Monday, October 01, 2007

The Not-So Integrated Land of the European Union

Just when we thought Europe was getting too predictable, thanks to a shared currency, obsolete border-control-booths, and the disappearance of those cute little one (or two) letter bumper stickers that were once required across the continent, we let our gas tank reach empty - in Belgium - at night.

Either Belgians refuse to work in the evenings, or the gas stations are trying to save a few bucks through use of automated payment devices. In theory, it should work - and it does, if:
1) You are Belgian, or
2) You have a Belgian bank card, or
3) You are one of the few people on this planet who actually know the pin number for your credit card.

If none of these three scenarios happens to match your circumstances, then you can start warming up those thumbs for a fun-filled night of hitchhiking... OR, you can run over to the next car, insult them by asking if they speak english (in english of course... if only I could ask that question in Flemish!), then use your hands and feet to explain your predicament, hoping that they will take pity on you, your husband, your toddler, and your dog, who have been in the car for over 8 hours, and have over an hour to go until you reach your final destination.

Alas, it was our lucky day, or night for that matter. Not only was the couple willing to help us, but we just happened to have €50 cash, which we handed over to them in exchange for €50 of gas (using their Belgian bank card).

What we didn't know is that we were about to hit a massive traffic jam in Antwerp, which would extend are really long trip by yet another hour. C'est le vie...

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