A ball-shaped piece of freedom

The BNM family has enjoyed two trips to the USA. Once we went up and down the east coast. Then we went up and down the west coast. Never been to the middle bits or to any of the vowel states.

I’m not overly-excited by cars or by driving, but I do like driving in the States.

The open highway, the scenery, the roadside diners, the advertising hoardings, the muffler men.

Visiting gas stations was an eye-opener. There was the obscenely low cost of petrol for one thing. When we last there, it was less than a tenth of what we were paying in the UK. No wonder they all drive cars as big as buses.

Then there was the simple act of filling your car with fuel. Because in America, once you’ve pulled the trigger on the petrol pump, it stays pulled. A little ratchet thingy clicks into place and keeps the flow of fuel running.

You can walk off and clean bugs off your windscreen, stock up with water or do whatever you like. The nozzle will just hang there pumping gas into your fuel tank until you squeeze the trigger again or the nozzle’s sensor indicates that the tank is full, whereupon it automatically cuts off.

Why isn’t there a similar system in the UK? The petrol dispensers can’t be that different. I can only assume the ratchet mechanism has been removed for the UK market.

Things are always being changed ‘to suit the UK market’. This normally means removing the taste, strength or functionality of something before we can be trusted with it. For example, it was only recently that the Heineken sold in the UK started to bear any relationship at all to the Heineken sold in almost every other country of the world. I could give you other examples but they all seem to be booze-related and you might start to wonder about me.

So, back to petrol pumps and the fact that we have to stand there like dorks when filling up the car.

I’ve found a way round it.

I have. I have overcome the senseless petrol forecourt tyranny enforced upon us by the ruthless Petrol Retailers Association working in collusion with their arrogant Whitehall overlords.

I just hit upon the idea of using a tennis ball. We keep some in the boot to throw for the dog. You just jam the tennis ball between the trigger and the trigger guard, then go off and explore your new-found freedom while the tank fills up.

I can’t tell you how happy this discovery had made me.

The first time I tried out the idea I immediately wondered what to do with the time that was now mine. I know – wash the windscreen. Trouble was, there was no bucket of soapy water with a sponge in it. Perhaps that’s another thing you only get in the States. There were no paper towels, either. The only thing I could put to use was a pair of flimsy see-through gloves. What could I possibly do with them? No idea.

So I waited, but not too close to the car. If anyone else drove up, I wanted them to see me and think: “That guy’s standing a little bit too far from his car to be able comfortably to hold the petrol nozzle. Wait…he’s not holding it at all. But how can his tank be filling up? I don’t understand. Hold on…he’s got some sort of device wedged into the petrol pump’s trigger mechanism. It’s *rubs eyes* it’s a common or garden tennis ball!”

But no one did.

Think about this: If the average UK motorist spends 1 minute 15 seconds filling up his car with a tankful of unleaded, drives 12,000 miles a year and averages 32 mpg, he really should take a long, hard look at reducing his carbon footprint.

But at least the tennis ball idea will save him literally minutes a year.

A standard-issue tennis ball successfully undergoing forecourt trials in South London



Filed under Stuff

15 responses to “A ball-shaped piece of freedom

  1. This is amazing. It’s something which has bothered me ever since I drove around Europe. I came back to the UK wallowing slightly in my own stupidity at how I’d missed this ‘lock’ on the petrol pump, only to discover I wasn’t an idiot, they don’t have them in the UK! Okay, I am an idiot, but they don’t have them in the UK! I was mightily frustrated and always look forward to driving abroad so I can be free to wander again when refilling. Perhaps even treat myself to a windscreen wash with the free soapy water by the pumps.

    I’m off out now to buy some tennis balls. I just hope this revelation of yours doesn’t put the price of tennis balls up so much due to the rise in demand it has a negative effect on Wimbledon.

  2. I might do that one day. If I remember and everything.

  3. dom

    Go Kevin, I want to see you on Dragon’s Den with this one.

  4. Obviously the thing to do would be to stand near the pump wearing an intense expression, splaying your fingers in the classic I-am-doing-this-with-my-mind pose. For best results, dress as a vaudeville magician.

  5. I had no idea a cabal of bureaucrats or environmental whackos or [insert power grabbing group here] had made pumping gas so inconvenient for UK folks. You have my sympathy.

  6. Brilliant! I shall be availing myself of this tennis-ball technology asap. Thanks.

    • bravenewmalden

      You’re welcome. We’ll soon* see tennis balls on petrol station forecourts the length and breadth of Britain.
      *May not be that soon.

  7. Pingback: streams of unconsciousness » Blog Archive » The Great Tennis Ball Secret…

  8. If memory serves me correctly – and it rarely does nowadays – UK pumps used to have a little locking mechanism that allowed you to do just that. But it seems they were removed quite some years ago. I daresay H&S were involved somewhere along the line.

    Now, I’m sure I saw a tennis ball lying in the garden the other day…

    Thanks for the tip (via Brennig).

    • bravenewmalden

      I read somewhere that truck drivers keep a paperclip and thread it through a few holes in the trigger and trigger guard to keep the pump, er, pumping. This may be true, but I can never find a paperclip even when I’m in an office.

      I don’t remember a locking mechanism, but I do remember ‘petrol pump attendants’. You still get them in parts of Europe. Other parts of Europe, I should say. In the UK, the tennis ball reigns supreme.

  9. Laurel

    Yesterday the gas attendant shut off my pump and tolld me to remove my tennis ball due to it being a safety hazard. Any ideas thoughts? This was in Ontario, Canada

    • bravenewmalden

      Good to know the UK doesn’t have a monopoly on officious, jobsworth pricks! The only possible way it could be a safety hazard is if Canadian fuel nozzles don’t have little suction pipes in them that draw air in until that air becomes fuel, at which point they cut out. This would make Canadian pumps unique, I think. How it works: https://9gag.com/gag/avPq3En

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