May 3rd 2006
The phone rang. It was The Trouble.
â€œThereâ€™s a light in the car.â€
â€œWhat sort of a light?â€
â€œOn the dashboard thingy.â€
â€œWell itâ€™s just a light.â€
â€œWhat colour is it?â€
â€œDo you remember those curtains we used to have in the spare bedroom? A sort of burnt orange?â€
â€œWhen this light came on, was there a buzzing sound?â€
â€œYou need to put some petrol in.â€
â€œHow do I do that?â€
It must be at least twenty years since I taught The Trouble how to drive â€“ after insisting of course that she first had ten lessons from a qualified instructor, Iâ€™m not a fool. One day when she was reasonably proficient, i.e. when people had taken to the streets again and she had mastered the nine point turn â€“ I asked her to take the next turn on the left and pull up. She did. Then said, surprised: â€œWeâ€™re in a garage.â€
I corrected her. â€œA filling station.â€
â€œYour next lesson. Itâ€™s called Going for Petrol.â€
I had her get out of the car then showed her how to unlock the petrol cap and use the petrol pump. I stopped when Iâ€™d put in a couple or so gallons. Then I had her to the same, going through the complete routine. Three times. Satisfied that she now knew how to put petrol in the car I took her to the kiosk to show her how to pay for it. Sorted. Like hell it was .
From that day to this I swear on my life that she has never put so much as a single drop of petrol in any of the six or so cars weâ€™ve had since she passed her test. On more than one occasion Iâ€™ve seen her get in the car, switch on, observe that the needle on the fuel gauge was getting dangerously near to the red zone, and get out and either walk or take a bus to where she was going. This time she must have failed to take that precaution.
The tone of my voice was deliberately long-suffering so as to register my disapproval. Water off a duckâ€™s back, I know, but you have to try. â€œGo to the nearest garage.â€
â€œWhere are you now?â€
She told me.
â€œMake for Tescos.â€
â€œDo they sell petrol? Iâ€™ve never noticed when Iâ€™ve been there shopping.â€
â€œItâ€™s not on the fucking shelves next to the tins of dog food, itâ€™s in a separate building, with a giant sign that says Petrol, youâ€™ll see about eight things outside it that look like one-armed monsters out of Doctor Who, theyâ€™re called petrol pumps.â€
â€œThereâ€™s no need to be sarcastic.â€
â€œThereâ€™s every need to be sarcastic.â€
She arrived home about an hour later, not a happy bunny. â€œI didnâ€™t know it was that price,â€ she complained.
â€œWell how would you?â€
â€œNinety eight pence a litre!â€
â€œRight. How much did you put in?â€
â€œWell a litre of course. Oh by the way, that light came on again on the way home.â€
May 3rd 2006