Thursday, August 31, 2023

Gas Translation

At the gas station a few weeks ago, I was sitting in my car jotting down my mileage. My door was open.

The person pumping gas to my left (my gas cap is on the driver side) waved to me. Though unusual, I said "hello" and then made to close my door. He raised his hand again and said "Wait. Wait." I braced myself for a directions question or perhaps a plea for money.

He then held his phone to his mouth and spoke into it. It was not English or Spanish. If I had to guess, I would say it was Portugese. He then turned his phone's screen towards me. On it was Google Translate, and the English text said "Can you show me how to subscribe to gas?"

After a blink I realized what he needed. I got out of my car. He moved off to the side, pointing at the gas pump. The gas station had pumps where you indicated the grade of gas by pulling the appropriate handle. When I looked at him, he pointed again, this time at the sign with the lowest price. 

"Yes, yes," I said. Then I looked at the credit card reader and gave the universal sign for money: rubbing my thumb across my fingers. "Pay? Pay?" I asked. He replied in his indecipherable language. I shook my head. He spoke into his phone again. When he showed it to me, it said "I paid inside already."

I next lifted the handle indicating the cheapest gas option. I picked up the gas nozzle, walked to his open filler and showed him where the nozzle went. I then signaled for him to pull the nozzle's trigger. The display began to cycle and we heard the clunk-clunk of a working gas pump.

I smiled to him this time. He did too. He waved and said "Thank You" in accented English. I smiled and waved and got into my car. All he used to communicate to me was "Wait", "Thank You" and Google Translate. I wonder if I could do as well with just these if I were in his native country.

Photo by Sean (Flickr)

No comments:

Post a Comment