Image by pupski via FlickrEvery 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!”
“NO, Special. Yaytee Special.”
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...