Tag Archives: careful with that axe Eugine

Interesting times

This week, I single-handedly caused a gargantuan traffic jam and discovered that I am strong enough to brake a centimetre thick bar of steel. Move over Hulk, here I come. There’s a story in that and we’ll get to it in a minute. Meanwhile, writing news.

Yes, the writing is creeping along, McMini is off for his last day of school as I begin this, although it’ll probably be Saturday by the time I’m finishing it! It will also have to be today’s word count total as I’m off out with a friend. While working on the space dustmen book I’ve done a little bit of research as well as writing and discovered some information about micro bacterial fuel cells. Really interesting stuff. If you’re interested you can read more here.

As a result, I now have a space station which gains much of its power from the ‘waste products’ produced. Yes. It runs on wee. The stuff that isn’t useable is ‘processed’ by cockroaches who were already planned in as the rubbish processing facility in the plant. They had developed sentience and become minor characters. They still are but now, they run the recycling centre, eating cleaning the kack off the things that have had food or other stuff in them, sorting the rubbish and processing it.

Yesterday, I visited Mum. She wasn’t as switched on as sometimes. Mind you, by the time I got to her, I wasn’t either. The M11 was borked – there was a 2 hour delay – so I had to cut across country a little way and go down the A1 to the M25 instead.

Naturally, by the time I got to the M25, a lorry had caught fire between the A1 junction and the M11 junction. It wasn’t on my side but I made a mental note that it would be, when I returned, and despite being the other carriageway, the road was closed my way too. Joy. I ended up and taking the other, 80 miles longer, route round the M25 via Heathrow. I arrived about an hour and a quarter after I would usually have done but still a good 40 minutes before I’d have got there via the borked M11 route. Despite not being very with it, Mum was in reasonable form.

It was annoying being late as I’d suspected that the raspberries in Mum’s garden might be ready and I’d wanted to get there in time to pick them. I went down to the fruit cage anyway. The kitchen garden there is lying fallow this year. The weeds are up to my waist. I got soaked and it wasn’t helped by the fact there’s a power line over the fruit cage and the birds sit on it and shit onto the waist high weeds in the fruit cage below. Not just water smearing all over my trousers as I moved among the weeds then, but also shit. Copious clods of the kinds of massive turds pigeons do.

Bastards.

The raspberries were way more ready than I thought and some of them had rotted in the seemingly endless rain, which has never fucking stopped. All in all it was a bit of a disaster really. I was pissed off with myself for not checking them last week as I’d have been able to pick them as they ripened rather than letting a load rot on the canes by mistake. Then again, I got some and we had them for lunch. A partial success then. However, by the time I was done I was covered in fruit juice from the mouldy squishy ones along with bird shit.

Nature, one: MTM’s salmon pink combat trousers, nil.

Burrs … many, many burrs

In addition to the lovely fruit juice and turd smears on my trousers, I also had burrs all over my shoes. After lunch, as Mum and I chatted and watched the tennis, I picked them all off. Here they are with a pen in the photo for reference. See? That’s a lot of burrs.

As usual, I left at half two but bearing in mind the lorry fire, I had a quick look at google maps before departure because I reckoned they’d be resurfacing the road after that one. Sure enough the M25 was closed for resurfacing and everyone was using the M11 as the route round it so that was at a standstill. Alternative routes are available for this so I nipped up the A12 and decided that I’d cut across from Chelmsford, via Ongar and Toots Hill (mwahahahahrgh!) on the A 414, cleverly joining the M11 at the junction where everyone else who was trying to avoid the lorry fire was turning off. Away I went with a podcast I particularly enjoy playing on my phone and the plastic lady from Google shouting directions imperiously at intermediate intervals.

All was well until I ended up at the back of a slow moving convoy of vehicles stuck behind a breakdown truck with a lorry on the back. Poor bugger. I felt for him but it wasn’t exactly well met. Top speed? Oh I dunno … 40mph? But it was mostly 30mph. As we crept up a hill the speed dropped and I changed down a gear. At which point, something happened and the gearstick suddenly went limp, between the gears, with my foot on the clutch. I took my foot off the clutch but discovered the car was stuck in neutral. No drive. Just momentum.

