The manager I liked came into the fuel center kiosk where I
was working around nine o’clock that morning. I’d been there a little more than
When I’d done the opening paperwork, I’d seen a note stating
that the coworker who was always late for work when he relieved me hadn’t even
shown up the day before. He’d pulled a no-call/no-show, and another employee
had come in early to cover the shift.
Do you think Dylan is
going to come in today? I asked the manager. Mostly I was being nosey and
fishing to find out if Dylan had been fired.
What do you mean?
Oh no! She wasn’t even aware of what had happened the day before. Now I’d opened a can of worms. I told her the paperwork from the previous night indicated that Dylan had been a no-call/no show.
I wasn’t aware,
She grabbed the schedule and began scrutinizing it. She
didn’t realize it was the next week’s schedule she was looking at. The new
schedule had come out the day before and had been placed on top of the schedule
for the current week.
She jabbed her finger at the schedule for Friday. She
thought she was looking at today Friday and not next week Friday. While I was
scheduled to work today Friday, I had the day off next week Friday. In her
confusion about which Friday she was looking at, the manager thought I wasn’t
supposed to be working today.
Why are you here?
she asked me.
Oh Tiffany, I
replied. I ask myself that all the time
Why AM I here?
She started laughing, which is always a good response to
kidding around. Then I showed her that she was looking at the schedule for the
next week. When I pulled out the current schedule, she saw I was indeed
supposed to be at work that day.
Dylan did not get fired. I never found out why he hadn’t
shown up for work the previous day or called to let someone know that he
couldn’t make it. The next time he was scheduled to relieve me, he showed up
several minutes late, the same as it ever was.
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by my friend Frank Roche. Frank is the mastermind behind The Postcardist podcast. He and I met on Instagram (you can follow me on Instagram too, @rubbertrampartist), and we stay in touch via social media and good ol’ snail mail. When Frank was looking for folks to interview for the second season of The Postcardist, I didn’t just raise my hand, I waved it around and squealed, “Me! Me! Me!”
Well, ok, the raising of my hand and waving it around and generally calling attention to myself is all metaphoric for my excitement at volunteering to do something I suspected would be really fun. I did offer myself up for an interview, and to my delight, Frank accepted my offer.
On the appointed day, Frank called me and we had a long conversation about postcards, my blog, and the state insect of New Mexico, the tarantula hawk wasp. As I suspected, talking with Frank was really fun.
If you want to hear the whole interview, you can find it on episode 75 of The Postcardist podcast. While you’re there, you can stick around and listen to conversations with many cool, nice people who love postcards as much as I do.
I took the photos in this post. Both are available as postcards. Ask me, and I’ll tell you how to get them.
I was asked a lot of stupid questions when I worked at the supermarket fuel center (aka gas station). People wanted to know why only the diesel or flex fuel light came on. (Because you lifted the diesel/flex fuel nozzle. If you lift the gasoline nozzle, the lights indicating regular, midgrade, or premium will come on.) People wanted to know why the screen on the pump instructed them to see the cashier. (Because you’re trying to use a credit card we don’t accept. The sign on each pump clearly states what methods of payment you can use.) One lady even demanded I tell her what kind of fuel she was supposed to use in her car. (Ma’am, I have no earthly idea.)
The dumbest question I got (on more than occasion) went
something like this:
Me: Hi! How can I help
Customer: I need to
get some gas.
Me [internal thought]: Duh!
I figured as much, since we’re at a gas station.
Me [aloud]: What pump
are you on?
Customer: Pump x.
Me: Great! How much do you want to put on pump x?
Customer [slowly]: Well…I
don’t know…I’m paying cash…I don’t know how much it will take.
To be fair, these customers may have been thinking back to a
day when they could tell the gas station attendant they wanted to fill up and
the attendant would authorize the pump to spew fuel into the universe until the
customer returned the nozzle to its cradle. I remember those days. I remember
when gas station customers could pay for their fuel after it was in the vehicle.
Of course, such a procedure could lead to the popular gas-n-go scam in which
the driver filled up the vehicle’s tank and drove away without paying a penny.
(I worked in a gas
station years ago, a customer told me. When
people drove off without paying, that money came out of my paycheck, he
At the fuel center where I worked, no open ended
transactions took place through the kiosk. When customers used credit or debit
cards at the pump, they could pump gas from here to eternity (or until they’d
drained their debit account or maxed out their credit card). However, if
customers brought the same debit or credit cards to me to run inside the kiosk,
I couldn’t do anything until I was told the dollar amount the customer wanted
Could you turn on pump
x? customers sometimes asked me.
Well, no, I couldn’t. The POS (point-of-sale) system was
designed to make stealing gas without the participation of the fuel clerk
virtually impossible. I couldn’t just turn on pumps and trust customers to come
back and pay for the fuel they’d put into their vehicles. Any time I authorized
a sale on a pump, I authorized it for a specific dollar amount after I had the
money on my side of the bulletproof glass.
I suppose I could have participated in fuel theft by
authorizing a pump for an amount of money I had not received. Say a friend came
to the fuel center and wanted to get $10 on pump 4 but only had five bucks. It
was possible for me to authorize pump 4 for $10 even though I’d only been given
$5. However, such thievery certainly would have come back to bite me in the
ass. If I’d authorized a pump for a dollar amount I failed to collect, my drawer
would have been short. Eventually some
bookkeeper would have noticed, and I would have suffered negative consequences.
I don’t know how other gas stations work, but my place of
employment was strictly a pay-before-you-pump place. When customers wanted to
pay cash, they had to tell me how much money they wanted to spend, which brings
us back to the stupidest question I ever encountered on the job.
A customer wanted to pay cash to fill up a vehicle. The
customer didn’t know how much money it would take to pay for a fill-up on the
vehicle in question. I told the customer I couldn’t do an open ended
transaction; I needed to put a specific dollar amount into the cash register.
What will happen if
filling the tank doesn’t take as much money as I give you? more than one
customer asked. Will you give me change?
I wanted to say, Oh,
no! If you overpay, we keep your money. We don’t give change here.
I wanted to say, Of
course we give you change, you idiot! Do you think we could get away with
keeping your money?
I wanted to say, How
is a gas station different from any other business when it comes to change?
It’s not!! If you overpay, of course you get change!
Instead, I’d say something like, Oh, yes. I’ll give you change for whatever amount you don’t use. Just
come back here when you’re done, and I’ll get cash for you right away.
To be fair, the change confusion was not a daily occurrence,
but it happened more than once during the two months I worked at the fuel
center. It was never a kid asking if they’d get their money back if they
overpaid; the person confused about paying cash and getting change was always
someone beyond middle age.
Have you never been to
a gas station before? I sometimes wanted to ask customers. How do you not know how this works?
I had to remind myself that some people may have been buying and pumping fuel for the first time after many years of having a partner do it for them. I tried to remember that the confused folks may have been accustomed to paying with debit or credit cards and truly didn’t remember how paying with cash worked. Of course some of my customers were probably just dumb or possibly from another planet.
When I worked at the fuel center (aka gas station) of a supermarket briefly during the summer of 2019, my POS (point-of-sale) system kept me updated on the monetary situations occurring at the pumps. I could look at my screen and tell who had paid at the kiosk and who had paid at the pump. I could see which customers had not yet begun to pump fuel and which ones had finished up. Most conveniently, I could see who was owed change.
The POS system kept track of how much money had been paid on
each pump. If the customer overpaid, the POS system told me exactly how much
change that customer was owed. When the customer came back to the kiosk for
change, I only had to touch a few buttons then look on my screen to find out
how much cash to hand back. If I was really at the top of my game, I would have
a customer’s change waiting by the time the person walked up to the window.
Some people were so dead set on getting their change, they never even walked away from the kiosk. Of course, this only worked when a companion stayed at the car to pump the fuel. I wondered what went through the heads of people who stood right next to the kiosk while the companion pumped the fuel. Maybe the person who stayed was too tired to walk 15 feet back to the car, another 15 feet to return to the kiosk to collect the change, then 15 feet again to get to the car in preparation for departure. Maybe they were afraid I was going to take off with their $23.76 (or $11.43 or $4.98 or whatever), and run off to Mexico to start a new life. I don’t know how those people felt, but I felt awkward as hell when they hung around the kiosk waiting for the moment I could hand over their money.
Other people were so seemingly unconcerned with money that they left without their change. This didn’t happen often, and when it did, it was usually only a few cents left behind. When I noticed the screen showing a dollar (or cents) amount in parentheses, I knew that money was owed to the customer. When I looked out the big kiosk windows and saw the pump where the change was owed was empty, I knew the customer had absentmindedly taken off without it or was too embarrassed to come back for a few pennies.
One day a man stepped up to the kiosk and gave me a large bill to pay for gas on pump 8. He mentioned his truck probably wouldn’t take all the gas the big bill would buy. I told him to just come back for his change. No problem.
Minutes passed, and I forgot about the fellow getting fuel
on pump 8. When I next looked at my POS screen, I saw $12.53 was owed to the
customer who’d used pump 8. However, when I looked over at pump 8, it was
empty. The man who’d given me the big
bill was gone.
Twelve dollars is a pretty substantial amount of money. I
could imagine some people (not me, I’m a frugal gal) leaving a few pennies
behind, but I couldn’t imagine anyone abandoning more than a dollar. I figured
the guy wanted his change, but had forgotten it.
I went through the steps on the POS system to make the
change. I left the money in the cash drawer, but on the receipt I wrote a
little note about what had happened. I left the receipt on top of the cash
register, thinking the customer would return soon and I’d know just how much
money to give him.
The customer didn’t come back. Hours passed. The customer didn’t
return. The next time I dropped cash into the safe, I included the receipt with
the note on it.
Of course, not long after I dropped the receipt into the
safe, the phone rang. It was the customer who’d forgotten his $12.53. He seemed
surprised but pleased that I remembered him. No problem, I told him. Just
come back by and pick up your change.
He was home by then, about 30 miles away. He thought he’d be
back in town probably Monday. I told
him if he wouldn’t be back before my shift was over, he should go directly to
customer service when he did come in. I explained I’d written a note and
included it with a safe drop so the situation had been documented. I said if he
explained the circumstances to the person working at the customer service booth
when he came in, there should be no problem getting his change.
The fellow thanked me profusely. I think he’d expected to
get the run around, but he was so grateful when I remembered him and admitted
to knowing he had left his change. Perhaps an unscrupulous cashier would have
pocketed his $12.53, but not me. No way was I going to take something I knew
didn’t belong to me.
I’m not an avid coffee drinker myself. Sure, I enjoy a caffeine buzz occasionally, especially if I’m trying to get some work done, but if I were on a camping trip and had no coffee to drink…no problem.
I know many other people feel differently than I do when it comes to having a cup of coffee in the morning. A morning without coffee couldmake an otherwise lovely camping trip hell for lots of folks. That’s why I was glad when Joshua Hodge, the founder of the Deep Blue Mountain outdoor blog offered to write a guest post about how to make delicious coffee while camping.
Joshua offers advice on making coffee three simple ways so even in the great outdoors, you don’t have to be without your favorite java.
Loyal fans of coffee like to enjoy the beverage everywhere from our cozy kitchens in the morning to our desks while working in the afternoons. Coffee is the thing that moves us, and without it our days can be grim
Access to coffee–anytime, anywhere we want it–should be the right of every coffee lover. However, there are some places where getting our favorite drink can be tough and troublesome. Unfortunately while on a camping trip can be one one of those challenging times for coffee drinkers.
Today I will teach you how to make coffee outdoors while camping. This tutorial will focus on more traditional and natural ways to make coffee so expect your coffee to be bold and wild.
Probably the easiest way to make coffee while camping is cowboy coffee. This method is for all those who value simplicity and have an adventurous spirit.
For this kind of coffee, you will only need three components: good quality groundcoffee, a pot, and a heat source.
Your cowboy coffee can taste pretty awful or incredibly great, depending on the recipe you use. I think the recipe I am about to share with you will lead to coffee that will be a treat for your senses.
Add water to the pot and bring it to a boil – preferably using a campfire.
Once the water starts boiling, remove the pot and let it sit for 30 seconds. (Letting the water sit will bring it to the ideal temperatureof 200°F. )
For every 8 ounces of water, add 2 tablespoons of finely ground beans (preferably from a local roastery).
Stir the grounds into the water.
Let your brew sit for 2 minutes then stir again.
Let it to sit for another 2 minutesafter stirring.
After 4 minutes of brewing, sprinkle a little bit of cold water over your grounds.
Slowly pour the coffee, to keep grounds on the bottom of the pot.
Important note: Do not let the brew sit for too long,or it will get over-extracted. You will get the best aroma and taste if you pour immediately after brewing.
Voila, your cup of Joe the cowboy way is ready, and it tastes great, doesn’t it? – If you followed the recipe, I know it does.
Cowboy coffee is ideal for camping – it is bold, untamed, and rich, with the spirit of the Old West.
Coffee in a tea bag
This is a simple method in the form of good-old-fashioned tea bags packed with tasty grounds. You can find many delicious coffee grounds packed in bags from coffee beans coming from Guatemala, Indonesia, Ethiopia, or any other region you prefer. You can also make your own coffee bags according to Thorin Klosowski on Lifehacker.
Even more, coffee in teabags can really offer interesting combinations of taste and give specific overtones – like smoky, chocolate, or fruity. If you prefer a variety of coffee aromas and love exotic or interesting overtones, teabag coffee is an ideal option for your camping adventure.
Now, let me show you how convenient and easy it to make a tea bag coffee cuppa. It is as easy as steeping a tea bag and it works like this:
Put the coffee brew bag in your mug and pour hot water over.
Steep until you get the strength you want and then remove the bag.
The best part of a tea bag coffee is that you control the whole brewing process and dictate the taste. Additionally, most of the coffee bags are recyclable. Tea Bag coffee is simple to prepare and can almost taste as good as, say, French press coffee. You will treat yourself to a decent cup of coffee and a range of aromas if you decide to go for this option while camping.
The magnificent percolator
The third method for coffee making is using a percolator. This method is for those who don’t want to compromise their coffee’s taste, even while camping. With this method, you’ll experience the wafting smell of coffee and a bold, rich taste. With a percolater, you’ll be able to brew large amounts of coffee, so your coffee-drinking camp mates will be satisfied sooner.
Not every percolator is the same, and there are nuances when choosing the right one. I suggest checking this percolator guide to see what kind of percolator best fits your needs.
Percolators have two parts that are responsible for making the coffee: a pot and a vertical tube. Additionally, the vertical tube has a perforated basket on top of it where the grounds are held during brewing.
The process of brewing using a percolator involves hot water (heated on a fire) going up the vertical tube and entering the basket where the grounds are. Next, water goes through the grounds, extracts soluble matter from them, and goes back into the pot. This cycle repeats until your tasty, bold coffee is ready. Many percolators have a viewing bubble which will allow you to observe when coffee gets the right color.
A percolator may need a little “getting used to” for best results. In that light, here are a few tips for beginners:
To determine capacity – Divide the amount of water the percolator holds by 5 and the result will be the number of servings
Coffee strength – Half of a standard coffee measure will get you light coffee. Three-quarters of the measure will produce medium strength coffee. A whole measure will give you strong coffee.
Camping will take you far from stressful days in the city and open your senses to the wilderness. Meanwhile, your body and soul will rest, and the time spent outdoors will allow you to reconnect with yourself and nature. However, it’s not a full experience if you give up coffee.
Hopefully I’ve provided the easiest methods for a more than a decent cup of Joe on your camping trip. Choose the method that fit your needs and personality the best, and feel free to experiment.
Zazzle is an American online marketplace that allows designers and customers to create their own products with independent manufacturers (clothing, posters, etc.), as well as use images from participating companies.
Zazzle.com offers digital printing, and embroidered decoration on their retail apparel items, as well as other personalization techniques and items.
This is how it works for me. I upload one of my photos or an image in the public domain to the Zazzle website. Then I can adjust the size of the image plus add text, backgrounds, or other improvements. I can add the image (and text if I like) to postcards, note cards, shirts, tote bags, magnets, notebooks, luggage tags, caps, water bottles, buttons, and lots of other things. Here’s an example of merchandise I have for sale in the Stop Hate Collection in my BlaizinSunCreations store, all featuring a photo I took of a stop sign in Northern New Mexico.
The plus side for me is that I don’t have to pay for and stock all this merchandise. When an item sells, I get a (small) royalty, and Zazzle does all the work.
I’ve got plans for other stores too, including one especially for vandwellers, rubber tramps, nomads, boondockers, RVers, campers, vagabonds, and travelers of all kinds. I also want to open stores dedicated to the sights of Arizona and New Mexico. I’ll be sure to let you know when those stores are ready for you to browse.
In the meantime, I’d love for you to take a look at all the great items I currently have for sale. If you feel like buying things, that would be fantastic too.
I took the photos in this post. The Rubber Tramp Artist logo was designed by the late Samantha Adelle.
Since today is American Independence Day, I thought I’d share an American story with you as a blog post bonus.
A couple of months before I started working at the fuel
center (aka gas station), the corporation that owns it decided to stop
accepting a major credit card. According to a flier given to customers before
the major credit card was blackballed, the company I worked for
is charged excessive bank fees when customers use [the major credit card in question] at the checkout. To help keep your grocery price low, we’ve decided not to accept [this particular major credit card].
At the time I worked there, the fuel center accepted three
other major credit cards, as well as debit cards, including debit cards with
the name of the credit card we didn’t accept on them. Confused? So were the customers.
The folks who lived in town and got fuel regularly where I worked were slowly growing accustomed to the change, but I worked in a tourist town, and the tourists who stopped in for fuel were in a perpetual state of WTF. Every day at least five visitors ran their card two or three times before the screen on the pump instructed the person pumping fuel to see the cashier. (Of course, when I was at work, the cashier was me.) Nine out of ten of the customers sent to see me were already pissed off. I could see it in their faces and their body language. When I told them the problem was that the store quit accepting their credit card of choice months earlier, they were usually incredulous. Some of them wanted to discuss the situation with me (What card CAN I use? or Can I use my debit card?) but some simply walked away without speaking, looks of anger and/or disgust on their faces.
You must be the only
gas station in the country that doesn’t take [the credit card he wanted to use],
one visitor spat at me during my last week of work.
Maybe, I said
noncommittally to him. I wasn’t going to argue with him because for all I knew,
he was right.
Many of the locals who knew they couldn’t use the particular credit card where I worked were not too happy about the situation. One elderly lady gave me an earful. Neither the bulletproof glass between us nor the scratchy intercom deterred her.
I know it’s not your
fault, but it is ridiculous you don’t take [the credit card in question]. And
it’s a shame they make you say it’s to keep prices low. Every time I go into
the supermarket, everything is so expensive! My friends don’t even come here
I cut in to offer my apologies, but she didn’t want to hear
them. She just wanted to rant.
I know it’s not your
fault, she repeated, then started back in with her tirade.
I wanted to ask her why she was making me listen to her
complaints if she knew the situation was not my fault and I could do nothing to
remedy it, but instead I kept my mouth shut and tried to appear sympathetic. I
didn’t understand why she continued to spend money where I worked if she thought
the prices were too high and she hated the payment options.
The fellow in line behind her must have been tired of
listening to her too. He was a big guy, easily over six feet tall, and he
probably weighted upwards of 200 pounds. While he didn’t physically push the
little old lady away, he used his size to intimidate her, so she stepped off to
the side of the drawer I used to collect payment and deliver cigarettes, candy,
and change. While the lady was still complaining, the large customer drowned
out her voice by demanding, $25 on 6!
The elderly lady looked startled, then scurried away.
On the one hand, I thought the male customer had behaved
What’s wrong with you?
I wanted to ask him. That woman was
old enough to be your mother. Would you want someone to treat your mother that
On the other hand, God bless him. If he hadn’t stepped up,
that lady might have gone on for another five minutes.
Of course, each pump had a sticker saying we only took the
debit version of the card. Of course, most customers don’t read the words on
One afternoon an elderly man approached the kiosk while a
manager was in there with me. She happened to be closest to the intercom when
the fellow walked up, so she asked how she could help him.
He said the screen on the pump had told him to see the
cashier. The manager asked him if he was trying to use the credit card we didn’t
accept. He confirmed that he was. The manager told him we’d stopped taking that
card several months prior. He was obviously livid.
The customer stomped off, and the manager went to the back
of the kiosk, out of sight. I thought she’d left.
Maybe two minutes later, I looked out of the bulletproof
glass to see the already angry customer booking it back to the kiosk. When he
reached the window, I switched on the intercom and asked how I could help him.
You don’t take [card
we didn’t take], right? he asked me.
That’s right, I
Then why does every
pump have a sticker saying you take it? he wanted to know. He really
thought he had me now.
Oh, sir, I said
nicely, those stickers say ‘debit only.”
He spun on his heels and took off without a word.
I thought his head was
going to explode, my manager said.
I thought you’d left,
I said to her.
I saw him coming back,
so I ducked out of sight.
I’m really glad you
saw that, I told her. It happens all
A few days later a youngish woman came up to the kiosk. She
was holding two red two-gallon gas cans. She seemed a little frantic.
The pump told me to
see the cashier, she said to me.
Are you trying to use [the credit card we didn’t take], I asked her. She was.
I’m sorry. We quit
taking those in April.
Now I’ve lost my place
in line, she screeched. There should
be a sign! There should be a sign!
I tried to tell her about the stickers on the pumps, but she
didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. She was already crossing the fuel
center to negotiate with the woman who had pulled her truck up to the pump the
woman with the gas cans had been trying to use.
My favorite response from a frustrated credit card user came
one busy afternoon. The line was about five deep when a man stepped up the
window and told me the screen on the pump had instructed him to see the
I asked him if he was using the credit card we didn’t
accept. He said he was. I told him we didn’t accept it.
He busted out with, Is
I almost busted out laughing, but managed to keep a straight face. I don’t know if the guy was referencing the free enterprise system or the Rah! Rah! Rah! U!S!A! freedoms certain segments of the population tend to celebrate. All I knew was it didn’t matter what country we were in—I couldn’t process the card he wanted to use.