Sunday, 20 March 2011


The strange siren song of the petrol pumps draws us to gobble up the invisible and misunderstood liquid that powers our dreams and rules our world. Loved and hated in equal measures, the seldom seen curse of contradictory freedoms is pumped through garish devices that spit liquid and eat money. We draw up to the pump in the brightly lit and coloured forecourt under the watchful eyes of CCTV and number plate recognition to complete this primitive transaction.

The nozzle is lifted from it’s holster like a Colt 45 and rammed through the valve flap on the fuel pipe, a perfect., clunking, sexual fit. We look up to the numbers, the LED read out and wait the zeroing process and the hum of the pump mechanism as it comes to life. The trigger is squeezed and held and numbers rally up like a Las Vegas slot, litres flash by in seconds, flow rates and calculations, every higher, ever deeper. Then an abrupt stop, release the trigger, try to gleam a few extra drops of the liquid, as if they translated into miles, yards, feet or inches. Then pull the nozzle free, end the delivery ritual and push the device back onto the pump, clicking it back into space for the next customer. Close the flap and click the central locking on and pay the bill making sure you pick up a portion of sushi, a newspaper and a lottery ticket in the process.

The attendants seldom make eye contact, slaves of the machine they see only a line of bar codes and screen image reflecting the pump status. “Number 7” you say, “Oh and these items”. The codes are scanned and the numbers gallop, racing across electronic space until the PIN arrives. Then back through the sliding doors, out to the forecourt and into the car to listen to unpopular music, dodge the potholes and avoid the turbulence vortexes created by blue Subarus out there on the roads.

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