A couple of weeks ago… 

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled into the forecourt of my local Asda petrol station.  This probably a piece of information of no interest, not even if I add that it was a dark Wednesday night following my gym session. 

No none of this is the formula for a good blog post, and sounds like I’m about to launch into some self-indulgent ramble… 

But this was not like any usual night time fuel stop fill up, and as I sat waiting in a queue, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the tunes blaring out from my old Punk O Rama Vol. 6 CD, there was something that didn’t feel right. 

Of course… why am I queuing at this time? 

Normally on a late dark night, the unmanned petrol station would be barren, giving it an erie deserted feel, a chilling whistle in the cold night breeze, feeling like you could be jumped at any time by some local ruffians. 

Instead, the place was swarmed with the noise of people and cars pump to pump, I pulled over to queue for the sixth pump, the furthest away, with the grass verges offering the only hope of space.  A black BMW came up behind me, much too closer to my bumper for my liking, with its lights dazzling my eyes.  

This wasn’t right, the whole point of going this late was to avoid the bother of the crowds…  still the sounds of music kept me patient as I watched somewhat amused at the blond lady, with black rimmed glasses fumbling with inserting the unleaded pump into her unfashionable blue Fiat 500. 

Death by Stereo, ugh… I never liked them, even when I bought this CD 20 years ago, I was felt they were too shouty, so I press the button on the steering wheel to skip to a track that’s more pleasant on the ears. 

For a small car this woman is taking her time filling up… the car in front which I had been previously obscured from seeing, rolls off, and I debate for a second whether it’s worth trying to squeeze round the tight bit of tarmac, but decide to remain patient.  The BMW sits behind me menacingly, I try to catch a glimpse of the driver in my wing mirror, but his face is obscured by the blackness of the night. 

The CD moves onto track 15, and I’m now listening to Heideroosjes, a Dutch punk band I never thought much of when I was younger, but have to admit this song is catchy.  The blonde lady with the glasses finally finishes, getting ready to get into her car, before doing a double take towards the cards machine… 

Yeah don’t forget your receipt, you’ll need that for expenses. 

Finally, the Fiat with the odd turquoise colour trundles off, and I come behind to get to the front pump, the BMW accelerates wildly, breaking sharply behind me. 

“My heart is where the road is…” 

Damn that’s song’s catchy, and I almost regret having to switch the engine off to go fill up.  I pull the lever underneath my Nissan’s steering wheel and out pops the miniature door allowing access to the petrol cap on the driver’s side. 

The BMW drivers already beaten me to the card machine and keyed in his number, and is now aggressively wrenching the diesel hose across. 

Image from Pexels

I carefully place my debit card into the thinly veiled slot, wait for it to load and tab in my PIN. 

*Beep* *Beep* *Beep* *Beep* 

[Enter] 

*Beep* 

[PROCESSING TRANSACTION…] 

The pump starts making a gurring, whirring noise, a sound like the gates of hell opening, I unscrew the black cap, unholster the green pump and insert it until it holds in place, and push down the button 

I watch the figures tallying up, something I’ve always found quite satisfying to watch despite the fact the longer it goes the more money I’m spending. 

*Click* 

The BMW driver has already finished fueling up. 

*Click* 

Goes his pump as he goes to put more in 

*Click* *Click* *Click* 

I think nothing of it, assuming he’s either got a long journey, or likes to ensure he’s really filled his tank up. 

Finally, after brutalising the trigger he stops, he gets back in the car without collecting the receipt, he starts the engine, and the beamer light comes on dazzling me, in a exposed spotlight as I finish putting the petrol cap on. 

[RECEIPT WANTED?] 

[Y / N] 

I press the green button and the white paper rolls into my hand, and I cleanly rip it off, and return to the car. 

“…Home is where the heart is…” 

The music screams as I fire up the ignition. 

I look in the wing mirror, to set off and can see the BMW driver angling his tires to try and get around me, but he thinks better of it, and I leave the self-service station behind, observing even more cars piling in, to this once deserted spot. 

What the hell is going on tonight? 

Testing a theory… 

Here’s a confession… I don’t watch the news, my reason is simple… because it’s too bloody depressing! 

The news should be a tool used to inform you of current events, but all it does is inspire a culture of fear and panic.  The truth is, you have no control or power to influence anything reported. 

Those kids kidnapped in Nigeria… oh dear… 

Afghanistan falls, making everyone question the time, money and pointless loss of life… oh dear… 

Some person I’m not supposed to like, in a country I don’t live, gets elected in somewhere I don’t have a vote… oh dear.. 

