enjoy the convenience of not having to walk ten steps to the tills?
Talking of tills...after emptying three teaspoons of petrol into my tank I went into the building to hand over my £15.01. (why does it always flick over to that extra penny?)
After zig-zagging my way past nappies, beer, biscuits, bread, a veritable cornucopia of air fresheners and a suitcase for sale I was (finally) greeted by a cheerily grinning man waiting for my payment.
I told him the pump number and held out my card. He ignored my proffered card firstly asking if I had a loyalty card. No. Did I want one? No. Was I sure? Yes absolutely sure thank you since during the entire year I did have this particular loyalty card despite running two cars and my husband using it when he filled up his firm's lorries with fuel we never received any reward!
Moving on. Still smiling, the cashier gestured towards a can and chocolate bar on his left. Two for £2 madam? Well apart from the fact that as a diabetic if I'd taken up the offer of an energy drink and an energy bar I probably would've gone into a coma, I was tempted to point out that if I wanted a drink and chocolate I would have picked them up during my safari through the grocery section on my way to the till.
He's only doing his job I reminded myself.
I had to remind myself of this when he gestured to his right towards a display of cardboard signs and asked if I wanted carwash? Oil? (with opportunity to buy aforementioned suitcase) binoculars? reduced in price biscuits?
No - I just want to pay for my ruddy petrol and leave, I shouted in my head as the queue behind me grew ever longer. Of course I'm British so I just smiled politely, declined and edged away before he could offer me part-shares in a race horse or something equally un-petrol related.
As I left I heard him start up the same patter with the next customer and I realised what I had taken for a friendly smile was in fact the external manifestation of the madness caused by having to repeat a script many hundreds of times each day.
I'm still going to find another petrol station though.