Thursday, May 10, 2012

True Tales From Childhood: The Price Of Air

When we were much younger than we are now, my brother Philip and I went to a childminder after school every weekend until mum and dad got out of work. She had two older boys, Adrian and Noel, and together the four of us would play Action Man (they had an Eagle Eyes figure and a pull string talking one!), dinky cars (which, for us, referred to all small metal cars), and, of course, LEGO.

We could spend hours on the floor building incredible constructions before playing out some adventure with our creations. Adrian and Noel had a big pile of LEGO that would get dumped in the middle of the living room floor and then it would be race to grab the choice bricks and figure out something wonderful to fabricate. We made a good team, and there was never any fighting over parts. As I recall, it was pretty collaborative, with everyone looking for their own pieces, while simultaneously keeping an eye out for a "red 3 by 2 flat bit" for Noel, the elusive "grey thick corner piece" for Adrian, a "long white one" for Philip and a "flat blue light" for me.

One afternoon Adrian had spent all his time building a garage and petrol station (gas station, for all you US readers). I had done my usual bang-up job of spreading the remaining pieces from the pile into a circle with a few free standing windows and calling it a "house", while focusing my attention on more important things, like a space ship or a rocket car.

Some time into our game Adrian exclaimed "Why isn't anyone using my garage? I spent ages building this. Come to my garage." As the youngest one in the group, Philip drove his car over to the front of the garage, parked by the pumps and requested, in a most matter-of-fact voice "£10* of air, please."

Noel, Adrian and myself exploded with laughter. Wiping tears from our cheeks, we informed Philip that you didn't pay for air for your car. People can pump their tires for free. It's air. It's everywhere. You can't charge for it.

I was reminded of this wonderfully happy moment from my childhood by a tweet posted recently from someone I follow. It read:

The compressed air at the local gas station just went up to $1.00 for 3 minutes. I should really get these tire rims fixed.
I was stunned. Garages are now charging for air for your tires! And at a dollar for three minutes! After the best part of almost 25 years, Adrian's garage can now charge for air!

What a strange and funny world we live in.

*- This was long before Europe thought the Euro was a clever idea, so Ireland was still using the Irish pound, or punt.

Post Script: This story remains very clear in my memory to this day, but just writing it now, I've begun to realise just how long ago it took place. I have no recollection of my other brother Stephen being around, so it probably took place before he was born, putting it at around 1987! I would have been 7, Philip 4, and Adrian and Noel 10 and 13 respectively! I wonder if any of them remember this story?

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