It was early days after our move to Tennessee. My car ran out of gas (after just a week – welcome to the land of gas guzzlers) and I needed to get more. I dropped the kids off at school, consulted my GPS for the closest gas station, and a few minutes later pulled up at the pump in the pouring rain.
And then I sat there, checking emails on my phone, and waiting for something to happen. Except nothing did happen. Then it dawned on me that I am back in a world where I’m expected to do my own dirty work. Beginning with, where the hell is the tank on this car?
In South Africa they always waved me into a spot as soon as I so much as glimpsed the BP garage on the horizon. I never even had to think.
|It didn’t help that it was freezing and raining the day I first
had to pump my own gas again
|Choices, choices. The funny thing is, in South Africa I never
checked the gas prices. Just pulled in and waited.
|But perhaps doing your own work is worth it, considering
that a full tank of diesel cost me ZAR 1000, which is twice
as much as a full tank here (although the tank here also
empties a LOT quicker than there. Gas guzzlers, I tell you.
Here in the USA, I was expected to set to work by my very own self. After successfully locating the tank and pulling to the correct pump, I opened the door and gingerly stepped over a gigantic puddle. Faced with the display, long-ago memories came flooding back: swipe the credit card, select the fuel grade, start pumping. Except, how am I supposed to know the fuel grade? Yep, they decided that for me in SA too. And cleaned the windshield, and checked the tire pressure as well as the oil.
At least you get to pay at the pump instead of going into the creepy store like in the olden days.
I was back at the same gas station some time later, because my car had informed me that the TIRE PRESSURE IS LOW!!!!! It might not have told me with so many explanation marks but it was just as much in my face, lighting up on the display every time I turned on the car and me finding no way to turn it off.
Do you want to know something? I don’t like my car talking to me in this way. Handing out jobs to me. I’ve never had a car before that felt such a need to communicate, and I was just fine, thank you very much. Again, such was the virtue of Africa. It might have lacked in terms of customer service, at government agencies and such, but it never lacked in service, especially where you didn’t expect it. It is my firm belief that you can break down with your car pretty much anywhere in Africa, and someone will materialize out of thin air with a smile on their face and ready to set to work to get you out of your predicament.
Anyway, I hated having to add air to my tires after three years of that happening more or less automatically whenever I got gas, without me having to get out of the car at all. I hated the way you have to put in money and then scramble around your car with the air pressure gun, trying not to tangle the hose. I hated how my hands got dirty. I hated how you couldn’t see a thing on the fogged up pressure gauge, so that I’m none the wiser if the tires are now at the right pressure or not.
|One of my least favorite chores in my repat life|
My car seems to think they are, because it has stopped scolding me. So that’s progress I guess.
Moving on to yet another “the buck stops here” kind of moment in my new life, it seems like I’m now expected to clean toilets again. And not only that, due to the incomprehensible architecture of the American plumbing system, I don’t just have to clean them, I also have to unclog them. Quite regularly. I always follow this up with long lectures to all concerned parties (who of course deny all wrongdoing) about poop size and wiping techniques but so far with only limited success.
But I digress. The toilets already got their own blog post.
On the plus side, at least I get to say words like gas station and traffic light, and our pizza is topped by pepperoni again.