As you can imagine, at 20mph, on a hill there’s not much momentum or coasting potential. I managed to creep slowly to the side of the road, but to be frank, not as ‘at the side of the road’ as I’d have liked and there wasn’t enough umph to get it up the curb onto the verge which is where I’d have preferred to have ended up. Once I had stopped, I realised that there wasn’t going to be enough of a let up in the traffic whizzing past for me to get out and push it onto the verge either. Indeed, the cars and lorries overtaking me were probably taking the same detour as I. The road was narrow and they were not leaving any room or taking any prisoners as they passed. Open the door and something would smack it – or me – at high speed. Nope. Nothing doing there. I had to exit, with very little dignity, through the passenger side.

It was looking ominous but not actually raining at this point so I spread my anorak on the grass verge and took stock. There was a lot of traffic because it was a busy trunk road; that is one lane going in one direction and one in the other. And I’d blocked the one going my way. As a result, everyone had to wait behind my car until there was a gap in the almost never ending stream of oncoming traffic or until someone in the huge queue of oncoming cars was kind enough to stop and flash a handful through. On the up side, at least it was a straight bit and there was reasonable visibility both ways so folks could see where the gaps were to try and overtake.

Traffic … as far as the eye can see. Zoom in for the full horror!

Er hem. Yeh.

From my vantage point, the statutory ‘as far as possible’ away from the car, I looked along the road in the direction from which I had come, and which I was now blocking. The queue of cars stuck behind mine filled the whole straight and snaked away into the distance out of sight. About three quarters of a mile of it by the looks of things.

Shizz.

But also, in a very selfish and unpleasant, wow!-I-did-this! kind of way a bit rewarding. It made me understand how satisfying it must be to drive a caravan and cause this kind of mayhem wherever you go. Look at all those gits stuck behind me, they’ll have to learn some patience etc, etc. Except I did have the good grace to be mortified in majority, rather than smug.

Yes, well … that’s enough of that.

OK, better get the breakdown truck. I had never rung my breakdown company, had no clue what they’d be like, and wasn’t confident at all. My spirits sank further as I got the usual recorded announcement about COVID19 decimating their routine, although luckily it was just to apologise that some folks would be answering calls from home and that there might be some background noise. Not half as much as there was my end, I thought. The phone was answered quickly by a gentleman who asked where I was, at which point, I looked at google maps and discovered that I was half way between Chelmsford and Ongar, quite near to the highly amusingly named, Toots Hill. Then I realised that there was an enormous red bit on this road which started right about … ah yes … where I was standing.

When I mentioned this the gentleman on the other end asked if I was in danger. Judging by the number of people hooting and shaking their fists at me, I suspected there might be a small chance that someone who had been stuck in the queue behind me might stop to smack me in the mouth but otherwise, no, not especially. It’s all relative. I said that I was OK and that the car was in the middle of a straight, which was good, but that it wasn’t parked quite as I’d have liked. He suggested that I might be wise to ring off, call the police to warn them that I had single-handedly brought the traffic to a standstill. The call was logged, he explained so there’d be a truck on the way to the Ongar area I could just ring them back in ten minutes or so and fill in the details of my destination. There was much giggling from both of us because I told him that it appeared I’d done some kind of Hulk move and ripped the gearstick off, that it needed a viagra, etc. So I hung up and dialled 101.

