France, play fair!!

Tolls, talking and filling the tank: it’s trickier than you think.

The verb “faire” is very useful. It means both (to make) and (to do). For example “ce soir j’ai fait la cuisine” (this evening I *made* the food); “cette après midi nous avons fait des courses” (this afternoon we *did* the shopping). This morning, with a four-hour trip ahead of us “il fallait faire plein” (it was necessary to *make* full/ fill up the tank).

Having done this once before, last week when we got the van, we thought we were “trés cool” (very cool) with this. We arrived at the tank, saw the diesel pump, put the pipe into the tank, squeezed the attachment and … “rien” (nothing). This was not fair! The last time it was “facile” (easy). At the previous place, will filled up our tank, strolled over to the teller, said “numero trois, s’il vous plaît” (number three please/ the relevant number of the pump we were using) “et voila”.

Here there was some reading required which turned out to be quite straight forward. Apparently at this particular petrol station, they operated on a pre-paid system. You had to use your bank card to pay beforehand. “Ça va” (it goes/ it’s ok). We put in our card and entered the pin. There was nowhere to choose the amount we wanted and the machine just spat our card back at us but now the diesel spout was working so we went with it. It turns out we’d pre-authorised a payment, proceeded to fill up and then the payment came off our bank account. “Juste comme ça” (Just like that).

We refilled our own tanks with Starbucks coffees and hot chocolates and hit the road.

Further down the road we came to our first toll road.

We went through and there was nowhere to pay. A ticket popped out and Mr B took it; the boom opened! Now, what to do with the ticket …? *This ticket is valid for 24hrs. Use it at the next toll booth. Do not lose this ticket or you will pay the full price*. We had no idea what the full price was and had no intention of finding out so we kept it in a safe place until we came to the next toll. Once there, we popped in the ticket and the display showed 9€ (just under R150). I’d hate to know what the full price was if this was the discounted one!!

We came to the next toll and looked for a ticket but there was none. Had we missed something? Gone in the wrong lane? We now had no idea what to do so I jumped out to ask the people behind us: “Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Où se trouve le billet?” (Where is the ticket). Looking at me blankly, he turned to his passenger. She began to try to speak in French but I could tell she was struggling. “Do you speak English?” “Yes!” came the immediate reply in a German accent, “that’s much better! I had a quick chat with her. They also didn’t have a ticket.

We all decided we were in the wrong lane and reversed out to join the queue to the left. Arriving at that toll both, there was no ticket there either. We could’ve stayed in the first lane!! We pushed the button for assistance: “No ticket. Only pay four euros”. We popped in our bank card, pulled it out and the booms opened. The thing was, there were no signs to tell you what you’d be paying. It was just like a lottery system … 9€, 4€, 9€. In the end, the total was 22€ (R350)! What does it cost in tolls to get from Johannesburg to Durban nowadays? I’m sure I remember it being R20/R30.

“Donc” (so) we are learning that just because it works one way in one place, there are no guarantees. We just have to “faire un plan” (make a plan) as we go. Fair is faire, non?

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