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Sans Plomb

Sans Plomb (c) Kristin Espinasse
The sign on the back of the old truck says "(ride) in complete security...with Michelin tires".

sans plomb (sahn plom) noun

    : unleaded


Example Sentence & Audio File follow, below)


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
(Note: the following story was written in September 2007)

At the gas station in Camaret I study the menu. I wonder whether to "fill 'er up" with Sans Plomb* 98 (better for the engine?) or Sans Plomb 95 (a few centimes less and just as suitable for my car).

Opening the little door that leads to the gas tank, I pause to re-read the sticker notice which cautions me to use fuel sans plomb. I have yet to make the mistake of filling the tank with another type of essence* (having learned from my husband's mistake); perhaps all that neurotic double-checking has served its purpose?

I look up to verify which pump I am at: "No 2," the sign says. Right, number two. I will remember "pump number two" in time to answer the clerk at the pay booth. (And I will remember, this time, to check that the price matches the total on the screen. OK. Check, check.)

I pull out the nozzle only to return it to its carriage as I always do. "78 euros" are registered on the pump's screen. I am concerned that if I begin pumping, the truck ahead of me will have a surprise tab at the pay booth. I wait until truck rolls past the booth before I pull out the gun once again, heaving a sigh of relief when the screen registers zero.

Next I try, as always, to set the nozzle to automatic. I want to pump as the pros do. I think it has something to do with hitching the nozzle's lever to some mysterious hook inside the handle. As always, the lever snaps back and I quickly give up. I'll never learn the trick, never mind that the other blond, at pump number three, seems to know it. Well, GOOD FOR HER.

When the lever snaps again, this time signaling a full tank, I resist the temptation to force in a few more ounces. Don't take chances; remember from experience that it's not worth the mess. I put the cap on the tank, turn the key and shut the little door. The screen reads 56 euros. (80 percent of that represents tax, as those who think about tax are wont to say. I should think more about tax.)

Pulling up to the pay booth, I can't help but notice the clerk on the other side of the window. She doesn't strike me as someone who checks manufacturer's notices for fuel requirements or recalls the risks of tank overflow--though she does have on a tank top and you might say it overflows. And she doesn't seem to take her job too seriously. (She is filing her toe nails.)

I marvel at her "filing-toe-nails-in-public" attitude which matches her unorthodox approach at manning the gas station pay booth. In the time that she makes me wait (she's finishing her pinkie toe), I think about how I could learn a thing or two from her: she with the hang-loose curls on her head and liberated legs (she's wearing cut-offs). The closest she has ever come to neurotic, I imagine, is in showing up for work every day.


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Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always welcome and appreciated in the comments box.

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References: sans plomb (m) = unleaded; l'essence (f) = petrol, gasoline


:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word:
MP3 file: Download sans_plomb.mp3
Wave file: Download sans_plomb.wav

Example Sentence: L’essence sans plomb 98 est plus détergente que l’essence sans plomb 95 et se révèle plus corrosive, en particulier pour les pièces en élastomères (caoutchoucs). Ces deux carburants contiennent de fortes quantités de composants aromatiques qui sont très toxiques. Il faut donc éviter d’en respirer les vapeurs et ne pas s’en servir comme agent de nettoyage ou de dégraissage. (from Wikipedia)
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Would anyone like to help translate the sentence, above? Put your interpretation in the comments box for all to see. Merci!

Cinéma Vérité

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Le Bateleur (c) Kristin Espinasse
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