It took a while but I finally got through to a dispatch officer with Essex police. She was lovely. The road was a bit loud and her what three words weren’t working so it was difficult for me to give her my exact location. We were on the phone for longer than we might have been, I suspect. I explained roughly where I was and she patched it all through. We then had a conversation that went something like this:

‘The traffic sounds like it’s going quite fast,’ she said.
No,’ I replied. ‘That’s the stuff coming the other way. The traffic my side is mostly stationary.’
Just at that moment a bunch of them got past and someone vented their anger by beeping their hooter long and hard.
‘Are they hooting at you?’ she asked incredulously.
‘Yes, they’re not happy.’ I replied. ‘They’re probably all avoiding the M25 like I am.’
‘Seriously, what do they think you’re doing?’ she said.
‘It looks like they think I’ve decided that this would be a really good place to stop and make a phone call,’ I said with my best sarcastic, idiot-spotting tone in place.
She laughed at that. ’Some people!’ she said.
‘Yeh. They’re not all bad, though. Some are looking sympathetic,’ I said, at which point a girl in a Fiat 500 stopped and asked if I needed any help and I said that I was fine and that the police were on their way.
‘That was a nice woman in a fiat asking if I needed any help,’ I duly reported to the officer who was still trying to get her version of what three words to link up with their mapping stuff.
‘Of course, the only person who offers to help would be a woman,’ she said drily and I liked her even more.
‘Right, there’s a car on its way, they’ll be with you in nine minutes.’
‘Brilliant,’
I replied at which point we said our goodbyes.

Oops …

Before I rang the breakdown people again, I rang the mechanic who fixes my car to ask if I could have it delivered to his workshop. He was fine with that so I then rang the breakdown people and told them where I was. Luckily their what three words was working so that was pretty quick.

Just as I was thinking of writing ‘sorry’ in big letters on a piece of paper and holding it up, I heard sirens in the distance. Yep there was a police car doing the full blues and twos piling towards me down the wrong side of the road past the huge queue of traffic. Shizz, was this for me?

Yes it was. Ooo. That was a bit of a thrill.

And also completely mortifying.

Yes.

They did, at least hold up the traffic and agree to help me push the car off the road but they had a ‘danger to life’ to go to next so instead of being able to enlist their help to push the car to the gateway of a field further up, they pushed it into a sort of half lay-by on the other side of the road. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing and at least now I was safe enough from the traffic.

Now that I was safely parked, I got into the car and rang the breakdown people explaining that I wanted to be taken to the address of my garage. They warned me there might not be room for me in the truck and I might have to be dropped ‘in a safe place’ where McOther could pick me up. Was that alright?

Shit.

‘Yes,’ I said, because, what else could I say?

Then I rang McOther and he was happy to pick me up from the mechanic’s garage. Lastly I rang Mum and pretended that I was in the driveway and that the traffic was the cars on Northgate Street. That done I realised I only had 20% charge on my phone so I got my charger out, fixed it, because it had come apart, and plugged the phone in to charge. By the time I’d finished that lot and discovered the text from my break down people saying the truck would be there at 5.57 I just had a few minutes to nip behind the hedge for a wee and my rescuer would probably have arrived.

The lay-by was part of the original road, which had been moved over. The metalled remains was left, hidden from the new road by a row of scrubby elms and blocked off at the beginning and end with piles of paving stones. There was a path but there were also a lot of brambles. I put on the sheepskin gloves I wear to fill up with petrol, picked my way gingerly over the pile of bricks and slabs and had a very, very much needed wee. Great. Now I was comfortable I could face anything.

Probably.

Even on a tow truck I still think my car looks cool.

The guy arrived exactly when he had said and when I told him my destination, thought he might well have been there before, with other stricken Lotuses, or would that be Loti? He had to pretty much stand in the hedge to get to the winch controls but he clearly knew what he was doing and it was on the back very quickly with the minimum of fuss or bother. Had he been doing this all his life? I asked. It turned out that yes he had. His father had been a mechanic before him and had also done recovery work. He remembered ‘cabbing’ with his dad to help at breakdown jobs from as young as three. He told he was a grumpy old git which made me warm to him immediately.

