Time to pay for air

Time to pay for air

Friday, November 22, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The heavy downpour over the past weekend not only served to reveal and exaggerate the poor state of many of our non-highway road surfaces, but, in a personal way, provided a context for me to declare that the time has come for there to be a charge for air in Jamaica. Not for the oxygen that we breath, but for air. I explain.

During the aftermath of the heavy weekend rains I had an urgent need to inflate my car tyres. I limped along to the nearest service station on Shortwood Road only to be confronted with a sign indicating that the air pump was out of service. Dejectedly, I progressed slowly along Upper Waterloo Road to another service station, where I was again confronted with a neatly printed sign that proclaimed that the air pump was out of service.

Convincing myself that this was not due to strike action on the part of the union representing the interests of air pumps, my car wobbled to the next and onward to the fourth service station, whose signs all proclaimed that the air pumps were out of service. I was dutifully informed by an attendant at the fourth station that thieves sometimes cannibalise the apparatus for the air pumps and 'mash dem up'.

Thankfully, I was able to urge my car to my reliable 24-hour tyre repair spot on Half-Way-Tree Road near Balmoral Avenue where Sheldon took care of my tyres with alacrity.

Though I have no evidence to suggest that the air pumps are mostly out of service due to vandalism as opposed to mistreatment by motorists or due to mechanical failure, I do have evidence which suggests that too often our local service stations do not have a properly functioning air pump.

In the main, motorists and others have come to expect that each service station will have a functioning air pump. In fact, over the past few years, several stations have upgraded from the red mechanical air pumps to the modern versions with features such as digital displays, cut-resistant retractable air hoses, among other innovative features. Based on my anecdotal observations, and a few inquiries, I have come to understand that these upgrades have not been accompanied by a charge to the public or clients of the service stations. But maybe the time has come.

Maybe the time has come for the service stations to implement a charge such as $100 per four-minute on/off duty cycle. This modest charge can accomplish a few things. It will remind us that nothing in life is for free; it can assist the operators to defray costs to keep the pumps protected and in good repair, thereby delivering on-demand quality pressurised air pump service with minimum downtime.

Maybe the time has come to charge for air.

Christopher Pryce


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