Sunday, 3 May 2009


Spot the Deliberate Mistake!Image by pupski via Flickr

Every other morning (sadly) I buy petrol. I almost invariably use the same service station and invariably ask for the same thing. Dhs80 of ‘Special’. I have done since they built the damn place just down from my house – oh, apart from a brief phase last year when it went up to Dhs90 of Special.

“Hi. 80 Dirhams Special please”
Smile “Good morning”
“Yes, Good morning. 80 Dirhams Special please.”
Big smile “Good morning.”
“80 Dirhams special please”
“No. Eighty Dirhams of special please. 80. AT. Eyt zero. Aytee.”
“No. Eighty, AT, bandersnatch, argubuthon, ephaisto. Yayytee. Eeeteee.”
Huge smile as understanding dawns like the Midsummer sunrise over the stones on Salisbury Plain. “Yaytee!”
“Yes. 80.”
“NO, Special. Yaytee Special.”
“Open please.”

Now I am rather left wondering what it takes for a petrol pump attendant to understand an order for petrol. Let us assume that a working knowledge of Arabic, Hindi, English, Malayalam and Urdu is required. We need to learn:

10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70. 80. 90. 100. Full. Special. Super. Diesel. Change. Cash. Credit Card. Receipt. Clean window. Yes. No.

It’s not a hellish vocab to pick up, is it? Even a Nokia speech recognition system could probably do it, and could probably handle the words involved even if you had a heavy cold and had just yesterday been repeatedly punched hard on the nose by an irritated customer who had finally snapped and physically visited your call centre to let you know what he thought of your cheery ‘Anything else I can do for you today, sir?’

It’s not as if people frequently stop at the petrol pump and chat about movements in art or care to outline philosophical approaches to the socio-economic conundrums of the world today. Your average conversation consists of window down, ‘I want x amount of x petrol’.

In fact, this being true, you could pretty well anticipate what the chap in the car is saying, even if he’s green, has antennae and is driving a small spaceship. He’s saying [Amount] [Type of fuel] where [Amount] is one of ten numbers or the word ‘full’ 99.9999% of the time and where [Type of fuel] is one of three possible types.

Unless, of course, he’s saying ‘take me to your leader’, in which case pouring refined petroleum spirit into his Quantum Drive’s water tank may not be a smart move.

So where is the problem? I’m a regular, I always ask for the same thing and it is clearly differentiated in my language from any other reasonable thing that you could expect me to ask for in the circumstances. Leastways it is unless your petrol station forecourt supermarket is home to a world-class delicatessen that stocks weights of tea, Dee hams and special peas.

I have the sneaking suspicion that they all turn around and talk to each other about what a rum old customer I am in their impeccable, Etonian English the second I drive off, I really do...
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ghoonk said...

Sorry, mate, they don't accept credit cards any more. Maybe fleet cards, but that's about it.

Make your life easier, go with "Full tank, Super". Been here 3 years and it's never failed :)

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Sometimes I suspect they do it on purpose….

Grumpy Goat said...

Full, please. Green. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

They are tought to say so in order to make you as for full tank, it will definatly work better for the company pocket, plus as almost alot of people go for full they expect nothing unusal as if things all around this city are given and we have to just oblige and gow with the flow.
Excuse that fellow and his other colleagues they are a reflection of what there organizations want except that they don't enjoy what ethere organizations enjoy by the end of the year or decade, they just get salaries and fill petrol. Oh I forgot and smile, mostly fake smiles.

Seabee said...

The hot weather getting to you Alex?

"Full tank special" does it every time. No questions asked, no confusion, no irritating conversation.

Media Junkie said...

oh i've had attendants purposelly fill my tank full when i specifically tell them X amount because that's all i have on me!!

i once told them its not my fault that they can't hear me correctly and paid the amount i asked for, not the full tank. serves them right.

hemlock said...

if they refuse to speak your language, why cant you just say 'yaytee' in the first attempt? they cant get THAT wrong, and it will save you a heartache.

(sorry about that unsolicited advice, but speaking in the language of the speakee helps me get my message across)

Phillipa said...

We fill our own tanks here in Australia but the margin for misunderstanding ones own intentions is still wide.

samuraisam said...

I'm sick of petrol stations and I've only been driving for a damn month or so.

Every single shop above a crappy grocery is basically required to have a credit card/bank card facility.

Petrol stations do not. So what happens? 200 people try and park in front of the minimart to use the ATM inside, this leaves no parking for people that need to actually purchase something in the minimart, and also leaves a complete disaster for people waiting to fill up.

I really thought we were moving towards a cashless society...

Bush Mechanic said...

Sorry, did you say curry? Next time speak slower and louder, it always works and the sun will never set...

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