We didn’t go through the amusingly named, ‘Toots Hill’, much to my disappointment instead the road took us through Ongar and as we approached the junction with the M11 we hit a queue. It wasn’t long before we got chatting. His mother had died of Alzheimer’s. We talked about the first warning signs. In his case, his father had taken his mum away on holiday. She had a light smoking habit, about ten a day, which she started fairly late on in life. While they were away on this particular trip, his father popped out from the hotel to get some bits and bobs from the shops and bought her a packet of cigarettes. When he handed them over, she seemed nonplussed and explained that she didn’t smoke. She’d forgotten that she did, completely. Such a weird thing.

Everything went smoothly. We chatted happily over the course of the journey and arrived back at the mechanic’s workshop a bit after seven pm. Not bad really. He deposited my car exactly where the mechanic had asked me to park it, once more, with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of quiet competence, then off he went with a cheery wave. McOther was already there to collect me and we got home just before 8 o’clock.

What was wrong with it? I hear you ask. Well, to be honest, I was expecting it to be the little pin that holds the gearstick onto the … thing. It wasn’t. It turns out that it had broken off. Yes I’d actually managed to rip a piece of steel half an inch thick in half. For fuck’s sake. OK so I get a bit panicky sometimes and miss gears and kind of flap at it in a kind of go-in-go-in headless-chicken panic but I have come away with a rather sobering reassessment of my own strength.

The mechanic, who is called Gerald, but I promise the one in my book was called Gerald/Gerry before this one appeared in my actual Real Life, told me that the gear stick used to be available separately but that even though Lotus only stopped making the 1.6 Elise three years ago, in 2018, they have ceased manufacture of all its bespoke parts. So there was one set of gear stuff that comprised the whole linkage, which I don’t need, but which included the stick, for £650 plus 20% VAT. Otherwise, I could wait until a gear stick appeared on the second hand market. That would render a perfectly serviceable car un-drivable for weeks … months … years? … Until somebody broke one up somewhere.

Yikes.

The supplier had given him three minutes to say yes or no because they knew this was the last one in Britain. Jeez, I know the noisy cricket is inanimate and not sentient and that but seriously? It’s like it knows I spent all that money on art last week.

In case you’d forgotten what the noisy cricket (after which my car is named) actually is, here’s a refresher. 🙂

Yeh. Bollocks.

What to do?

Say yes to the last replacement part in existence, obviously.

Even if I end up paying about £500 over the odds for a whole lot of extra stuff on it that I don’t need, I’d prefer that to having a perfectly useable car standing idle for want of of an 18 inch piece of metal. The part will arrive next Wednesday and be fitted soon after with any luck. But now I have to think about what I do from here on in. Because if finding parts for my ten year old car is going to be like trying to source bits for a 1920s Lagonda or something, it’s going to be impractical and expensive. If I’m having to have a new gear stick bespoke machined from the plans from here on in, I’m in trouble.

If I sell it right now, there aren’t any new models of Lotus to buy and the Elises are all being retired. I doubt I’d get one and certainly not in my go to favourite shade of gunmetal grey. Anyway, two years down the line, my three year old car would be in the same situation as the current ten year old one.

Furthermore, I don’t think I can quite afford another Lotus, not new. Although, with the part exchange, if I start saving up I might be able to in a few years’ time. I also have to think in terms of my knee, which doesn’t straighten quite enough for the effortless exits and entries I used to be able to make. I do now look like an ancient old bag heaving herself in and out of it, and whatever the repercussions of walking wrong for so long have been on my hip are causing problems now that I’m walking properly again. The easy twist of the leg to slide under the steering wheel now hurts me. A lot. That said, I was going to wait a year or two and see if I could get physio and sort the hip out because it’s probably something some physiotherapy exercises could fix – shortened flexor muscles or similar.

