I’m not very good at keeping my car full of petrol. I just can’t seem to get to grips with making sure it never falls below half so that I never find myself in the unenviable situation of sweating out of my face in a mad panic wondering if I can make it to the nearest Esso station before I grind to a halt at the side of the road miles from anywhere. And this isn’t a new thing. It’s not something that has happened as I’ve grown old and complacent, I can report that unfortunately it has always been this way. When I first passed my driving test at 17 and had the coolest car on the planet, Seth the ancient white Vauxhall Nova with body kit (yes, I name my cars, and yes I had a body kit on it worthy of a boy racer) I managed to run out of petrol a few times in that first year alone, and always ended up being rescued by either my Dad or my Gramps with a petrol can in hand. Since then, with the experience I have gathered on this subject, I have managed to be able to gauge fairly accurately how many miles I have left before I actually conk out, so usually can make it to fill up by the skin of my teeth when I’m running on fumes and the engine is probably already ruined from dragging up all the crap at the bottom of the petrol tank in an effort to keep going, a direct quote from Husband.
On a Wednesday my Dad is chief school picker upper. The kids go back to his house to run riot and have tea, and this particular Wednesday was no different. It was the perfect opportunity for a spot of child free self care which on that night included a full body exfoliation and a tan courtesy of my new amazing find, Utan extra dark Brazilian tanning mousse. The most amazing creation since sliced bread. Blather it on and leave for 8-10 hours, then shower off to leave an incredible feeling of body confidence. The only downfall is that the colour of the tan when applying is quite dark and not natural looking at all for me as I can be quite pasty during the winter months but it helps to get full body coverage without missing spots and lowers the risk of streaking like sometimes happens with the transparent tanners. I love rocking a tan. A real one from a beach holiday or an equally brilliant one out of a bottle. It makes me feel sun kissed and streamlined and just altogether better about myself.
As I was naturally airing myself and waiting for the dark brown mousse to dry out, which of course meant parading around the house fully naked and making Husbands eyes bleed, I got a phone call from Dad asking if I could collect the ankle biters instead of his usual drop off as he had lost track of time and was in danger of missing his favourite program. He only lives a stones throw down the road from us, it would be a 10 minute round trip at the most, so freshly tanned up to within an inch of my life I grabbed my old tired tan stained dressing gown, slipped into my pink strawberry crocs, jumped into my car and sped off.
As I pulled off down the road I suddenly remembered something terrible. I had meant to fill up with petrol that day but as usual had put it off, telling myself I’d do it on the way to school tomorrow. I had been meaning to do it all week since the light had come on but just hadn’t got round to it. Surely it would get me to Dads? But what about home again? What if we got stranded at the side of the road in the dark and because I’d stupidly not bothered to take my phone, would be forced to flag down an unsuspecting motorist looking like an overly eager lady of the night, in crocs so clearly not a very trendy one at that. And if by a miracle we actually made it back home that night, what about the next morning, would I make it back to the petrol station?
After a brief doorstep exchange and the kids’ 10 ton of school stuff had been piled into the boot we set off … to the Esso garage.. the decision had been made. It was 8pm on a cold winter’s evening, and I forced myself to imagine normal people probably avoiding night time fill ups as much as I wanted to, whether they were in a dressing gown or had actually made acceptable clothing choices. Still half heartedly trying to convince myself that it was not going to be the social hub my mind had created, we proceeded to execute the car fill up mission as covertly and quickly as possible.
10yo: Where are we going?
Me: The petrol station, it’ll only take a minute
8yo: But you’re not wearing proper clothes and did you know that you’re a really funny colour?
Me:Yes, I know both of those things.
Both kids exchanged pained glances.
Pulling onto the forecourt, my heart sang. Not a car in sight. Brilliant!
At the speed of light I exited the car, got the fuel cap off and wrestled the nozzle in whilst clutching my shabby dressing gown together in an effort not to expose myself. As I was completely unprepared with no purse or phone and was reliant on the emergency fiver I kept in the glove compartment, it didn’t take long. I always try and keep a few quid in an obscure place in the car so I forget about it and am therefore not tempted to spend it, freeing it up for its actual job of being available in case of an actual emergency. In the past it hasn’t always panned out this way and I am slightly embarrassed to say that on more than one occasion when I’ve found myself without my handbag , and before the days of Apple Pay I have been known to get fuel (seconds before I completely run out) and then once at the cashiers desk given an Academy Award winning performance pretending that I had just that second realised I had left my purse at home. Luckily it never resulted in police intervention and was usually settled by me filling in a form with my details and then having to bring the money back on the same day. So with this in mind, Thank God for that fiver. I was in no mood to give the performance of my life in a dirty dressing gown, pink crocs and no undercrackers.
Handing over my fiver to the cashier I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I’d done it and had been undetected. The lady behind the counter was eyeing me a little suspiciously but I avoided direct eye contact, and it’s not like I knew her. I walked to the door and reached for the handle that would take me back out onto the forecourt, back to my car and to victory when I was all but knocked off my feet by a whirlwind in the form of a very smartly dressed woman in a mad rush. As we both quickly recovered from nearly knocking each other out I looked up at her laughing face to be greeted with…
‘’What the Fuck are you dressed as?’’
Like 20 ton of bricks being dropped on my head, it registered that it was my old friend Mich. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years or so but had been inseparable in our younger years, pre kids and mostly in the thick of drunken nights out and on silly adventures.
Me: Aww Mich it was an emergency, I was about to run out of petrol, I don’t usually do this.
Mich (laughing, hand over mouth): A likely story.
And then to the cashier …
Mich: She always does stuff like this
Me to the cashier: No I don’t.
Cashier: (smiles weakly)
After a super quick exchange of pleasantries it was arranged that we would have a proper catch up when we both attended a Christmas night out in a few weeks time organised by our mutual friend.
I had nearly completed the mission undetected but had been discovered at the last minute. A good effort though. We made it home without breaking down and even made it back to another petrol station on the school run the next morning where we filled up with more than a fiver and was even able to pay for it. I was smashing it.
A few weeks later I walked into a crowded pub, looking a million dollars and headed towards the crowd of chattering women I had arranged to meet for the Christmas frollicks. I clocked Mich and she clocked me on my approach.
‘’Here she is!’’ She shouted.
What a nice hearty welcome I thought.
Everyone was very fussy to see each other and amongst the kisses, cuddles and excited greetings within the first few minutes 2 of the girls had asked me jokingly why I wasn’t wearing crocs and another had complimented me on my choice of dress and expressed their surprise I wasn’t wearing a dressing gown. It turned out that after our chance meeting that night, mean old Mich had captured the moment that I had scurried back to my car in all my dressing gown glory on her phone and then lovingly posted it on Facebook. Something I knew nothing about because at that point I wasn’t big on social media so had never joined.
It’s a good job I have a sense of humour and can laugh about these things. It’s also lucky that I learn from my mistakes. I will never be caught short again inappropriately dressed in a petrol station.
Also, I can confirm that the last part of that statement is not true and honestly I think I will always be the one to be caught short inappropriately dressed and probably not just limited to an Esso station.