Author Archives: Blaize Sun

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

Inside Out

Standard

I was selling at a farmers market in a small Arizona town. I’d brought a bunch of new rocks from Quartzsite, and they were practically flying off my table. It was turning out to be a lucrative day.

It was late in the morning when the woman walked up to my table. She was probably in her late 50s. Her hair was died a tasteful dark red, and her makeup was understated by apparent. She was wearing a flowy, cream colored blouse, and she held a little dog in her arms.

These stones are septarian concretions, also known as dragon stones or dragon eggs.

I told her about the septarian concretions on my table and the $3 hearts cut from agate, carnelian, labradorite, and rose quartz. The woman was polite, but seemed distracted. She gave my wares a cursory look, but didn’t seem interested in anything I was selling.

As she moved toward the end of my table, I thought I saw a white tag on the side seam of her blouse. I thought it was strange to see a tag on the outside of her blouse. Had this woman put her shirt on inside out and was now wearing it that way around town?

I was concerned for the woman because I put on my own shirt inside out much too often. Especially when I’m living in my van, especially if I get dressed before the sun’s fully out, especially if I’m rewearing a sweatshirt I hurriedly pulled over my head and tossed into a corner before I fell asleep, I might find myself wearing a shirt with the wrong side out. Sometimes I wear the shirt with the seams and tag showing for hours before I realize what’s up. I’m always a little sheepish when I realize that at nearly 50 years old, I still can’t successfully dress myself on a consistent basis.

I wanted to spare this woman embarrassment, but I also didn’t want to insult her. Maybe this was a fancy designer blouse and the tag had been purposefully placed on the outside of the side seam. I certainly wouldn’t know if this was some sort of new style.

I surveyed the woman’s shirt as she moved along my table. I didn’t see obvious seams, but there was certainly a tag on the side where two pieces of fabric usually come together. Should I say something?

As she turned to walk away, I saw another tag on the back of the shirt’s neckline, right in the spot where shirt manufacturers typically put tags. Now the shirt really appeared to be inside out. It was now or never!

Ma’am? I called out. She turned right around and looked at me.

I took three steps over and stood close to her. I leaned in and said in a low voice, I think your shirt is on inside out. I was striving to present no judgement, just to state my perceptions of the circumstances at hand.

Oh! I did that when I got dressed! she exclaimed. Apparently she’d realized she’d put on her shirt inside out, meant to switch it, but had moved on to other activities and had forgotten her fashion mistake.

Now I’m going to have to go back to my camper to change it, she told me.

I don’t care if you don’t care, I said, trying to reassure her.

But I do care! she said.

She headed toward the parking lot, and I went back to my table. About ten minutes later, the woman came by again to tell me she’d flipped her shirt. There was not a tag in sight.

I took the photo in this post.

Flex Fuel

Standard

I could tell the woman was mad by the way she approached the kiosk. She was short—probably not even 5 feet tall—but she swaggered like a football player taking the field.

Her hair was totally white and cut short. She wore glasses and a black t-shirt with chile peppers screen printed on it. (When she turned around, I saw the back of the shirt read “Some like it hot.”)

She never smiled when I asked how I could help her this morning.

Only the light for the flex fuel comes on! she complained.

I found out what pump she was on and said I’d come out and try to help. Was the flex fuel going to give us problems now? Two diesel pumps were out of order already. I didn’t really need another problem so early in the morning.

I left the kiosk and found the woman waiting for me. I followed her to the pump where her car was parked. As soon as she got there, she grabbed the yellow handle of the flex fuel nozzle from under the yellow sign that read “flex fuel this nozzle only.” When she lifted the nozzle, the light on the flex fuel selector button lit up.

Only the light for flex fuel comes on! she said as if she hated me, my ancestors, and my descendants.

I was trying really hard to understand what was going on. It seemed to me that if one lifted the flex fuel handle, one should expect the light for flex fuel to come on.

Do you want flex fuel? I asked.

Noooooooo!  she wailed as if I were the dumbest dummy she’d ever encountered. She was exceptionally frustrated.

Oh. Well, go ahead and hang up the flex fuel nozzle, I told her.

She hung it up, and I grabbed the handle to the gasoline nozzle. As soon as I lifted the gasoline handle, the lights on the selectors for regular, midgrade, and premium lit up.

Oh, the woman said flatly. I’m sorry.

She didn’t sound sorry. She sounded still pissed, but also embarrassed.

Don’t worry about, I told her. It happens all the time, I said, even though it hadn’t happened even once before in the month I’d worked at the fuel center. 

World Suicide Prevention Day

Standard
2019 World Suicide Prevention Day banner in English

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. According to the World Suicide Prevention Day website,

Suicide prevention remains a universal challenge. Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.

To help call attention to this tragic reality, today’s post is about my own experience with suicide.

The Man and I were going over the Bridge at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning in early June. I was driving. When we were in the middle of the Bridge, I looked over and saw two uniformed state troopers standing on the observation deck. They were looking down, down, down, into the river. One peered through a pair of binoculars, and the other looked with his naked eyes.

Oh no!  I said. Someone must have jumped. I knew those state troopers weren’t bird watching. If they were looking down at the river on a Saturday morning, they were probably trying to spot a body.

Do you think so? The Man asked.

Unfortunately, I had to say yes.

When I sold jewelry and shiny rocks at the Bridge, it was always a sad time for me after someone jumped. Whenever I got word that a suicide had happened, I packed up my merchandise and went elsewhere for the day. Too many people (tourists and vendors alike) wanted to talk about the event as if it was only the latest bit of juicy gossip. Other people made bad jokes about suicide or said indignantly that it was something they would never do. Suicide has been a reality I’ve faced throughout my life, and I don’t take it lightly. There’s nothing funny about it as far as I’m concerned. Any time a person is so distraught that taking their own life seems like a good idea is a time for sorrow and mourning.

Even with the call boxes offering a direct line to a suicide prevention hotline placed on and around the Bridge, people still jump. Some people have given up, and no hotline can save them. Of course, I’m glad the call boxes are there. I’m glad they’re available to help the people who can be reached, the people who are undecided, the people who may be swayed by the kind voice of a stranger coming out of a speaker.

About three hours after I saw the state troopers on the Bridge, we headed over it again on our way home. I saw several vehicles marked “State Police.” They were all parked on the sides of the highway and none of them had lights or sirens on.

Something is definitely going on, I told The Man. Did you see all those State Police cars?

He had seen them too. We both knew those cops weren’t out at the Bridge having a picnic. We were both quiet the rest of the way home.

On Wednesday, my fears were confirmed.

I was listening to the local community radio station while I washed dishes. One of the news stories was about a woman who had committed suicide by jumping off the Bridge the previous Saturday. I was sad to have been right.

The radio announcer didn’t give many details about the death. He said the State Police don’t release the names of suicide victims out of respect for the survivors. He did say the woman had driven hours from her home in the big city to jump off the Bridge. Her family said she’d been depressed and talking about suicide. When her family members couldn’t get in touch with her, they called the State Police and asked them to do a wellness check.

The State Police found the woman’s car in the rest area adjacent to the Bridge. After finding the car, they started looking for the woman in the rest area. When they couldn’t find her there, they started looking below the Bridge. Unfortunately, that’s where they found her. I don’t know if she jumped at night so the darkness shielded her from the sight of her body’s final destination or if she waited until after sunrise so she could see where she was going. However it happened, by 10am she was gone.

The radio announcer said the woman was the second person to jump off the Bridge in 2019. The first person had jumped in April.

When someone jumps, I think it’s a sad and somber occasion, even if I’m not at the Bridge when it happens or when the body is discovered. When someone jumps, a life is over, a light has gone out, potential will never be realized. I know the pain and distress that leads people to kill themselves, and I don’t wish such hurt and sadness on anyone. 

Honestly, I’ve considered jumping from that bridge several times. I’m not sure what’s held me back, but whenever someone ends their life there, I think about how it could have been me. I have a personal connection with every single person who jumps from the Bridge.

Whenever I drive across the Bridge—especially in the early morning when I’m alone in the truck—I fantasize about seeing someone about to jump, stopping the truck, intervening, driving the person to safety. I was too late for the woman in June, but maybe I’ll be right on time for the next person.

If you are feeling sad, depressed, distraught, or suicidal, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1800-273-8255. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If you have internet access, you can find more information on the hotline’s website. If you’d rather chat with a counselor instead of talking, you can do so from the website. If you’re having trouble, please ask for help.

Sick Dog

Standard
Jerico the Dog! (Photo by The Man)

The Man says Jerico the dog has suffered from acid reflux since he was a puppy. I don’t remember the first time I woke up in the night to find Jerico swallowing rapidly and repeatedly, but this situation became a running theme in our lives. When the swallowing began, a hunt for grass was on. Jerico would eat the grass (with gusto, obsessively) and eventually puke it up. The puking seemed to settle his stomach and let him rest.

There was grass for Jerico to eat in this meadow. (I took this photo.)

Finding grass was no problem if we were camped near a river or a meadow, but it was harder to come by if we were in a desert. I remember once waking up in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Santa Fe, NM at 4am to the sound of the swallowing dog. The parking lot landscape did not include nonnative grass growing like a lawn (Good for you, Santa Fe Wal-Mart!), so there was nothing for Jerico to eat to induce vomiting. We had to drive off into the dark to find another business (a school, actually) that did landscape with grass.

I worried about Jerico eating grass, especially from an area where it might have been sprayed with chemicals. Who knew what sort of pesticides grass in or around a parking lot might be subjected to? Even if the grass wasn’t sprayed with poisons, was it safe for Jerico to eat so much of it? The Man maintained that dogs naturally eat grass, and since eating grass was the only thing that made Jerico feel better, it was ok for him to do so.

The Man experimented with other remedies. I drove to a supermarket late one night to buy a bottle of Pepto-Bismol to cure Jerico’s ills. The Man poured a dose of the pink stuff down Jerico’s gullet, and it did seem to relieve his stomach woes. Baking soda dissolved in water seemed to work even better. Of course, Jerico didn’t enjoy having anything poured down his throat, so we often had a dried crust (either pink or white, depending on the remedy) on the floor on the morning after one of his attacks. 

If no humans were around when an attack happened and Jerico couldn’t get to grass, he would eat anything he thought might help. Unfortunately, what his dog brain thought might help never did. Once I left a long, thin strip of sheet hanging in the bathroom of the fifth wheel. (I was sure I’d find a use for it eventually.)  The Man came home to find Jerico had eaten it (then puked it back up) in a fit of acid reflux. Another time when we went on a hike that lasted waaay longer than we thought it would, Jerico chewed the portion of the plastic garbage bag that hung over the edge of the trash can. Luckily, he puked that up too. The Man lived in fear that Jerico would eat a plastic grocery store bag (or something equally dangerous) if he were to have an attack while we were away. Jerico didn’t stay home alone much.

We tried planting grass near the fifth wheel in the Sonoran Desert. I bought special organic “cat grass,” and The Man planted it, but it didn’t grow. I think it might have done better in a planter instead of going directly into the ground.

In retrospect, I see how Jerico’s bouts of acid reflux were getting more frequent. The Man must have recognized it too, even if only on a subconscious level. He did some research on diet and acid reflux and found that beef can exacerbate the condition. Jerico didn’t know it, but he’d had his last can of wet dogfood as a treat. He did get canned mackerel sometimes, when The Man could find a brand with no added salt or oil. The Man also switched Jerico to a dry food with salmon as the first ingredient. Jerico’s stomach seemed to do better for a while.

We’d gone into town early one day to take showers and do other errands. When I went to the parking lot after my shower, I saw The Man pulling the truck behind the building. I met him in the back where he’d let Jerico out to eat grass. I knew this meant Jerico was suffering from an attack. Throughout our day, we had to stop several times to let Jerico out to eat more grass. No matter how much he ate, it didn’t seem to help.

At home, he was no better. He kept trying to find something, anything he could eat to help relieve his discomfort. Unfortunately, there was no grass growing anywhere on our property. Finally, The Man (who was working to get our solar power system up and running) asked me to drive Jerico somewhere with grass he could eat.  I ended up driving about three miles before I found some actual grass growing.

I parked the truck on the edge of the road, and Jerico and I crept through the barbed wire fence to get to the patches of deep green grass. I felt like the father of the unborn Rapunzel stealing arugula from the witch to satisfy his wife’s cravings, but what else could I do? I didn’t want to send Jerico to the other side of the fence alone. What if he saw a rabbit and bolted? What if a coyote or a half-wild dog came along and wanted to fight? I felt safer trespassing with him.

I let him eat to his heart’s (stomach’s) content, then loaded him back into the truck. I hoped it was safe to take him home now.

At home he continued to swallow excessively. His stomach still hurt. He wanted more grass.

The Man mixed up some baking soda with water and poured the concoction down Jerico’s throat. We tried to keep the pup calm while we gave the remedy time to work. He was obviously uncomfortable and wanted to pace.

I wonder if dogs can have Zantac, The Man muttered, reaching for the phone to ask Google.

Turns out dogs can have Zantac. I got in the truck and made a trek to town to get the medication. Nearly two hours later, I got home with my precious cargo. The Man cut on of the tablets in half and pushed it down Jerico’s throat. We again tried to keep him calm, and this time after about half an hour, the medication actually worked. We were all able to get some rest that night.

About a week later, Jerico was at it again. We got home from another day of errands. Jerico jumped from the truck and started eating from clumps of grass The Man had recently transplanted. Thus began 18 hours of hell.

First he ate more grass than I’d ever seen him ingest. He literally ate the newly transplanted grass to death.     

When we brought him inside, he stayed in front of the door and paced. When we let him go outside again, he headed straight to the grass and started chomping on it again. This pattern was repeated throughout the evening.

At a quarter to six, the Man gave Jerico half a Zantac. Again, we tried to keep him calm while the medication did its magic. He never calmed down. He continued to swallow and pace. The medicine did no magic.

Around six o’clock, The Man wondered if we should make an emergency visit to a vet. He called the after-hours number of one of the veterinary offices in town. He didn’t specifically say his dog was in an emergency situation, so the woman who answered the phone made an appointment for us to go in the next day.

The only thing other than eating grass that seemed to ease Jerico’s distress was going outside and walking. We weren’t sure if he was soothed by the distraction of the change of scenery or the motion of movement or by the fact that he was in an upright position (or some combination of the three factors), but he was calmer when we took him outside. We spent a lot of time that evening taking Jerico outside, thinking (hoping, praying) he was better, taking him inside, then realizing he wasn’t better at all.

At ten o’clock The Man decided to give Jerico another half a Zantac. I was afraid it was too soon to give him more, but The Man said obviously the first dose hadn’t done anything to solve the problem. He thought a second dose might make things better for Jerico so we could all get some sleep.

The second dose of Zantac did not allow anyone to get any sleep. Jerico continued to move around and swallow. When we took him outside for the last pee of the night, he headed directly to the transplanted clumps of grass and tried to eat some more.

Around midnight I had Jerico on his leash, walking with him around our property when he barfed up a wad of grass that had the approximate look (size, shape, color) of an unshucked cob of corn. Gross! The grass had come back up, but that didn’t solve the problem.

We continued to walk around past 1am, when I grew too tired to stand. Jerico and I went into the trailer and got in the bed with The Man who’d had the pleasure or an hour of sleep.

Jerico never settled down, never stopped swallowing. I got a few hours of fitful sleep, but Jerico’s distress kept me from resting. Around 5am I took him outside again. Sunrise seemed to bring him some relief, although he was by no means well. We were glad he had an appointment with a vet for that day. None of us wanted to spend another night like the one we’d just had.

We arrived at the appointment right on time. Everyone working at the office was friendly and kind. We were brought into an exam room with a vet tech; the doctor came in shortly after. The Man explained everything that had been happening, and the doctor agreed with the diagnosis of acid reflux. He recommended The Man give Jerico 10 mg of Prilosec every day as a preventative measure.

What about eating grass? I asked the vet.

He said grass is really hard on a dog’s throat, mouth, and stomach and we should keep Jerico from eating it if we could.

After nearly two weeks on Prilosec and the special food we bought at the vet’s office, Jerico hadn’t had a single episode. He hadn’t tried to eat grass even once, and he only swallowed in a normal manner. I was glad he was feeling better, and I was glad we were all able to get some sleep.

Two More Little Free Libraries in Phoenix, AZ

Standard

It was November 2017. Nolagirl and I were on an excursion through Phoenix, AZ. We had set out to see Little Free Libraries, and by golly, we were seeing Little Free Libraries.

If you don’t know by now what a Little Free Library (LFL) is, it’s a good time to learn. According to the Little Free Library organization’s FAQs,

anyone may contribute or take books [from a Little Free Library]…If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside..

The first LFL we visited was Helen’s Little Free Lending Library on 28th Street. The second one we visited was on Cheery Lynn Street. This second visit was really special because we got to meet the Little Free Library steward. She was the first LFL steward I ever met, and out of all the Little Free Libraries I’ve visited in three states and six cities (Los Gatos, CA; Santa Fe and Taos, NM; Flagstaff, Mesa, and Phoenix, AZ) she is the only LFL steward I’ve ever met!

When we pulled up in front of the Little Free Library on Cheer Lynn Street, there was a car in the driveway, and a young-mom type of woman was taking groceries out of the trunk. She totally saw us pull up, so Nolagirl and I decided we should get out of the car and say hi. We explained to the lady that we were on a Little Free Library tour and asked her if she was the steward of this one. She said yes, we said it was really cute, and she went into her house. It was a totally pleasant, brief exchange.  (It would be surprising and horrible if a Little Free Library steward were a grouchy, mean person who hated talking to strangers.)

This LFL was constructed of wood that had been stained so the natural grain showed clearly. I think the upkeep on this one is probably pretty easy because no paint touchups are required. The sign on the bottom of the door says that this is a registered LFL with a charter number (65262), but it doesn’t have an official name like Helen’s Little Free Lending Library.

Only children’s books were available at the Little Free Library on Cheery Lynn Street.

This LFL held only children’s books, so I didn’t take any. I didn’t leave any either, since I didn’t have any children’s books to donate. I felt ok about my role in both situations. I didn’t need any books, and the LFL was plenty full even if I didn’t leave anything.

Sometime after our visit to Cheery Lynn Street, we went to 11th Avenue, where we found another registered, wooden Little Free Library (charter #10682). This time we did not have the pleasure of meeting the steward. There weren’t many books in this LFL, and I felt sorry I didn’t have a stack to stock it with. What a fun endeavor it would be to drive around with stacks of good books, going from one Little Free Library to another, making sure each one was well stocked with reading material for the people.

Self-portrait in Little Free Library on 11th Avenue. There weren’t very many books in this one.

Irate Hippie

Standard
Pink Peace Light Sign

Aren’t hippies supposed to be about peace and love?

When I returned to the fuel center with the merchandise that needed to be restocked, I saw a shirtless, white-haired person looking into one of the beverage coolers. The person’s hair was longish and worn in low pigtails, so my first impression was that we had a bare-chested older lady on the premises. While I was still contemplating the person’s sex and gender, he stood up and I realized I was looking at a man. He was wearing shorts which combined with his long hair and shirtless condition led me to suspect he was on old hippie.

He took a bottle of iced tea out of the cooler and to the window of the kiosk where my coworker, a young Latino man, was staffing the register.

I was waiting for my coworker to finish with the customer and open the door to the kiosk for me. I held a shopping basket full of tobacco products and idly eavesdropped on the interaction between the coworker and the customer.

The coworker told the customer the price of the bottle of tea. The customer questioned the price. Wasn’t it only $2 a bottle?

The coworker told the customer that was the price with the rewards card.                  

Why didn’t you ask me for the rewards card? the old hipped challenged while digging in his pocket for his card. 

I’m sure I rolled my eyes, at least metaphorically. Anyone who has a reward card knows how it works. Anyone who has a rewards card knows you need to present the card in order to receive a sale price. No sale price is automatic in a store with a rewards card program.

Perhaps the hippie had forgotten about the rewards card. Some people do. If he had forgotten, he could have just pulled it out and presented it, without talking like he was looking for a fight.

And yes, the coworker should have asked for the rewards card right off. That’s what management would like for sure. However, sometimes we forget or we’re tired of talking or we just want customers to take responsibility for their own damn rewards card.

What I didn’t know until later was the hippie’s bottle of tea was frozen. The cooler it came from had been having problems, and I guess all the beverages on the bottom shelf had gotten too cold. My coworker pointed out to the hippie that the tea was frozen and asked him if he was sure he wanted it. The hippie said he wanted it, paid his money, and left.

My coworker opened the door for me and I gave him the basket of tobacco products and the scanner so he could review and receive the merchandise I’d just brought over. While he reviewed and received, I ran my lunch bag and water bottle to my truck. As I returned to the kiosk, a car pulled in and stopped between the booth and pump 3. The old hippie jumped from the car waving the bottle of tea and already ranting. He went up to the kiosk window, and I could hear him complaining but couldn’t understand what he was saying.

My coworker told me when it was all over that the hippie was mad because the tea had spilled on him. He said he said he was going to send the dry cleaning bill to the company we work for. I snorted with laughter.

He wasn’t even wearing a shirt, I said pointing out the obvious. I was pretty sure his shorts were not made from some fancy dry-clean-only material. Besides, how was it the fault of the store or my coworker if the hippie had spilled tea on himself? I spill food and drink on myself all the time; it’s never anyone’s fault but my own.

I was still standing next to the door when my coworker came flying out of the kiosk. I took the opportunity to go inside and sit on a bucket and enjoy the air-conditioned comfort. I thought my coworker had gone outside to fight the old man, and I wanted no part in that.

My coworker had actually gone outside to take photos of the old hippie, his car, and its license plate. Apparently the hippie didn’t like the bottle of tea that had spilled on him (maybe because it was frozen—I’m unclear on that point), and wanted a different one. When my coworker told him that he’d have to go to the customer service booth in the store to do an exchange, the old hippie grabbed another bottle of tea from the cooler and said he was taking it. That’s when my coworker grabbed his phone so he could get identifying pictures.

As soon as the hippie saw my coworker taking photos, he said he’d just as soon keep his original bottle of tea.

Are we square? Are we square? he asked my coworker.

My coworker agreed they were square, but then decided to mess with the irate hippie by smiling broadly and telling him to have a nice day! He then threw in a bye-bye and a God bless!

(What can I say? my coworker said to me later. I’m a smartass.)

The warm wishes incensed the already irate hippie, and he started yelling, You’re a douchebag! You’re a real douchebag!

Personally, I would have tried to diffuse the situation, but my coworker is young and hotheaded. He probably has tons of testosterone coursing through his veins.

I was waiting for him to step up! my coworker said repeatedly when it was all over.

I was standing like this, he demonstrated with his fist by his side.

You could have taken him, I assured him. The hippie was not just old, but super skinny too.

My coworker thought the old hippie was on crack. I would have voted on

Gray Monk Statue in Between Plant Pots

meth, but it doesn’t really matter. We both knew he wasn’t flying on love, peace, and weed. His mellow was really harshed, man. He probably should have done a little meditating before he drove to town.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/pink-peace-light-sign-752473/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-ancient-art-asia-204649/.

Drive Off

Standard

It was Saturday afternoon and life at the fuel center was humming along. We were fairly busy, but I had things under control.

I’d left the kiosk to condition the merchandise in the outdoor display cases. “Conditioning” means making sure the shelves are stocked and all items are pulled to the front with the brand name facing forward. The fuel center sells mostly cold drinks and a small selection of snacks along with motor oil, fuel additives, windshield washer fluid, and coolant. It didn’t take long to get everything looking good.

While I was outside, a woman approached me with a question about using her credit card. While trying to answer her question, I heard shouting, honking, and whistling. I looked toward the source of the commotion and saw a small white car trailing a gas pump handle, nozzle, and hose! Oh no! Someone had driven off with the nozzle still in the tank.

I could see the driver was a woman, so I started shouting Ma’am! Ma’am! while waving my arms. Due to my efforts or maybe those of the bystanders, the driver stopped the car. After quickly excusing myself from my current conversation, I hustled toward the small white car.

You left with the nozzle still in your tank, I explained to the driver. She looked shocked. I don’t think she quite believed me.

I went around to the passenger side of the car and retrieved the nozzle, handle, and hose. You can bet she believed me then. I told her I needed to get her license plate number and call a manager.

You are in trouble, I thought but did not say out loud.

I asked her to pull around and park near the fuel center, and she said she would. I ran into the kiosk and paged a manager. The manager called back immediately, and I explained the situation. He told me to call the company that services the pumps, and then he hung up.

I ran back out to find the driver had parked her car right back at the scene of her big mistake. She was out of the car waiting for me. She must have been in her 60s although her hair was dark black and she didn’t seem feeble of body or mind. 

I wrote down her license plate number. When I asked for her name and phone number, she gave them without hesitation.

I ran back into the kiosk to help the people who had accumulated in a line while I was outside. The next thing I knew, the driver of the white car was back in line. When she reached the window, she said she hadn’t gotten all the gas for which she had paid. I didn’t understand what she was talking about, so I told her I’d meet her outside where the intercom and bulletproof glass would not hinder our communication.

When I got outside, I found her sitting in the driver’s seat of her car. She explained she always puts $10 worth of gas in her car, and $10 worth of gas always fills the tank. Since her tank was not currently full, she was sure she had not gotten her full $10 worth of gas. She pointed to her gas gauge several times, as if I only needed to look at the gauge to understand the problem.

I was incredulous. She’d just damaged the gas pump, yet she was quibbling over (at most) a couple of bucks. Didn’t she know she was in a lot of trouble? Apparently she did not.

I told her I didn’t really know what to do in this situation and asked if she wanted me to call a manager. She said she did.

If I had just ripped the hose and handle and nozzle from a gas pump, I would have slunk away in shame and hoped I wouldn’t be charged for the damage I’d done. Not this lady. She wanted every bit of gas to which she thought she was entitled.

I went back to the kiosk and again paged a manager. Again a manager called immediately.

I explained the lady who’d driven off with the nozzle and hose thought we owed her more gas. I don’t know what to do, I told the manager.

The manager chuckled and said he’d come out and talk to her. Surely she’d realize she was in trouble when the manager arrived. Surely he’d set her straight.

In a few minutes the manager used his key to enter the kiosk. I almost shit my pants. It was the big boss, the store manager himself. Up until that moment, I had not met him; I only knew who he was because I read his name tag.

I introduced myself, and we shook hands. Then I briefly went over the situation with the driver of the white car. He said he’d go out and talk to her.I stayed in the kiosk and continued to help customers. I couldn’t hear how the conversation between the driver of the white car and the manager went, but I was convinced the woman was in trouble now.

The manager was out there for at least 10 minutes. When he came back in, he looked defeated.

I couldn’t make her understand, he said. He told me the driver was going to pull the white car to pump 9. He said I should authorize the pump for $10. You register is going to be short.

I guess the driver of the white car wasn’t in any trouble after all.

I found out later that the hose is constructed to detach the way it did if a driver pulls off with the nozzle still in the tank. However, there was a problem with the separation point on this one and it leaked gas. Instead of being able to simply click the two connectors back into place like it was designed to do, a repair person had to come out on Monday to fix the problem. A coworker told me the repair cost the company I work for $500. No one ever asked me for the culprit’s name, phone number, or license plate number, so I suspect she’s not going to have to pay for her mistake.

Little Doggie

Standard

According to the National Day Calendar website, today is National Dog Day. According to the National Dog Day website,

National Dog Day celebrates all breeds, pure and mixed and serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, either from public shelters, rescues and pure breed rescues. National Dog Day honors family dogs and dogs that work selflessly to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.

In honor of National Dog Day, I’m sharing a story about a cute little pup I witnessed repeatedly escaping from his master on a slow day of trying to sell jewelry and shiny rocks.

I was trying to sell my jewelry and shiny rocks at an outdoor market near a tourist attraction, but there hadn’t been much interest in my merchandise. Some days are like that. Even with plenty of visitors milling about and lots of beautiful items on my table, I wasn’t selling much.

I had a lot of time to watch the tourists on that overcast and chilly day. People watching has always been one of my favorite activities, and I was enjoying seeing everyone come and go.

White Long Coated Dog on Grassland

Quite a ways down the road that runs through the area where the market is held, I saw a small, fluffy white dog that seemed to be on its own. It was standing on the edge between where the road becomes the parking area. The dog stood there calmly, apparently surveying the scene, but I worried about how close it was to moving traffic. In my experience, tourists are often lacking in observational skills, and I was afraid a driver would not notice the little dog and run it down. Just as I was about to get out of my chair and walk over to the dog, it turned around and walked back between parked cars. Disaster averted.

Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later I looked up from the bracelet I’d started making and saw the same little white fluffy dog much closer to me (only two vendors over) sitting in the middle of the roadway. I looked around for someone rushing over to scoop up and scold the dog, but no one seemed to be missing it. Was the dog out there alone?

Again, just as I was about to get out of my chair and approach the dog, it was no longer in danger. The fellow who’d been shopping with the vendor two tables down from me strode out into the road and picked up the pup and carried it to safety. Then he made a big production of snapping a leash onto the dog’s collar. If he had a leash, why had he hesitated to use it with a dog he must have known was a wanderer? Life is full of mysteries, but it seems to me that a wandering dog should certainly be leashed in a parking lot full of distracted drivers.

The fellow and his dog passed my table without a glance. It was that kind of day.

Not five minutes later, I looked up from my work again and saw the same little dog trotting across the road, making a beeline for some bikers taking a break. His leash trailed behind him.

His person was at another vendor’s table, seemingly so caught up in shopping that he couldn’t be bothered to hold onto his dog’s leash. Perhaps the dog was a master escape artist and his person could do little to keep him where he didn’t want to be. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know the whole story, and I shouldn’t judge. When the guy crossed the road to retrieve the doggie yet again, I wanted to run over and tell him he didn’t deserve such a cute dog, but I didn’t. I stayed in my chair and hoped he’d keep the little dog out of harm’s way.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/nature-animal-dog-pet-33053/.

Amazing

Standard
Fuel Dispenser

Part of my job at the fuel center is helping people who are having trouble at the pump. If customers can’t make their pumps work, I leave the kiosk and assist.

Some people would probably do just fine if they actually read the instructions on the screen.

Pump one won’t let me pump gas, the lady said to me through the intercom.                        

When I got outside, we determined she hadn’t selected the fuel grade as the screen was prompting. As soon as she hit the button for unleaded, the screen showing the numbers of gallons pumped and the dollar amount zeroed out and she was able to pump her fuel.

Sometimes the problem is the store’s rewards card. The pumping process begins with a screen that reads “Do you have a rewards card?” If the customer doesn’t push the blue “yes” button on the PIN pad, the transaction will go all to hell, and I’ll have to go outside to help.

Other times I go outside and trust the customer has done everything right, and still the pump is not working. In those cases I hang up the handle and patiently go through the steps again. Usually the pump works after I take it through the process. After I get the pump going, I make a joke about how computers are supposed to make our lives easier or that the pump just needed my magic touch. I try not to make people feel bad if they’re having a difficult time out there. I understand that every gas station seems to work differently and technology can be intimidating, especially to older folks who seem to be the ones who have problems. (I’ve never had to help anyone under the age of 50 pump their gas.)

Sometimes the problem I have to solve has nothing to do with the company I work for or the equipment it provides.

One Saturday afternoon a woman who looked to be in her 50s approached me the kiosk. When I asked her through the intercom how I could help her, she asked me if I knew how to unlock a locking gas cap.

Oh for goodness sake! I grumbled internally, but I smiled and told her I’d come out and try to help her.

How did the woman end up driving a truck with a gas cap she didn’t know how to unlock? I didn’t ask, but I figured it was the vehicle her husband usually drives or it was her kid’s truck or she had borrowed it from a friend. However this woman had ended up with it, she was now tasked with putting gas in it, but she couldn’t get to the gas tank.

She probably could have called the owner of the truck and asked for assistance, but maybe she would have felt humiliated had she done so. Maybe her husband or her kid or her friend would have teased her or called her an idiot or been exasperated by her helplessness, and she couldn’t face it today. Perhaps it was easier to show vulnerability to the middle age gas station attendant than to a member of her own family. Who knows? I’m just making up stories, but I went outside to help. 

This is the key, she said indicating a small key on a ring with about 20 other keys of various sizes.

I tried using the key, but the other keys got in the way, and I couldn’t turn the small one.

Maybe it would work better if I took it off the key ring, the lady said, and I agreed.

Once the small key was isolated I could be sure it fit all the way into the lock. I turned the key, then turned the cap. The cap moved, but no matter what way I turned it, there was a clicking noise that said it wasn’t properly engaged.

I was beginning to wonder if I’d be able to help the woman when I had the idea to push the key into the lock while turning it. I’d hit upon the magic combination of moves because now I could turn the cap effectively and (finally!) remove it.

As I handed the cap and the key to the woman, she smiled hugely at me and said, You’re amazing!

Her appreciation made me feel good, but being able to help her made me feel good too. It was so clear that I’d really made her day. I was glad I hadn’t given her attitude or treated her like a dummy. I was glad I’d given her my attention and done my best to assist her. Sometimes I am rather amazing.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/fuel-dispenser-1563510/.

Fuel Station Etiquette

Standard
Vintage Red Car Die-cast Model

As vandwellers, nomads, rubber tramps, and vagabonds, we’re on the road a lot. Driving a vehicle eventually means stopping to fuel up. After my recent (short-lived) career as a clerk at a fuel center, I’d like to offer up some etiquette tips to follow while at a gas station, truck stop, or anywhere else folks go to put diesel, gasoline, or flex fuel in a rig, tow vehicle, generator, or gas can.

#1 Know what pump you’re on before you stand in front of the clerk.

Green Single-cab Pickup Truck Beside a Gas Pump Station

Having to back up to find the number of the tank where you want to pump your fuel wastes everyone’s time.

#2 Know how much you want to spend before you interact with the clerk. Standing in front of the cash register counting your money or figuring out how much is in your fuel budget slows down everyone in line behind you.

Several Us Dollar Roll Placed on White Surface

#3 If you keep your bills in your bra, sock, or underpants, for goodness sake, take your money out of your intimate hiding place where the clerk can’t see you. Trust me, store clerks do not want to know where your money has been.

#4 Do not hand over money with bodily fluid on it. No blood, snot, saliva, breast milk, feces, urine, semen, or vaginal secretions, PLEASE. 

#5 Do not get upset with the fuel clerk if your preferred method of payment is not accepted. The fuel clerk did not make the decision to reject your preferred method of payment. The fuel clerk was probably not asked to offer an opinion. The decision came from on high, and the fuel clerk can’t do a dang thing about it.

#6 Do not get upset with the fuel clerk if equipment isn’t working. The

Blue Shell Gas Dispenser

problem may be user error. Politely ask the fuel clerk for assistance. Do not accuse or threaten. Remember the life lesson about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. The fuel clerk is the fly you want to catch and have on your side.

#7Do not drive like a bat-out-of-hell in the fuel center. Drive slowly, carefully, and courteously. People are walking around out there. You don’t want to hit anyone, and you don’t want to incite road rage.

#8 Wait your turn. Whether you’re waiting to get to the pump or to pay for your fuel, don’t try to get ahead of people who were there before you. No one likes a cheater.

Photo of a 2 Fireman Killing a Huge Fire

#9 Don’t smoke anywhere in the fuel center. Drivers should already know this, but sometimes it seems they do not. Pumping fuel has become second nature to most of us, and we forget the stuff that powers our vehicles can be dangerous. Don’t let the spark from your cigarette or cigar be the one that sets the fuel center on fire.

#10 If you spill fuel, let a worker know. Spills happen. They’re a fact of fuel center life.  Fuel center workers have the proper equipment for cleaning spills, but they can’t clean what they don’t know is there.

So there you have it, ten tips for keeping any fueling area safe and running smoothly. Of course, you probably already have a firm grasp on these ideas. Common knowledge, right? You’d be surprised (and probably appalled too.)

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/toys-gasoline-gas-station-car-gas-20647/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-sky-daylight-diesel-electric-post-210063/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/bank-bank-notes-batch-bills-302842/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/abandoned-business-classic-dirty-284288/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/water-outside-fire-hose-69934/.