Full tankA desperate wait to get the fuel tank filled
Tomorrow morning you will get the fuel for sure, as much as you want. But make sure to be on time and don’t blame me if you are late,” said the petrol pump attendant. So that was it—finally I would get to fill up my bike’s fuel tank tomorrow morning at 7. An indulgence I haven’t had for a long time now. On my way home from the pump I was quite excited at the prospect of getting to fill up the tank; and I was weaving myriad plans on how to spend the fuel I was to acquire. I could see the sparkle in my wife’s eyes as we planned for an outing for the coming Saturday. My mother in-law had just arrived a few days back. It was not so much of a pleasant surprise for me but the thought of leaving our little kid in her care for a day and enjoying the outing was something of a relief. I could hardly sleep that night, and what little sleep I could get, I dreamt of pleasant ride in my bike with my wife on the pillion seat clutching to me tightly. After all, I had a full tank of fuel to spare and could ride to anywhere I wished.
The alarm woke me up at 6 and I hurriedly finished my morning rituals, and got ready to get my fuel tank filled. I reached the petrol pump at 6:45, hoping that I would be among the first ones to get their tanks filled. To my horror, there were already almost 20-30 bikes lined up before me. There was no disciplined queue as such and the bikes were huddled near the pump in a random row of three. I took my place behind one rickety-looking bike and turned off my engine since whatever few drops of fuel was left in my tank was very dear to me at the moment. The rider of the rickety old bike in front of me kept his engine running and the black emission from his exhaust was really sickening. I asked the rider, “Brother, why don’t you turn off the engine. Seems like you have enough fuel to burn even in this queue.” To this he replied, “No brother, if I turn off the engine, this damned thing won’t start again. What to do, if I don’t get some fuel today, I’ll have to drag this ugly thing back home.” I smiled wryly and stood at my place trying not to suffocate from the discharge of the engine ahead. The pump was not yet open and it seemed that the attendant had sent out a circular to all these bikers to be present at the pump on time. Around 7:15, the attendant emerged from a shack adjoining the pump, yawning and stretching. “Make a proper line,” he shouted. “No one is going to get a drop of fuel if you crowd around the pump.” It seemed as if he was enjoying this authority.
So the process started. There were about a dozen bikes in front of me. So I started to calculate the timing. It was almost 7:15, so I thought to myself that in half an hour it’ll be my turn. Latest by 8, I’ll be out of here with a full tank. The thought of a full tank fuel energised me and suddenly I could find myself to be in a joyous mood. As I waited in the queue, another motorbike pushed in front of me. The rider looked as huge as his ride, and before I could say anything, he smiled his huge smile. I could see a piece of his last night’s dinner stuck between his front teeth. Well, what was there to say? From his body language and of course the size, there was no point in arguing about my rightful place which now he had just claimed. I just stood there expressionless. This big guy gave a twist to his throttle and the beast of a bike made such a sound that I thought I would go deaf. Other bikers in front of the line turned their heads back as if to confront this anti-social act. But when they saw the structure performing this act, the angry scorn in their faces immediately melted away and in no time their heads moved to their initial position. A girl with a scooter in my adjacent lane found some courage and shouted, “Don’t you realise there are other people in this queue. Please, can you stop this noise pollution?” The guy, on the other hand, responded with the same smile that he had greeted me with and continued with his noise polluting act. The girl in response said or rather whispered “idiot” and tried not to give any attention to the noise. Her facial expressions said otherwise.
My initial calculation of getting my turn in the next 30 minutes proved to be big miscalculation. My calculated 30 minutes had already elapsed and I was still five bikes behind in the queue. It seemed as if all the other bikers in the adjoining lanes were moving except for the queue in my lane. I looked at my watch impatiently. It was almost 8:15 now and my turn was yet to come. The fuel attendant was shouting at the crowd as if he was shouting at a herd of cattle. Well, there was nothing to be said as he was the one who held in his hands the nozzle of the elixir that all of us were waiting to get a share of. Finally, it was the turn of the intruder in front of me to get his tank filled. I kept my eyes fixed on the dispenser meter of the pump. Litre after litre his tank guzzled in the fuel. “15 litters,” said the attendant and collected the sum. The guy again squeezed on his throttle and made an even louder noise before zooming into the traffic down the road. This time, most of the bikers in the queue boldly shouted, cursed at him regaining their lost courage which seemed to have revived with the disappearance of that guy. Well, all is well that ends well, I thought, and moved my bike forward—finally it was my turn to get filled up now. I smiled smugly to the attendant as if he were a friend. “How many litres,” asked he.
“Make it full tank,” said I.
“How many litres, please? I don’t know how much your tank can hold,” he said curtly. Ten litres. The attendant then pushed the nozzle into my fuel tank. I was elated. Finally a full tank after ages, I thought. But suddenly the expression on the attendants face changed. He started cursing the pump and hammered the dispenser with his palm. Now it was his turn to smile. He looked at me with the same look he wore the day before when I had come to enquire about the availability of fuel. “Sorry Dai, we don’t have any more petrol left. Another tanker might come in the evening. But I am not sure. You can give it a try around 5pm today.”
I was flabbergasted. I looked at my watch, it was already 8:55. I had to get to my office by 9 and have my attendance or else I would have to let go of a day’s wage. With the few drops of fuel in my tank, I was not sure if I would be able to make it to the office. Other people in the queue started shouting and cursing the pump attendant. I would have stayed and done the same had I not been getting late.