This is you, going about your errands when all of a sudden the little fuel tank light on the dash lights up. Your heart beats faster, your hands become clammy and your eye begins to twitch. “It’s already that time?” You whine in your mind furiously trying to determine which errands or unnecessary saskam rounds led you to this perilous moment. As the anxiety sweeps through your body you start thinking if you even have the money for fuel, and if not how much of your stashed savings you’re willing to convert into the tank. Then the hassle of actually finding the golden liquid begins. Sigh. Buuut fear not, here are a few ways you can stay on top of the fuel fix and survive the Fuelmaggedon.
1. Join as many fuel WhatsApp groups as possible
Although this may be a no-brainer for some, it might be a bit of a shlep for people who generally do not like groups because of their noisy nature. Being in a WhatsApp fuel group is pretty helpful since you can’t be in a lot of places at the same time, there are people on the ground who can help you figure out which places have fuel in real-time and may actually be able to indicate the length of the queue so that you know whether or not you’re likely to get. This is demarcated by stages, stage 1 being the least, and stage 4+ being the longest, windiest, what-am-I-thinking-getting-into-this queue scenario.
However, stage 4++ isn’t a really bad thing if the tanker is offloading. All you need is a bit of patience and you might just get some- that’s what she said!
2. Like a Cub Scout, ALWAYS be prepared
Fuel queues are Not for the faint-hearted. In many cases, you join one on a scorching hot laser-like day without a cloud or tree in sight or if you’re lucky, when it’s a bit cooler closer to the evening (“lucky” here being that you’re at a service station that serves through the night) or you’re working the night shift. In this case(yes, I’m literally writing this while in a stage 4+ queue) I’m working the night shift, in the rain. Always make sure that if you know you’ll be in a queue, get some food with you or make sure you’ve eaten before heading out. There’s nothing more annoying than having to sit it out for hours while your tummy provides the backing vocals of your vehicular solitude. Bananas make a great snack for fuelmaggedon, they’re healthy, pretty filling and, there’s certainly a reason why long distance travellers call them shamwari dzerwendo-they really are your edible friends who keep you away from the loo. Water is a must, to stay hydrated and maybe some snacks too. Stashing some non-perishable snackage in your glove compartment that won’t tempt you on a regular day is also a plan to consider in case you join a queue without having planned to. In the event you’re on night shift, make sure you have enough warm clothing or blankets. Even in the middle of summer, that late-night to early morning chill can be incredibly brutal.
3. Make sure you’re entertained
This is really important if you’re going to make it through without losing your sanity. If you read, bring a book-I remember getting through almost half of a set book from my book club while waiting for fuel. Download your fave podcast, save some movies, make sure you have music that won’t repeat within 2 hours because you will be here for a long, long time. If you bring your gadgets, make sure you have a backup power source because what you have sometimes won’t be enough. If your partner doesn’t have one, you can easily get them one here for Valentine’s:) you’re welcome! Another way you can entertain yourself is by having fuel queue dates-these might be a thing already, I may be late to the party, but it’s not a bad idea at all. I mean that’s some solid QT without having to spend a lot just like these other ideas I wrote about here. Car conversations are often more real due to the lack of distractions, and having company while you wait for hours is pretty cool instead of running your batteries flat.
4. Be patient…like extremely patient
As explained earlier, some fuel queues can go on for more than 60 cars…that’s give or take 1.5km. So you will definitely be a while. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who feels this way, but if I’m at the end of a very long line and then another car comes behind me, I’m a lot more at ease because of the comfort in numbers notion, like at least I’m not dead last, lol! If we don’t end up getting fuel, you have a sort of queue-buddy who you can mutually vent to. But another thing, you have to try not losing it, being in line for a long time can be physically and mentally draining so you have to make sure that you’re not easily triggered despite being in a fuel line Russian roulettesque situation where it’s a relief to get a shot of fuel. Patience in a fuel queue is not a virtue, it’s an absolute must. In the event that you wait as the fuel is being dispensed by a fuel lorry, you have to wait. If it’s a “fast” moving queue, you will still wait for approximately 5 to 10 minute intervals. If it’s a slow-moving queue with dreaded queue pirates (arr!), maybe a bit longer or your life might just slowly drift away for 2 more hours depending on how ruthless the hoppers are or how voracious the attendants’ pockets are.
5. Stay alert
Because of the long waiting periods, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away or lose focus of your surroundings. Try to always be alert and aware as there are a lot of people who can take advantage of your momentary or prolonged lapse in attention. A few incidents of theft in a queue have been recorded so it’s always good to make sure that valuables are out of sight and your doors are locked at all times. Also, being alert may help in curbing fuel queue pirates, especially the ones who quietly slip into line towards the middle of the line. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to miss out on fuel by one or two cars after having waited and wasted pretty much half your day.
Watching other cars zoom by, living their best lives, while you’re stuck in a start-stop motorcade isn’t the ideal way to spend any day of the week and any time of the day. The only hope you can cling onto is the hope that you might just get some fuel. For now, you just wait and work out the most efficient and absolutely necessary trips you’ll make when you do get the fuel. It’s no longer about “knowing my car” anymore, all the rave now is about starting to make the search when you get to a quarter, or at least before that bright little orange fuel icon pops up.
As you move forward, urging your car to go on with a soft “c’mon girl” she finally lurches to the pump on petrol vapour. You’ve made it! You and your car have fought the good fight and you can finally breathe as the smell of petrol rises and your car happily gurgles the liquid. She lives to run another day, and you survive to traipse around on yet another saskaam round.