I MADE my escape early, thinking I could beat the rush hour, and was pretty smug until I actually got into my car.

I’d forgotten that I’d chanced it on the way there and skipped the required fuel stop in order to make it on time.

No bother. I’d pass a fuel station before I hit the motorway and should be able to avoid paying more than the dreaded pound per litre.

Or would I? By the time I got through the lights and onto the open road the needle was on the stop and the amber warning light was burning into my retinas.

Being in a diesel, the fuel system would need bleeding if I ran out and if I pulled up short on the M1 I might end up bleeding too.

The final straw was the thought that it’s illegal to knowingly run out of fuel on the motorway. I lost my nerve and went in search of a black pump.

Amazingly, despite the proliferation of supermarket petrol stations strangling the locals out of business, I found one within a mile or two and ambled onto the forecourt behind an abandoned Vectra.

Five minutes later I thought it wise to switch off my engine.

It was busy, and the layout of the petrol station didn’t lend itself to orderly queuing. The single row of four pumps seemed to face the wrong way as if the road system had been redesigned around the garage so the exits were in the wrong places.

Waiting cars had little choice but to park at funny angles to avoid blocking the entrance.

Another couple of minutes passed and I was starting to get annoyed. The pumps next to me had been vacated twice since I arrived, so the owner of the Vectra wasn’t queuing at the till, and with cars behind me I had couldn’t move to another.

Other drivers were sensibly moving their cars forward of the pumps before paying to speed up the process. Not the owner of the Vectra though, who was probably browsing the magazine section or choosing a Tic-Tac flavour.

My thumbs were now on the horn and I was ready to make that most un-British of moves and unleash a blast of loud air – but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I don’t know why. It always worked for a friend of mine who’d spent some time living in Europe. “If you’re not on the horn in Italy you’re the exception,” he once told me, probably while leaning on the steering wheel centre.

Any one who’s driven through a continental city centre will know he was telling the truth, but in the UK it’s not the done thing.

I finally cracked when I saw the Vectra’s indicators flash. Someone had unlocked it via the fob, but it wasn’t anyone exiting the shop.

To my disbelief I realised it was a man stood chatting to someone next to the air-line. How long he’d been there I don’t know, but as I’d not seen him exit the shop it must have been a good five minutes.

Common decency would require he moved his car before striking up a conversation and it was enough to warrant several seconds of fierce horning from my direction.

It felt good as I released ten minutes of vein bulging irksomeness through my thumb, and I’m sure I saw a smile on the face of the women who’d been stuck behind me for far too long.

Without so much as a cursory glance, the laissez-faire re-fueller casually got back into his car, spent a few minutes fumbling around and finally left, probably to go and park in front of a fire hydrant, speed past a school or cause some other public nuisance.

I’ve learnt my lesson though; our continental cousins are clearly onto something. The next time someone holds me up to an inconsiderate extent through rank ignorance I shall be tooting sooner, rather than later.

I’ve done my homework too: the Highway Code says the horn should only ever be used to inform other drivers of your presence.

If my presence happens to be behind their un-necessarily abandoned car at a busy fuel station, then I think that’s fair enough.

Tags:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *