Flash mob at the petrol pump

Beth Cooper Howell
Beth Cooper Howell

The guy in the purple sports car was probably hoping for a quick getaway. He had cruised in for petrol and nodded briefly, politely at the attendant, who grinned widely while cleaning the windscreen.

Then something peculiar happened. We know what’s next, because we’re watching the edited recording.

But the good-looking guy in the car – he had no clue, then. On his way to work, or to a date, or to pick up the kids, he was caught in a flash mob. Lucky oke. I love flash mobs. Most people do.

Engen has tapped into this with a 100% home-grown, feel-good, foot-tapping show in the forecourt of a Cape Town petrol station.

What I love most about flash mobs is the faces of the people witnessing them; the slight confusion, the warm spread of a smile as they realise that “something fun is going on here, smack bang in the middle of my boring day, and man – it feels good”.

The purple car man’s stress evaporates – he seems legitimately caught out and not part of the cast – as his attendant drops the windscreen sponge and hits the forecourt, dancing solo to Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse’s catchy hit, Burn Out.

More “petrol attendants” join him, popping acrobatic moves. A lady in a small red car giggles, while purple car man gazes at the show, completely in the moment, looking first confused and then broadly chuffed.

The video has gone viral, which is great marketing for the petrol giant, and a nod to how much people want to be cheered up.

While the Engen brand gets a boost, South African viewers are spinning the story as being typical of “South African spirit”.

Flash mobs happen everywhere, from Barcelona to Bloemfontein. According to Wikipedia, they’re defined as a “group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purpose of entertainment, satire and artistic expression”.

I’ve watched videos of well-orchestrated mobs at diverse locations worldwide and the public reaction on the ground is always the same – priceless.

When shoppers in big malls are treated to operatic choirs bursting into arias in the aisles, or focused pedestrians are stopped in their tracks as a bunch of musicians set up on sidewalks, they have no option but to be in the now; paused for a few minutes between destinations, deadlines and the dreaded humdrum of life’s necessities.

Whether or not the purple car guy was a set-up, or a genuine high roller caught in a flash, his look of pure pleasure was the best bit of the video for me. “Man,” he seemed to be thinking, “that made me feel good.”


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