Driving past a red Volvo estate parked up by the kerb, I couldn’t help but notice that it appeared to have Roger Waters circa 1972 sitting behind the wheel. As you’d expect in a situation like this, I was a little freaked out. The face that I saw reflected in that old wing mirror was Roger Waters from the past, right down to the glum scowl passing over his features. Has a rift opened up somewhere in the locality? Come to think about it, even the car was of a certain vintage. How on earth the 1972 incarnation of Roger Waters ended up sitting in a stationary red Volvo estate and scowling at me, in Leigh on Sea, in the year 2008, is beyond me. Gotta admit, I’m puzzled. It’s either this or it was a very unfortunate lady. Oh the things I’ve seen…
I should really consider myself lucky to be here right now. To be here typing this. Last night could so easily have been the death of me. I took a risk. Risked it for a biscuit, as they say. Now, this part of the blog is the equivalent of that point in a TV show or a film where it slips into a dream sequence and the screen does that cloudy effect that I’m making a terrible job of describing. The bit where it kind of mists up and then fades into the next scene, sometimes accompanied by a suitable sound. Anyway, we’re now there, it’s yesterday morning and I’m driving to work. It’s a Friday, and last night, Thursday to you, I had glanced at the fuel gauge and made a mental note that I was running quite low on petrol. I would stop off on the way to work to fill up, to ensure that I’d arrive. All was well and good, I was at ease… I’d be surprised if I’ve ever driven somewhere before without looking at least thrice at the gauge. You know, sometimes I’ve found myself checking it every couple of minutes just to make sure that it still registered as three-quarters full, and that there hadn’t been a sudden & catastrophic fuel leak. And of course there never has been.
This is all important as, at about 3 o’clock, as the day was winding down, I realised that I had no memory of looking at the gauge. I forgot about it again and got back to sitting around. A couple of hours later and it was time to go home. I got into the car and started her up (heh, there’s another story there!) and looked to the gauge. Now, in my little car it always starts at empty and then rises to its correct level once you start the engine. Sometimes it’ll take 30 seconds or so while it warms up. But it didn’t budge. My little needle in my little car stayed firmly in the red. After a good 40 seconds I tried to encourage it by jovially saying stuff like “come on, you better fucking move” and following it with a little laugh. It wasn’t funny for long though and I decided that I’d better not sit around wasting what little fuel I had left whilst I shared a good old laugh and a joke with my machine. There are two petrol stations on the way home, one relatively close and the other about 10 minutes away on a good day. Would I last 10 minutes? I didn’t know when I went into the red… it could have been ages ago… why hadn’t I looked? I couldn’t even have blamed being freaked out by seeing Roger Waters as my excuse for not checking the fuel gauge, especially seeing as that was something that was approximately 20 hours in the future.
I was driving in a bit of a panic. I had a cake in my bag that I was given at work, but I couldn’t eat it. Not now. I couldn’t even think of eating it at a time like this. The only other time where I’d been in a situation similar to this was about two years ago, back when I was scared of using other petrol stations, and I drove home from Lance’s - a similar distance - right on the cusp of the red. That time I was fortunate and I knew it. I made it back to my home petrol station with needle in the red and vowed never to put myself through it again. Yet here I am now, two years later, two years older and, allegedly, two years wiser. I’m in a different car too, an older car with a smaller tank. Well, I assume it’s smaller, I don’t think mini’s were celebrated for their unbelievable tank capacity. So all this stuff was going through my head as I drove steadily to avoid any sudden fuel-sapping acceleration.
There it is. I’d made it. I was approaching the first station. My problems were solved.
Only they weren’t. As I got closer I just knew that I wasn’t going to refuel there. I knew that I should, and that it was the right & logical thing to do, but I sailed right on past. I really can’t explain why. I thought I was over the whole petrol station complex. But maybe I’m not. Maybe I’ve just added a couple more to my preferred list. Almost immediately I started to swear. The next 10 minutes of Friday rush hour probably rank up there with some of the worst minutes of my life. I had tunnel vision and, for some reason, I was starting to think that I could make it home without stopping.
I stopped at the Tesco station. I filled the car right up (£17... as I said - huge tank) and vowed never to put myself in such a situation again. Then, when I was sitting at traffic lights, heavy on fuel and high in spirit, I delved into my bag on the passenger seat. I pulled out my cake and I bloody loved it.