Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Embarrassed to Be Me

So today I needed to fill the tank in the little white van for the first time.

(By the way, the little white van is a very nice Toyota and we are eternally thankful to John and Deanne who win extra points in heaven by loaning their vehicle to missionaries who loiter around LA looking helpless!)

Anyway, I had to fill it up today because the little light that looks like a petrol pump was glowing at me.

First of all, the petrol station that I used to go to is no longer there. So I meandered here and there, tired after-school-kids in tow, until I found pumps. I pulled in part of the way and, after craning to see which side of the car the tank is on and then getting out to look, finally noticed that there is a clever note right on the dash that says Fuel Tank with a left pointing arrow next to it. So handy! The Toyota people were thinking of me when they included that. Only they must have been thinking of someone more clever than I am because I didn't actually see their nice note until after I had climbed out of the car and located the tank myself.

Anyway, I was then fully stopped in my tracks by the mysterious missing lever that opens before-mentioned tank door. That's not the right name. What do you call that little door that covers the opening to the tank? We call the lid a gas cap. But what is the door called? And what is the name of the thing the gas cap is covering? It's not really the tank. The tank is under the car...

Oh never mind.

Anyway, I spent a full 4 minutes searching all over the dash and in the immediate area for the lever. I got Colin to come help me look. He's the one who spotted it. It was in a very different location that the one in my old Mitsubishi and my older still Peugeot didn't have one at all. So he spotted something with a petrol pump on it and we were saved.

Or so I thought. Now I stood staring at the actual pump. I knew I was supposed to do something with my credit card. I finally worked out to swipe it through, enter my postal code, and begin. But I was still moving slowly. The note inside the un-named door to place where you fill the tank said "Unleaded only." That's fine except none of the options on the pump stated whether they were leaded or unleaded. The last of the four options said Diesel and I wished I was in Portugal where I know diesel is what I want.

There was a slightly odd looking woman standing not far away and I wasn't altogether sure she was in possession of all her faculties, but I asked her if she happened to know which pump was unleaded. She walked over and read the labels to me and announced what I already knew, that there was Regular, Plus and Premium. But no, she didn't know anything about unleaded. I had a sneaking suspicion by now that they are all unleaded, but I was afraid of making a mistake. I have been with Byron when we got the wrong fuel in Kenya, or maybe it was fuel that was mixed with water, and I remember it was a terrible pain in the rump draining the tank and getting things cleared out.

Sigh. I swallowed my badly diminished pride and walked over to a nice looking man who was pretty cute and pretty close to my age, and just let myself look like a complete idiot. "Which one is unleaded?" I asked, resisting the urge to explain that I'm not always this stupid but I have just come in from Europe and I haven't been at a fuel station in the U.S. for a long time. He told me they were all unleaded but as I walked away he said "Don't use the diesel!" Oh pain in my heart! He really must have thought I was unbelievably incompetent.

So finally, victory! We got the tank filled and even remembered to push the little button on the pump that said "Yes" so that I could get a receipt. Heaven help me if I show up to Byron without my receipts!

I made it home, deeply shamed by my inability to look cool at the pump and longing for a cup of tea to soothe my pride. Sue was just leaving as I pulled up. She was dropping off an email that she had not been able to work out how to forward on to me.

Well! At least I know how to do THAT!


Rogier said...

Lisa, I know exactly how you feel. I've done the total same when we first came to America. And then when I went back, I had to learn how get gas all over again...
Your experience, and the way you describe it so well caused the following thought: you know how they have those yellow books in the '... for dummies' series? Like 'PC's for dummies' and 'cooking for dummies' and 'french for dummies'? Maybe you should write a 'America for dummies'! I could probably write a few chapters myself -- but you write so well; it would be highly entertaining.

PS 'pain the rump'? I like that! Mind I steal that and add it to my phraseology?

jesse said...

i love when we look stupid for quite obvious things and it is due to being from some other continent. makes me happy....speaking of that other continent. i miss it so much! cant wait to be back in europe and then also africa!
love you mom!

Rachel said...

I still get shocked when I see white eggs in the shops. And, for the first few weeks I was back, I kept trying to put my foot on the clutch and move a phantom gear shift when I was, in reality, driving an automatic. You are not alone. : )

apriltgc said...

thanks lisa - this was great. i'm curious, do you think you'll go through all the same stuff when you are back in africa again as well?

lisa said...

ro, you're welcome to steal :-)
jesse, i'm missing that continent too!
rachel, the white eggs look so anemic it's hard to believe they have any nutritional value.
april, yes, i'll go through it all over again in africa.
that's the good thing about this life.... keeps me alert (and feeling like a dork!)

spain dad said...

How funny.

Last time we were in the U.S. I was buying something at Target. Of course everyone knows the checkout routine like they know how to brush their teeth--except for, well, me.

I was trying to act casual until I got to the credit card swiping part. I could tell the cashier was watching me. I must have looked hesitant.

I tried swiping the card anyway, and I noticed immediately that the cashier's mouth dropped.

I looked down and realized not only had I swiped the card backwards, but it was also up-side-down. The magnetic strip was facing up. Oops! :)

ann said...

Lisa - it is with relief and giggles that i rediscover your blog today. My mistake at the gas station was leaping out and grabbing the hose several times before remembering there is no self serve in Oregon !
Never mind trying to bag my own groceries at the supermarket.

jenelle said...

Lisa, yes, please write that "America for Dummies" book for all of us who suffering from reverse-culture shock. Buzzzzzzz.
I really just CAN'T handle how absolutely shockingly FREEZING it is EVERYWHERE inside USA shops/stores/homes. Portugal really innoculated me to the beauty of natural air, without the AC...even on those scalding days of European heatwaves. Now I remember to pack jumpers and thick socks before I go anywhere.

lisa said...

oh my word! the ac here is killing me too! i feel like i'm in the artic in every grocery store and i hardly dare venture near the freezer section or even the dairy section. it's crazy cold! and the fruit comes out of the fridge at home too cold to eat! but remember, it's not weird.... it's just different! not sure about that though, i think it might be weird :-)

Linda said...

Hi lisa, just saw you're on the new international leadership team for 24-7 prayer! amazing what came out of our meeting at cultural shift just over 3 years ago. Hope your move back to Africa goes well.