I’m no stranger to getting it in the ear from members of the public, but I must admit it came as quite a surprise when I got shouted at over a public address system last week.
It happened as I was filling up my car in a petrol station attached to a well-known supermarket while simultaneously using my mobile phone to order a Chinese.
I was in the process of ordering my tea when the pump cut out and a booming, disembodied voice shouted, “Number four!”
As the announcement echoed around the busy forecourt I looked up at the pump I was using and found that it was my number that was being called out.
“You can’t use your phone in the forecourt,” the voice said with the aid of a public address system (I’m guessing Tannoy).
I finished my phone call to the Chinese and motioned to the attendant in the kiosk that the call had been terminated using the universal gesture of shaking the phone like it’s empty.
The pump was put back into action and I finished filling up my car with my cheeks suitably reddened.
Being singled out by means of a number reminded me of my football and rugby playing days (which hopefully aren’t over just yet).
It usually went along the lines of, “Number four! Any more of that and you’re going in the book.”
Having been made a spectacle of in the forecourt, my next task was to enter the shop and face the wrath of the person who’d balled at me over the loudspeaker.
Sheepishly I entered the store. I’d considered quoting a different pump number when paying for my petrol so as I wouldn’t have to face the music, but that could have backfired if I’d had to fork out for half a tank of diesel for a gas-guzzling Range Rover.
When I reached the till I told the truth. “Petrol on number four,” I said.
There was only one woman on the till so it had to be the same person who’d shouted with great venom at me over the Tannoy. She smiled pleasantly and told me to insert my card into the chip and pin device.
Once the loudspeaker had been removed she was nothing to be frightened of. It was like meeting the Wizard of Oz.
She didn’t even mention my misdemeanour with the mobile.
On my way to the Chinese I started thinking about the dangers of using a mobile phone in a petrol station forecourt. I couldn’t think of any.
I later read a piece on the Internet concerning electromagnetic radiation from a mobile phone which could impart enough energy to ignite petrol vapour directly or induce currents in nearby metal objects and trigger a spark with the same effect.
It sounds terrifying but there isn’t a single confirmed case of this happening.
By the time I got to the Chinese the colour had gone from my cheeks. Sitting waiting for me was a portion of vegetable spring rolls.
“I didn’t order these,” I said. I hate vegetable spring rolls. They’re the sort of food you expect to find discarded and half-eaten after a business seminar buffet.
“Yes you did,” said the girl at the counter. “It couldn’t have been any clearer. You were on the phone and I asked you what you wanted and all I could hear was this loud voice shouting, ‘Number four!’. So here you are. Number four - vegetable spring rolls.”