Perhaps it would be smart to start thinking about what I drive next. Gulp. When the time comes, do I buy another Lotus? Where can they go after the current range of heart-wrenchingly pretty cars? Surely the only way is down. Or is it time to bite the bullet and buy … shudders … a normal car? I’ve driven a Lotus for 21 years and I had a spitfire for 11 years before that. 32 years of two-seaters that are like getting in and out of a sleeping bag. I like it like that. I feel safe looking up at the hub caps of taxis. And whatever car I buy, it needs to be absorbing enough to hold my attention for a 300 mile round trip every week or my mind will wander at the wheel and I’ll die. And when I say absorbing, I mean absorbing in a good way, in a way that makes schlepping up and down to Sussex as enjoyable as possible. And … pointy steering. I need pointy steering. Most normal cars are like driving a water bed on castors.

Also while Lotus might stand for Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious, this one has 81,000 miles on the clock and this is only the third major expense I’ve had … and one of those was the headlight which was a major expense but not quite as life threatening as say, the suspension, which went just after lock down but only cost £600. Most of the things I have done cost about £600 to be honest.

Modern cars are also a bit toss. They’re over engineered where it doesn’t matter, and under engineered where it does. I don’t want a million crappy gizmos. I don’t want caps on my tyres that cost £120 because there’s a pressure sensor in each one, it’s pointless shit. I’m not a complete moron. I can check my tyre pressure. I don’t need an electronic voice to tell me my washer fluid is low, I don’t need a stupid ‘console’ with a smart speaker and all manner of other shizz programmed in that’s connected to the internet and that I have to pay a monthly subscription for (yes another chuffing £7 a month). I have a phone for that. And if there is going to be a nut job at the wheel, I’d prefer it to be me and not some radicalised teenage whack job hacker in a bedroom somewhere who has got into my car’s smart software and is now controlling it.

All I want from a car is headlights, a heater, indicators, windscreen wipers and a radio/cd player that I can plug a flash memory stick into. Hell, even electric windows are a bit of an extravagance in my book. I mean, I have arms don’t I? Likewise, air-con would have been nice last summer but this year I wouldn’t have needed to use it at all so it’s not 100% necessary.

Nope. What I want is the kind of engineering that gets 0-60 in 6 seconds out of a 1.6 Toyota Yaris engine. The kind of engineering that gets me 0-60 in 6 seconds but delivers 40mpg on the motorway. That kind of elegant, logical, common sense, smart engineering that is spectacularly fucking absent from pretty much any other marque of car. The only alternative, really, is a Tesla, but the range is 250 miles and I need 300 to get to Sussex and back.

Or possibly a fiat 500 Abarth because … 0-60 in 6 seconds is enough to give me a thrill but 4 seconds would be even more fun.

Hmm … decisions, decisions …

Talking about vehicles with a mind of their own …

If you want to read about the fictional version of the Noisy Cricket, it features in Too Good To Be True, my latest release in both ebook and audio format. Here’s a bit more about it.

Too Good To Be True

Too Good To Be True (Audiobook cover)

When trouble comes knocking, meet the one man dumb enough to answer the door …

When The Pan of Hamgee encounters some mudlarkers trying to land a box on the banks of the River Dang he is happy to help. Having accepted a share of the contents as a reward he cannot believe his luck. It contains one of the most expensive delicacies available in K’Barth, Goojan spiced sausage. If he can sell it, the sausage might spell the end of his troubles. On the other hand, knowing his luck, it could bring a whole load more.

Written in British English with a dash of light swearing. Suitable for any reader of any age from 10 up – younger readers who have read all the Harry Potter books without any worries will be fine with the Hamgeean Misfit stories.

Suggested cinema rating, PG. Ebook: 247 pages, Paperback: 295 pages, Audiobook running time, 9hrs 57 mins.

You and find out more (or listen to the audio sample) using these links:

16 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

Careful with that axe Eugine! Drama at the garage: how MTM learns there are two sides to every argument.

Yesterday, I went to see the Old Dears. As you know Mum has had a stroke and Dad has a kind of dementia. These last few weeks he has had very limited mobility and been close to incontinent. We have newly brought in 24 hour live in care.

It’s hard.

