It is Christmas 2012. Everyone buys petrol online at 20c a litre from Ryangas, the cheapest petrol station in town. Just don’t wait until your fuel warning light comes on or you will have to pay double. Order at least a month in advance and woe betide if you don’t know exactly how much petrol you will need when you arrive to fill up. If you need more than you ordered online, you will have to pay triple for it. Arrive in a car with a disabled sticker and you’re really stuffed, so make sure you hide it. And if the reg. number of the car you arrive in differs from the one you entered on the website you will have to start from scratch and in addition pay a €50 surcharge.
To most, it’s still worth it. So you negotiate the booby-trapped website and place your order. Then embark on the journey to your local Ryangas station which for some reason, no matter where you live, is always located 50km away. When you finally arrive to fill up, at least you can do so secure in the knowledge that every Ryangas petrol station is equipped with state-of-the-art petrol pumps, the cost of which has been pared to the bone by their not being equipped with nozzles. The forecourt is full, mainly with PL, SK and LT registered cars with their steering wheels on the wrong side. There is a small Ryangas surcharge for this due to these cars not having adequate insurance.
You go to the cash desk to be allocated your pump, only to be told that you should have done this before you arrived. They send you to the back of the building to pay a €3 surcharge while an attendant valet moves your car to the back of the queue. This procedure takes 15 minutes and actually costs Ryangas €4 but they absorb the difference as part of their customer training programme. You return to the desk to be told that you must pay a further €2 for not buying a Cuisine de France croissant which is usually complimentary but which you now have to pay for because there are none left and you didn’t take it when it was free.
You retrieve your car from the attendant valet and rejoin the queue. You are tempted to offer him a seasonal gratuity but the 150% government forecourt tax proves a deterrent and you don’t bother. While you are in the queue a number of other attendants try to sell you train tickets and you begin to see the merits of public transport. When you finally get to the pump, your hose is being straddled by a scantily clad female attendant posing for a Ryangas calendar shoot. She offers to sell you the resulting calendar for €12. You decline but her brother in a PL registered Astra buys one. He pays a special staff rate of €15 for this privilege. It is a Christmas present for his mother.
Exiting the forecourt, you carefully avoid the striking petrol truck drivers who are being nonchalantly trampled by a herd of grazing Charolais. What a load of bull, you think to yourself. You look forlornly at the Esso station across the road with its uncluttered forecourt and 120c a litre neon sign and promise yourself never again.