Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gas Station

Recovery from the rain poured on Tortola by the tropical wave is still ongoing. Government offices and schools are all closed today, and heavy machinery is out in force to clear the roads. On my way back from town this morning, there was a boulder in the road the size of a Volkswagen bus. It had been deposited there by a landslide during the hour or so that had elapsed since I'd gone into town with HB.

On a lighter note, I thought I'd talk a little bit about going to the gas station here in the BVIs. This seemingly normal task has been transformed for me by a few small idiosyncrasies, the chief of which is that, in an effort to decrease unemployment, all gas stations employ pump attendants.

Now for those of you who remember the 60s, or those of you who are from New Jersey or Oregon, pump attendants do not seem so strange. But I, child of the 90s that I am, have never before encountered a gas station that is NOT self-serve. To pull up to the pump and be asked to remain in my vehicle is simply unheard of for me, and so it is delightful to me every time I have to get gas, to sit in the car and listen to the radio while the attendant dutifully pumps my petrol.

The entire experience only amplifies my bemusement when there is some sort of difficulty in communication. Although I seem to get along fine with the accents everywhere else, for some reason, pump attendants and I are on entirely different pages. The hardest concept for me to communicate is that I want $30 worth of gas. I roll down my window and dutifully say, "Thirty Dollars' worth, please!" and am met with a confused stare, before being corrected: "Oh, terty dollars. Tree oh. Terty." Apparently, my use of the "th" diphthong is simply unacceptable.

Although I can't seem to get the hang of "terty" rather than "thirty", another mis-step that I think I've mastered is the term to use when I want my tank to be brimming with gasoline. The first time I asked for a top-off, I used the Americanism, "Fill 'er up, please". I quickly realized my mistake when confronted with the same confused stare that "thirty" brings on. I repeated my request more distinctly, "please fill the tank," before being gently set right again. Here, you do not fill the tank, you "full it."

In the last few weeks, I've simplified things entirely, by only purchasing $20 worth of gasoline at a time. I may have to stop at the gas station more frequently, but with pump attendants, it's almost fun.

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