As you can imagine my parents’ situation takes a lot of my mental air time right now … it seems I’m a long way into innerspace. What is interesting is how that has changed my perception of the world around me or perhaps, my ability to read it.

Check this, this is my Fitbit readout from yesterday.

FitbitBollocks

As you can see, my Fitbit is ADAMANT that I went up 157 floors. What I actually did was walk the usual 5 miles or thereabouts, probably, go up the stairs maybe 10 or 12 times? And do a 280 mile round trip in my car. For some reason, the way the steering feeds back to my hands convinces my Fitbit that I am walking. On the way home I put it on the seat beside me, at least then it only thought I’d walked half a mile (rather than the 3 miles it thought I’d done on the way down).

While I think I was a bit lardy yesterday, sitting around in a bucket seat listening to music for most of the time. My Fitbit thinks I was a physical dynamo doing 107 minutes of elevated heart rate activity. That figure was more like er hem … zero.

So, it just goes to show that two separate views of the same series of events can throw up completely different results depending on the presence, or absence, of one or two vital pieces of knowledge. You know I wasn’t an exercise dynamo yesterday because I’ve told you my Fitbit measures the bumps in the road as steps. Someone else without this critical piece of information might look at those stats and wonder, from all the stairs, whether I climbed the Empire State Building, or if I’m a triathlete.

Yesterday, this lesson was highlighted to me through the familiar medium of my making a complete tit of myself: I failed to understand the differences between the way someone else was seeing my actions and the spirit in which I knew they were made. In all things, it seems, communication and sensible clarity of thought are key. Pity I’m so crap at them, as this massive, completely unnecessary row I’m about to relate will demonstrate …

It’s a bright sunny Wednesday morning and after dropping McMini at school I walk back home via the market, pick up the car and set out for Sussex. I have about a quarter of a tank of petrol so I need to fill up.

Because it’s on the way and one of the three cheapest, I go to Tesco’s.  Now, Sainsburys, you have to pay at the Kiosk, Asda, you can only pay at the pump and Tesco’s you have a choice of both. Tesco’s has 3 or four rows of two pumps just far enough apart for you to get through and park if the two first ones are in use but one of the far ones is free. Unsurprisingly, with petrol prices rising by approximately one pence every day, it’s rammed. I pick my side and wait. Next to me are two builders’ lorries with a white Honda civic at the first pump and very quickly there is nothing at the second. The other side of me was a big lorry, blocking the way through. No-one was queuing there and a woman parked at the pump in front of the lorry was filling her car.

As you know, my Mum has had a stroke, so I am kind of feeling that I want to get to her and Dad quickly. I am therefore delighted when the woman parked at the pump in front of the lorry holsters the petrol nozzle.

Brilliant. I’ll nip through and reverse into her spot when she’s gone.

Except, Unfortunately, like most Tesco’s customers, she clearly finds it more convenient to fill up her car and queue for 5 minutes to pay in the kiosk rather than using the very much swifter pay at the pump option. I, on the other hand, prefer to wait 10 seconds for my credit card to be authorised at the pump, spend two minutes filling up my tank and then go. So I watch her go in to pay, note the queue is 7 or 8 deep so she’ll be some time, and wait.

We all sit there and I listen to the song, ‘Help’ by the Beatles in its entirety. Neither builder’s lorry drives through to the empty pump at the front of their line. Neither of the cars in front of me move – they are still filling up – and the lady whose car is still parked in front of the lorry is still queuing in the kiosk. Some time during the next song on my stereo, Mr White Honda finishes filling his car and sticks the nozzle back in the holster.

I feel pity for the builders when, like the lady in front of the lorry, Mr White Honda turns out to be a true Tesco’s petrol customer who, like the lady, spurns the faster, easier pay at pump option. Into the kiosk he goes to queue.

