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Monday, 24 November 2014

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No panic at the pumps when you are being pampered

Panic? Oh come now; we don’t panic. We’re made of sterner stuff than that. And it gives you wrinkles.

How bad can it be? If stamps price us out of the post office, we’ll send birthday emails.

If pies and pasties have to be bought cold, we’ll burn them to a crisp at home.

And if petrol runs out at the pumps, we’ll ... erm, not so sure about that one.

See, I’m having problems deciding which part of the petrol dilemma worries me most. Do I hate paying through the nose to fill my tank more than I fear the idea of not being able to do it?

Lord above! Life is so complicated. When you’re trying not to panic. And already there’s a sense of all being not well in the state of Keep Calm and Carry On.

When Francis Maude, not so clever cabinet minister, cranked up the worry this week by advising us to fill jerrycans with petrol for storage at home, anxiety nudged closer to paralysis.

On the verge of phoning home with a panicky: “Dad, what’s a jerrycan and how do I fill one?” squeal, it struck me that – for a motorist – I didn’t know a great deal about motoring. Not much beyond it costing too much, anyway.

How delighted I was to learn that Mr Maude had been equally as ignorant.

Like me, I suspect he knew only how to top up his windscreen wash. Which may be cause for another looming panic when drought comes and water runs out.

He’d had no idea it was illegal to fill jerrycans and keep them in the garage. He’d not known either how much petrol one of those containers held.

And – being a bloke – I doubt he’d ever considered phoning his dad for help. Blokes don’t do that. Not Government ones, at any rate.

But credit where due, he apologised for his foolish faux pas – remarkable for a man – and panic subsided.

As they say at the end of all the best aerobics classes – breathe and relax.

When the solution to a problem turns into a bigger problem than the original, there’s really no point in worrying. And let’s be honest, who can be bothered queuing?

Pulling into Crosby Moor Garage last week – Whiteclosegate having been inexplicably locked up and deserted – I was, delighted to find myself whisked away into a bygone era of trouble-free motoring.

A painted sign exhorted me to “Please wait for an attendant.”

What a lovely idea, I thought. Nice touch – displaying a collectable on your forecourt.

But no. In a trice, a polite man appeared, with his; “can I help you?” greeting of personal service.

You can keep your spas and beauty salons. This was what I called proper pampering.

He filled the tank while I, unaccustomed to good, old-fashioned customer service, fumbled in my handbag, feeling guilty for putting him to such trouble and wondering whether a tip might be required.

It has to be said, the days of chatty filling station attendants precede my limited motoring experience.

Had it been otherwise, I might have asked the kind gentleman to explain the intricacies and outline the legal limitations of a jerrycan. Just in case I ever needed one, you understand.

Had I done so, I might have felt more inclined towards anger and indignation at Francis Maude’s gaffe.

But it’s only right that we, who know nothing, stick together. There’s solidarity in ignorance.

I was though, irresistibly persuaded to phone home.

“Personal service, Dad. Imagine! I bet you used to get that all the time.”

“Those were the days,” he mused.

“I could only have felt more pampered, had he offered me a hot meat pie with my petrol.”

But those days, we agreed, would very soon be long gone.

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