Ma Fille and I went to Geneva this weekend to visit friends. There have been strikes all over France and the news has been telling us that with 11 out of 12 refineries closed we may experience a shortage of petrol. Knowing this I decided it would be prudent to fill up on gas before beginning the journey even though the tank was 3/4 full. I was driving Mon Mari's car because it's new and left-hand drive and doesn't feel like the engine is powered by chipmunks running furiously, spinning and wheezing at top speed. But that's a story for another day. On to the shameful truth...
I stopped at the first station on the motorway and waited in a line four cars deep for the pump. Looked like everyone had the same idea so that made me feel better, efficient, responsible. When it was my turn I got out and filled the tank. Naturally. But as I was doing it the voice in my head was worried, buzzing, 'I don't think this is right....I don't think this car is sans plomb....I think this is all horribly wrong!'
Maybe that was because there's a little sticker above the gas tank that says 'gazol ou diesel' or maybe because there's a red ring around the nozzle that says 'diesel' or maybe even because the nozzle for diesel is yellow to match the little sticker and the nozzle for unleaded is blue. Hmmmm.
I have to tell you that I knew I had made a horrible mistake even as I was doing it. For some reason I could not stop myself! I was in a trance; all that talk of gas shortages, the long lines behind me, the people going about their efficient tank filling business all around me made me stubbornly carry on. There's no explanation for this bizarre act of stupidity. I knew it, knew it, knew it and felt sick but strangely hopeful that I could somehow get away with it. I was wrong to be hopeful.
Now to the part where you must remember the French thing.
I got to the window to pay. In a state of what can only be explained as denial. I handed over my gas card, 'bonjour, pompe huit'. Cool as a cucumber, as if nothing was wrong, firmly in fantasy land.
Cue cymbals, anvil falling, curtain being pulled back to reveal the horrible truth. French, French, French, don't forget.
Attendant: 'Your card says unleaded is forbidden'.
Me: 'Oh, how bizarre.'
Attendant: 'You can only buy diesel on this card. Did you put unleaded in your car? You cannot drive your car. I will call the man to push your car. You must not start your car. Do you understand?'
Attendant: 'Do you understand?'
Me: 'I really messed up.' (insert English curse word of your choice)
Attendant, smiling: 'Yes. You did. Do not start your car. Do you understand?'
I laughed nervously. All the people around me laughed nervously. My ridiculous mistake was explained to all who would listen. Heads shook, eyes averted, more nervous laughter.
I walked the long walk back to the car and my waiting daughter. I had to explain this now. 'Mommy made a really bad mistake. I put the wrong gas in the car and now we have to wait for the man to come and push us, empty the gas and put more in before we can go.' I really thought it would be this simple. More reason for you to doubt my sanity and intelligence. The wall-eyed man from the station came out, irritated to have to deal with this, and pushed the car out of the way of the gas line that was at least six cars deep because of me. And so we waited. I sincerely thought that someone was going to come out of the station with some kind of gas removing device...I don't know, maybe a hose which said person would suck on to start the flow and the tank would quickly be emptied into something, he would push me over to another pump and I would fill up, with diesel this time, and be on my merry way. La la land.
|Riding in the scary tow truck|
|notice the burned cars behind|
|Flippin' yellow sticker!|
In French. All in French, people.
|Monsieurs Depannage hard at work|
So freakin' funny, huh Frenchies?! I can understand you! I know what you're saying!!!! Who's laughing now, huh??!!
An hour later, tank emptied, refilled to a quarter of a tank because they wanted to charge me 1 euro 50 for a liter of diesel....hang on there I'm not THAT stupid...a couple of squirts of air freshener (really) back seat replaced and we were on our way. Two hundred euros for the privilege. My sweet daughter said to me, 'Mommy don't feel bad. I'm sure there are at least one hundred people across the world who are doing this same thing right now.'
This really happened. I couldn't decide whether or not to tell you because of the shame of it. I decided laughing was more fun than feeling bad.
C'est la vie.