As I sit looking at the empty pump, with nobody using it, it occurs to me that I could have filled my car to the brim and departed a couple of times over. Tine is ticking on and I’m getting twitchy. I wonder, if I go to the empty pump, swipe my credit card, fill up and go before the driver of the white Honda returns to his vehicle, would that be queue barging? Surely if I am not holding anyone up or inconveniencing anyone it isn’t? I’m not pushing in, or holding anyone up, I’m just using something no-one is using while it’s free. Even better the folks behind me don’t have to wait for me. Yes, win-win. My brain, filled with, 24 hour care requirements, sick parents, etc agrees. The builders are clearly waiting for the white car so if I’m quick it’ll be fine. So I drive through and park up. As I get out of my car a man runs up to me shouting,

‘Excuse me! Excuse me!’ he yells, managing to imbue words ‘excuse me’ with an aggression and menace I never knew they held (I doubt he did either) ‘Can’t you see there’s a queue?’
His shouty vehemence puts my back up at once.
‘Yes I can but it’s not moving.’
He gets up to me a bit and raises his voice louder.
‘You’re jumping the queue.’
‘No I’m not, nobody’s using this pump.’
Two can do shouty, my friend. I am surprised at the volume of my voice as I bellow my answer back at him.
‘That’s because he’s bigger than I am,’ he makes a sweeping gesture at one of the lorries, ‘and he can’t get through, we’re waiting until this car goes and then we can both drive up together.’
This, delivered as if I’m a complete idiot for not knowing the bleedin’ obvious.
Ah note to self, there’s a hidden builder’s lorry etiquette to the art of buying petrol which must not be interfered with by mere mortals at any cost. I didn’t know that.
‘So? I’ll be gone before that happens.’
He looks more annoyed, indeed, as he reiterates that I’m jumping the queue and … yada … the blue touch paper catches and off he goes into space. I’m fully expecting him to start poking me in the chest with one finger such are his levels of vehemence. I feel bullied and at that mere thought, something in me unravels, the red mist descends. I tell him my mother is ill and I am in a hurry. He tells me that he’s sorry about my mother but that’s not his problem.
Obviously the precious 90 seconds I will delay him are far more important than the well-being of a vulnerable, ill old lady
(yes, I actually think this madness as he rants at me)  and so it is, that I, too, completely blow my top, for only the fifth time in my entire life, and join him in orbit.

More arguing ensues. I would write it down if I could, but to be honest I haven’t a fucking clue what I said, although I’m pretty sure I managed not to swear, which was a minor personal victory and probably the only positive I have to take away from this experience.

All the while as we harangue one another I am aware of three things:

  1. He doesn’t seem to be understanding anything I’m telling him.
  2. But this is unsurprising because my arguments are getting less and less cogent.
  3. There is something important I have missed that would defuse this.

I know that this whole situation is based on false impressions and wrong information. I know that I can stop his aggression in its tracks, stop him shouting at me and make him leave me alone. His angry bullying is totally unreasonable and inexplicable and this simple thing will allow him to understand that, but I am too angry and hurt to remember what the thing I need to remember is. I can’t speak or think coherently, I can only shout back at him. I want to step away from him. I want to ignore him. I want to take the fuel cap off, stick my credit card into the slot in the pump and fill up. I want to prove that I’ll be gone well before Mr White Honda gets back, well beyond the point when either lorry can can move, anyway. But I am afraid he will snatch the fuel cap from me and throw it into the hedge or try to physically restrain me. And then the police will be called, and I will never get to my parents.

Then I see that the woman who was filling her car at the far pump, in the row the other side of me, the one which is blocked by the lorry, has gone. The driver of the lorry is still filling it up, still blocking her pump from anyone else. ‘Alright, I’ll go over there, and I’ll still be gone before you get to fill up.’ I shout storming into my car and making a massive hash of parking it over by said pump.

