It’s not easy to buy gifts for me. It’s a nightmare for my wife every year trying to figure out what to get me for my birthday. This year, however, we’ve found the perfect gift – a fill of diesel.
It wasn’t supposed to be like that, but on the way home on the last day before payday—which also happened to be my birthday—I made the hasty decision to fill up the car without checking the account. When I went to check out, the joint account card was declined. I did my usual theatrical rubbing of my thigh like this was some point-blank magic suddenly depositing money into my account, then tried again. No, it wasn’t the magnetic stripe that needed to be warmed up by frottage with my Primark chinos, rather the account was bone dry.
So it went on with the credit card – more theatrics, more banter with the obviously disinterested person at the register, more sweat on my forehead and then the realization that this card was exhausted and I actually didn’t have the money to pay for the diesel, that I had just pumped into my car. I briefly considered offering to get a hose and suck it back out since I was in a undignified zone now, so I might as well just do it. But as a last resort before the hose option, I told the girl at the register that I needed to give my wife a quick call and it would all be sorted out.
Forty-five minutes of standing in the empty gas station cafe, phone pressed to my ear, under the watchful eye of the staff, I began to wonder if my wife had planned all this and if there was going to be a big cake of the back office and a surprise party. That was the best I could hope for as she didn’t answer my calls. I called her, then I called my son, then I called her again, leaving increasingly disturbed voicemails for both of them – pick up the phone, please God, pick up the phone, get your mom to call me, this is a serious emergency. I even called my daughter and asked her for money to bail me out but she only had Revolut and I don’t know nor want to know what that is as it seems like quite a grim joke, bank around the concept to brand around the revolution.
Eventually I had to trudge back to the register and admit defeat; I had no money to pay. The girl said not to worry, she had seen this many times over the past few months. She would take my details and put me in to pick me up, then I could call later with my card details when I get home. A drive off! The lowest form of crime. The shame of being a driver, even for the 30 minutes it would take me to get home, was crushing. I tried to reassure the girl that this was not a scam or a long scam and that as a journalist I had nowhere to hide since I was “in the public eye”. My humiliation was complete as I uttered those words.
She obviously didn’t care what I did since I wasn’t good enough at it to pay for a tank of diesel. So I drove off like an idiot with my tank full of stolen gas America’s Dumbest Criminals. Happy birthday to me
At home, I used my wife’s card to pay off my debt to the garage, before having a heated argument about money (and why no one can answer the phone) with said wife. The central point was that my entire salary goes to the joint account, while my wife’s salary goes to her account. She would claim that I couldn’t access the account because there was money for the diesel. I would argue that there is money in their account because all of my earnings are used to pay for everything else. This went back and forth until we both went to bed in great bad moods. Happy birthday to me again.
Arguments about money are common in our home, but the less we have of one, the more we have of the other. With the cost of living rising on what feels like a weekly basis, it looks like a winter of dissatisfaction is upon us – where will the card be rejected next, at the supermarket, at the GP, or just in the same garage with the same tired staff member listening to me while I try to be charming while sweating profusely?
The upside of all this is that my wife knows exactly what she’s going to get me for Christmas this year, but the downside is that this was just the beginning of a long time in which we’ll be trying to figure out our finances (and I also try to discreetly set my wife’s ringtone to a deafening volume).
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/unable-to-pay-for-my-tank-full-of-diesel-i-was-marked-as-a-drive-off-oh-the-shame-41917014.html Since I couldn’t pay for my diesel tank, I was flagged as “driver away” – oh, what a pity