Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frozen Fingers And The Kiss Of Death Fuel Cards

The good news was that there was no snow on the west side of the country, making the drive less stressful. The bad news was the thought of returning to the ice and snow of the hills.

The depot had lost its water supply. The pipes had frozen solid. Therefore it was impossible to wash the buses. They were a two toned dirty black and grey colour with accumulated grit and salt they had picked up from the roads. The yard in front of the main entrance was covered in several inches of ice and really was like an arena where ice hockey is played.

Even worse,the diesel tanks were empty. No diesel delivery was due until next week, so none of the buses could be refuelled at the depot. Therefore it meant a stop at a Truckstop and using one of the fuel cards which are kept in a folder on the bus.

The relationship between fuel cards and me can only be described as kiss of death. I can never get them to work. The pin is always invalid, the card never works or I do not press the right buttons at the right time. My heart sank when the boss said I had to refuel on the way back from Lancashire and at the cheapest place.

The first Truckstop at Junction 38 on the M6 was a bad start. It was automated. It would not recognise the pin number and after so many attempts blocked the card. One down. The other two truckstops were in Penrith and the results were worse. The first was fully automated and did not seem to take any form of known fuel card, except perhaps for Russian ones. The second had a shop next to the pumps.

The shop was crowded with truckers in black beany hats, blue overalls and fluorescent waistcoats sheltering from the cold and standing in a circle telling jokes. There was silence when I entered and a dozen faces turned to stare at me, like the scene from a Western where the Sheriff enters the saloon in Dodge City.

"Which cards do you accept?" I asked.

The man who was sitting on top of the ice cream freezer took my wallet and one by one took out and examined the cards.

" Sorry mate. You'll have to go to the services or otherwise it is Carlisle."

Great help. Carlisle was 17 miles away. Plus the extra 20 miles to do the round robin trip to the depot would negate any savings made on the cheaper fuel prices.

As I left the shop, I felt a dozen sets of eyes following my every mood. I satisfied myself that it was fortunate that this filling station was not automated as by that time my fingers were so cold that if they had been asked to type in any sort of pin, then undoubtedly another fuel card would have been blocked.

Though the bus is now running on empty, I suppose I am grateful for small mercies.

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