One Saturday evening a few years ago after a very busy day I was feeling weary but in the back of my mind was the thought that I had to cook supper and that there wasn't a lot to eat in either the fridge or the freezer. Barry said we could manage but I felt that I must go shopping so eventually pulled myself together and prepared to go out. It was 5:40 p.m., not my favourite time for shopping (actually, I don't really enjoy shopping, so have no favoured time) As I was leaving Barry asked if I could put some fuel in the car as the tank was nearly empty.
I duly pulled into the garage, filled up and was soon on my way again. A little voice in the back of my mind was whispering something to me but I wasn't listening. However, about half a mile along the road I became aware that all was not well! The engine was hunting and surging and with a sudden rush of horrified realisation I knew what the voice had been trying to tell me . . . 'That's the wrong pump, it's wrong, don't do it . . . ' I had filled Barry's diesel-driven car with petrol!
Panicking, cursing myself for my stupidity, remembering all the jokes we had made about 'wrong fuel' and the serious talk we had had about how much damage it could do, I drove carefully back to the garage in this now strangely-behaving, alien vehicle. The young man at the garage was helpful.
'Do you belong to the AA? (Automobile Association) Give them a ring.'
I have a bad habit of leaving the house without all but the bare essentials but this time I had remembered my mobile phone and my wallet with all the plastic cards.
The young woman who took my call was calm and efficient and promised that an AA patrol would be with me within half an hour. If the AA knows that the driver is a lone woman they make a great effort to reach her quickly. When the patrolman arrived, sooner than expected, he explained that the car would be towed to the nearest authorised garage to drain the tank. 'Are you all right with that?'
I nodded dumbly, thankful that something was being done. Then to my horror I realised that I was still going to be in the driving seat. I normally drive two to three car lengths behind the car in front but now I was at the end of a tow bar, far too close for comfort and unable to see beyond the yellow back of the patrol vehicle. Fortunately, I knew where we were going – it was near the refuse tip - so I could gauge how long the journey would take.
It was now getting dark and the industrial estate looked a soulless, forbidding place. The AA man said he would stay with me to allay any fears I might have and to make sure the car would function properly at the end of the procedure. When I asked how long it would take to drain the engine I was told it would be 'within the hour'. I had filled it as full as it could be!
At that time our youngest daughter was still living at home and was going to her friend's house for the night. Knowing that she was expecting me to take her (I'm the chief taxi-driver in the family, a habit born out of Barry's frequent absences from home on business) I phoned her, made up some lie about the shop being much busier than I had expected and declined to talk to her father. One of us panicking was quite enough!
Eventually, the engine was clear of the contaminated fuel and my next bit of anxiety began. I'm a very orderly worrier, fretting afresh at each stage . . . it's the only way I can cope! A gallon of diesel was poured into the tank and the engine turned over. The garage mechanic was holding a rag and doing something that looked decidedly dangerous. The AA man revved, the mechanic ragged, I prayed. Now the car had a tracker, so that if it were stolen it could be . . . tracked! To avoid being tracked – in other words, to communicate that the car was being driven legitimately, one had to apply a card with a large press-stud to the female part on the car. If the tracker were activated a phone call would be made to the owner to check that all was well. Obviously I didn't want Barry alerted to the state of his car. The AA man was starting and stopping the engine, the mechanic was ragging and I was diving forward to 'pop' the press-stud . . . and still it wouldn't start. In my imagination, the car was being returned to the main dealer in the area, the engine was being replaced, the £ signs were mounting up. The AA man said that in his experience, some cars needed more than a gallon of fuel to start pumping or whatever they do (bit sketchy on the technical details . . . and I was panicking!) so he suggested we drive to the nearest garage and pick up some more fuel . . . 'and that should work'. We did and it did and I breathed again and thanked the Lord most fervently.
By now it was quite dark, I had been away from home for about three and a half hours, and any thought of shopping had long since left my mind. I drove home glumly, well into the final stage of worrying, which was what to tell Barry. I had no shopping, couldn't keep Bethan waiting any longer, still had supper to prepare . . . When I reached home, Bethan was ready to go but completely unflustered. I delivered her to her friend's house and returned home. I told Barry what had happened, cooked supper (we did manage, after all) and we went to bed. By the next morning, he was talking to me again. (Whatever happened to the advice to never go to bed on an argument? Well, we hadn't quarrelled – there had just been a stony silence!) I always forget on such occasions that although I've had plenty of time to get used to the event it's a shock for him and he has to go through the various stages of incredulity, irritation and relief.
I always used to check carefully – I am now paranoid about it!! My car uses petrol, Barry's car uses diesel.
Apparently filling up with the wrong fuel is a common occurrence. It's nice to know I'm not the only idiot in the world!