Getting petrol

18th April 2008 – 8.51 am

There were three motorbikes, including mine, filling up at the petrol station I visited yesterday. Apart from when an instructor brings his duckling learners in to a station this is the most number of bikes I've seen filling up at any one time. With motorbikes being quite a minority on the roads this doesn't surprise me. I also think it should be quite easy for the attendant to work out which pump I filled up at, with it being the only motorbike on the forecourt and my being the only person to be wearing leathers and a crash helmet. Even so, I don't presume to force the effort on to him to work out which pump I've used and always state the pump number to aid a smoother transaction. That's the idea, at least. I am amazed at the number of times I have an exchange like this:

'Pump number seven, please.'

Keying in some information, 'number four, yeah?'

'Number seven.'

I don't mumble, I know from experience that I can be heard clearly from beneath my helmet, and I always offer the pump number before the attendant suggests one. Yet even when there is a car sitting next to the pump he mistakenly thinks I filled up at I often have to repeat myself. It's bizarre.

I don't have this issue when filling up a car. This leads me to wonder whether the ubiquity of cars stops the attendant from even trying to keep track of who is filling up where and thus forces him to focus on what the customer says. The routine is broken up when he thinks there is a customer-vehicle pair that is easy to determine and trying to work out which pump the bike is sitting in front of whilst trying to listen to the customer creates an unusual situation and thus confusion occurs.

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