Had a real 'Africa: 1' 'Me:0' shopping trip yesterday.
I went to a local petrol station for fuel and to refill (or rather swap an empty for a full) gas cylinder. First, there was no gas though I was informed that the delivery truck was due imminently... but they had been waiting for it for two days. The manager said he would call the gas people to find out what had happened, but would not be able to make the call for another 45 minutes as they would be on their lunch break at the other end. Then I gave instructions to put a few thousand shillings worth of diesel in the car and popped over to the nearbye cash point in order to get some cash to pay with. I found that the atm machine was out of service, then tried another bank and the queue was horrendous enough to put me off waiting, plus I was a bit concerned about dumping my car for ages.
I then returned to the petrol station whereupon the filling lady told me that although the pump read '2,500' she had actually put '3,500' of fuel in the car as I'd requested: 'What happened?' I asked. 'Oh,' she said, 'I put 1,000 in, then the power went off and the digital display went to 0000, then I put in the remaining 2,500' 'OK' I responded; 'so I'll just have to believe you on this one' 'Yes,' she said; 'you will just have to believe me'
Fine, but now I've got no cash so I hand over my bank debit card. The card and the petrol pump attendant disappear for hours. Whilst my car is beginning to feel like an oven sitting in the sun, I decide that a rather than waiting I'd rather nose into the station office where my card is being 'run' and there I find a small room crammed with almost the entire staff of the place. The Manager is on the phone apparently 'referring' my card, but is told at the other end that he can't be given an authorisation code on a debit card, only a credit card. 'Nonsense' I said, knowing that with communications failures and problems with phone lines here, shop assistants often have to call for authority before the card goes through.
The female petrol pump attendant is stabbing at the small card machine and repeatedly swiping my card in a seemingly random manner. When I tell her that it should be OK to call my bank for authority, she suddenly disconnects the phone line from the card machine, then attaches it to the phone handset. 'What are you doing? You haven't given the card a chance to go through yet?' so then she removes the phone line from the handset and puts it back into the card machine. 'I think it will have disconnected by now' I said.
Meanwhile, the manager is asking her why she is charging me 3,500 when the bill says 2,500. She leans in to him with her answer, which is whispered and in fast swahili and I was straining to catch it. I concluded that the story she told me and the one he got were very different though the detail was hazy.
Anyway, the card finally, magically went through and I walked away with various tiny pieces of paper showing failed attempts to 'run' my card, just in case I get charged by the bank a few times for the same transaction due to operator error. It doesn't help that I won't get my bank statement for at least another month, by which time all the little pieces of paper will be gone forever.
The whole rigmarole took quite some time and I was thankful that none of the kids were with me. Even the 45 minutes had passed to put a call into the gas supplier, but when I remembered this I realised that the manager had now disappeared. 'Cut and run' I thought.
Since then, I have been back to the same petrol station four times with my empty gas cylinder enquiring about the elusive delivery truck to have had no luck. Each time the answer is different 'it's coming at 3.30' 'it will arrive in the morning' 'try later' and still I have nothing to cook with.
( - 19/9/07 My bank called me today to query a transaction for 3,500/- that has been run four times in succession from a fuelling station.... hmmmm)