My New Pet Peeve

I was once told by a gas station attendant in Kenya that, “You know Kenyans, if something is free they want as much as they can get.” He was explaining why, in his opinion, so many Kenyan drivers put too much air in their tires.

Though petrol is hardly free, a similar impulse seems to overcome the attendant if you ask for your tank to be filled. He – often she, but for the sake of simple syntax in a neutered language, I’ll stick with the masculine – pumps until the tank reaches a level that even the most ardent pessimist would consider entirely full; then he bounces up and down on your fender, presumably thinking the liquid just needs a little help settling; then he rocks the car side to side, to flatten the last of the miraculous antigravity mounds of petrol still blocking the intake; then he fires single shots, teaspoon by teaspoon and penny by penny, until the pinkish liquid is lapping at the threads of the screwtop. A small volume of it squirts out the side when it is displaced by the cap being fitted back into place.

Ostensibly this all done to ensure that the final price is a round figure, making it easier to make change. But invariably I find a cascade of petrol dripping down the side of my car and a rippling puddle lapping at my back tire. And I cringe, knowing I just spent an extra dollar on runoff to get an even five back.

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