And I would have been, of course, had I not been so apoplectic with rage by that time that I had to go and have another go. First I accosted the wrong bloke by mistake,

‘Oh bless you, sorry love,’ I tell him with a pat on the arm and then go to deliver a bitterly sarcastic apology to Mr Shouty for his totally unreasonable anger at me for not understanding builder’s etiquette, which, obviously, was very criminal of a non-builder and obviously I should have understood. But it’s his friend filling up the tank – who is clearly a decent bloke and gives me a genuine smile. Except I am too angry at being subjected to such a stream of unreasonable ire that I am unable to say the word etiquette and we both laugh as I stutteringly explain the cause. Obviously Mr Shouty has to come back then and protect his friend from what he probably sees as Angry Entiled Woman and has another go at me. I am still fully lit and so, channelling my inner fishwife I give just as good as I get. Telling him that I hope he’ll be treated with equal sympathy one day if his mother gets ill and he is trying to get to her – which is true but totally pointless,not a reasoned or rational argument and therefore pretty much redundant.

And all the while, Sensible M T is standing beside me, in a slightly out-of-body-tastic kind of way, watching in horror as I Basil Fawlty my way around the forecourt saying,

‘What are you doing?’

At last I listen to it. I have to, because I am, literally, spluttering with rage. Can’t get any coherent words out. Not at all. I go back to my car. Angry with myself for giving in to what I interpret as bullying from an aggressive male playing dog in a manger.

It takes approximately 90 seconds to authorise my card and top up the tank with 24 litres of petrol – oooooh and another 4 or 5 seconds to get a receipt. One of the cars I’d been queuing behind slows down, opens his window and calls out to me,

‘He was wrong and you were in the right,’ he said. I thank him. Perhaps he’d paid at the pump too.

It was only about 10 hours later that I realised what went wrong. I never told Mr Shouty I was paying at the pump. He and the other builder in front of him were in commercials. They probably use fuel cards or cash or some other means which entails dooming them to pay at the Kiosk forever, whether they want to or not. Pay at the pump was probably as dead a concept to Mr Shouty as it is to nearly every other Tesco’s petrol customer. It would never have crossed his mind that I was going to pay at the pump, bypass the kiosk completely, and be gone in under three minutes any more than it crossed my mind that I was not. He must have thought I was going to cut in and then stand in the kiosk waiting to pay for ages after Mr White Honda had gone. So then he’d have to wait for the other builder bloke to fill up and stand in the kiosk for ages, too, before he could get near a pump. And a commercial takes a lot longer to fill – he was probably putting a hundred odd litres in, not 24. In addition, we judge things by the parameters we’re used to, so he may well be thinking of my fill up would take about the same amount of time: ie much longer than it does.

Yeh, Mr Shouty probably believed he was looking at a delay of at least 20 minutes. No wonder he got in a strop. I think I might have been just as shouty, myself, if I was in his position and and I was reading what I saw that way.

So what can I learn from this? Apart from the fact that I get even more like Basil Fawlty when I get angry than I thought and must, therefore, keep my cool at absolutely all costs.

If I wasn’t already aware that stress and worry switch some important parts of my brain off, then, after trying to have that argument, I am now. Presumably that’s also why I drove up to the school in a thunder stom just now to collect my boy, only to remember that a friend’s mum is picking him up from school tonight, taking him round theirs for tea and dropping him off here! Bonus points there M T.

Communication and calmness are essential. Perhaps, this is the most important lesson; that communication is the name of the game, that calmness, even calm rage, is a better bet if you need to have a reasoned discussion but most of all that two different people can read polar opposites from the same information.

If I’d managed to stay calm and explained what I was doing properly, I doubt the slanging match would have happened. But if he hadn’t come up to me all shouty aggression, I might have managed that.

Assumptions … in any situation we and the other people round us make snap judgements and assumptions based on what we see. Sometimes they’re shite.

Would Mr Shouty have listened to my explanation? I don’t know. I do know that if it happens again, I’ll bet the angry person a tenner that I can fill my tank and be gone – without the kiosk and without any inconvenience to them – in under 3 minutes. I won’t collect though, because the odds are stacked against them to the point where it’s almost a scam.

Sigh. I’m such a plank. Never mind. At least I can laugh at myself.

14 Comments

Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering