The Micra lies abandoned on the hard shoulder, hazard lights flashing, a smell like burnt caramel hanging in the air. It’s yet another snack misfueling incident for AA patrol man Nick Haynes to try and sort out.
“This family was lucky. The car conked out in a relatively safe spot but the motor’s knackered. That’s the result of pouring two litres of Pepsi straight into the tank and driving off.”
Snack misfueling is on the increase, and Denzil Henderson, the unfortunate owner of the Micra is just its latest victim. “I popped in to the BP station to get an A-Z, found myself queuing for ten minutes in a mini M&S and ended up buying drinks as the kids were thirsty. Returning to my car I guess I just got disorientated. I clipped the kids into their seats, tipped the coke into the tank and drove off. But as you can see we didn’t get far.”
I took the 200-yard walk back to the BP station for a chat with the manager. I asked him whether, as some have suggested, clearer labelling is the answer, or perhaps a radical redesign of the bottle necks so they won't fit into the fuel filler. But he doubts it.
“Some people are chancers. They’ll see a big bottle of Pepsi MAX on sale for half the price of the same volume of diesel and they’ll think, why not? That’s just daft, isn’t it? It’s false economy. Then there are others who think that a couple of cans of Red Bull is going to make them faster away at the lights, and it doesn’t, frankly. Quite the reverse. So thank you very much, Sebastian Vettel.”
According to Haynes, it isn’t just drinks. “I don’t mind de-fueling because of the odd cappuccino. I don’t mind the occasional hot dog. That’s a mistake anyone can make. But what I cannot comprehend is the baguette. Because with the new nozzles it isn’t going to go in. So it’ll be half hanging out and completely visible in the door mirror. There’s usually no lasting damage if mayonnaise isn’t present, so I laugh and point out the error of their ways and I’ll have them back on the road in a few minutes.”
Tow bar attached to the Micra, Hayes leans out of his cab before pulling away. “Fella the other day pulled into the BP to use the loo. But that’s another story.”