Unspecified virus of unknown origin… oh dear… 

If you can’t do anything about it, and it doesn’t make you feel good – what is the point? 

Check out this brilliant video from Adam Curtis “Oh Dear” which explains the phenomena of how the news works: 

Credit: YouTube: Adam Curtis, Oh Dear… 

By not watching the news, I developed a theory that if anything was reported in the news that had a direct impact on me, my family or my community – I’d hear about it. 

As this was only a theory there was always a risk I could be oblivious to what is going on in the world and find because and go for a walk one day to find the sky is falling down. 

However, with what happened in the UK a few weeks ago, I finally had proof this theory was correct. 

What happened? 

If you’re from another country and not aware, allegedly the UK underwent shortage of petrol.  

There are various theories whether this was true or not, like everything there is so much information out, and people with various political agendas ready to spin it, that it’s difficult to know what to believe. 

I don’t know the truth, and honestly, I don’t really care… 

What I do know is, that the countries news media, being the responsible people of ethical virtue they are, decided to report this, resulting in panic buying, hour long queues and people filling up every container they had to hand with petrol. 

During this time, I continue to live my life in oblivious happy bliss, only figuring something else was going on, when I encountered an unusual build of traffic around the petrol station near my commute. 

I then started hearing what was going on – people at work talked about, I saw recommendations in YouTube directing me to the silliness of people rolling around brawling, and family members asked if we were okay for petrol. 

With this information I was able to act accordingly, reducing my driving until the hysteria died down, and was able to top the tank up relatively unmolested. 

The News – Inspiring a culture of feat and panic.

In conclusion: what I learnt… 

From the experience, I was delighted my theory was proved correct, if something significant impacts my life, I don’t need the news to tell me about it – I can observe it in the world around me, be told by family members, or given the highlights by social media algorithms. 

If there is one thing you can do to revolutionise your mental health and wellbeing – stop consuming depressing news media – turn off the TV, don’t read the click bait headlines, or engage in pointless social media spats. 

The news is not the beacon of virtue looking to expose truths, but designed to stir up your anxieties, fears, hatred and manipulate you into panic! 

Thanks for nothing news media!

Until next time, stay safe, keep sane.

James @Perfect Manifesto

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8 thoughts on “What the UK Petrol “Shortage” Taught Me About the News

  1. I remember how at the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself reading far too much about the lockdown, daily virus cases and what people were doing during the lockdown. It got me on a downward trend that I rarely find myself on, James. Within a few days of not watching, listening or reading anything about the lockdown, my mood lifted, and I found myself being able to write again.
    Then again, I did find myself panicking when I heard about panic buying for toilet rolls. Despite having plenty in the house, a part of me still wanted me to search high and low for where I could buy more of something I already had plenty of. It’s yet another example of how powerful the media is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The panic buying of toilet rolls! I remember going into an Iceland when they just had a toilet roll delivery – someone must have mentioned it on social media as several people showed up. Luckily we discovered a news agent near us who was plentiful with small 4 packs. Not a lot but enough to keep us going.

      I’d been on/off with the news for years but coronavirus finished it for me – I got tired of the constant ‘story lines’, and feeling I was ‘supposed’ to watch the news because that’s what adults do.

      Thank you for your comment Hugh 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It wasn’t long ago that people in the US were panic buying Duke after there was a cyber attack on the pipeline. There wouldn’t have been a shortage, but once in was in the news, people started to panic buy, and once some people start, others join in to avoid missing out. We all had a laugh about it, then we basically did the same stupid thing. If it hadn’t been reported, there wouldn’t have been an issue

    Like

    1. Thanks Rachel – you do right with this approach, avoiding the news (or people who constantly want to dwell on the news) can do wonders for personal wellbeing.

      Like

  3. I too am not a fan of how the media influences people’s behaviour through fear tactics! As we have come to see, it’s mostly hype with a tiny little grain of truth! Toilet paper shortage? only because of people doing hoarder level shopping! If we just continued along our normal trajectories, we’d probably barely notice anything amiss!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s it, it’s always hyped worse than it is. What’s worst is the media likes to present its self as a place of truth and virtue, but everyone seems to have an agenda so it’s difficult to know who to trust.

      Avoiding it has done wonders for my wellbeing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mine too! I try to avoid clicking on controversial headlines because I don’t want to contribute to the algorithm to make them trend even more!

        Liked by 1 person

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