Category Archives: My Life as a Fuel Clerk

Grumpy

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When the temperature climbs above 83 degrees in the mountain town where I work, locals and tourist alike get grumpy. I know we’re all here for the cool mountain air, and at the first hint of heat, people seem unhappy. I’m not even sure people understand the correlation between the temperature and their mood, but I see it clearly from behind the bulletproof glass that surrounds me in the fuel center kiosk where I work. As soon as I hear people complaining about the heat, I know other complaints are sure to follow.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on during the first really hot Saturday of the season. Customers seemed a little off, but I was ok in my climate-controlled kiosk with the a/c set to a cool 65 degrees. Sometimes customers felt a puff of cool air escape for the drawer through which we exchanged money and merchandise. Several commented that I must be nice and cool in there. Oh, yes I was! That air conditioner is one of the few perks of the job.

Early in the afternoon, the first person I noticed in a bad mood was a woman I’m friendly with outside of work. When I told her the amount of her loyalty card reward discount on fuel, she snapped, Aren’t our fuel points doubled on the weekend?

No one had given me any information on fuel point promotion, but I’d gleaned some info from being a customer of the store and from the loop of in-store advertisements projected over the public address system.

You don’t get double the discount out here, I explained to my friend. I think you earn double points on the things you buy in the store, but you might need a digital coupon.

I had a digital coupon, she said sharply. It expired in May!

Yeah, I shrugged. I had that coupon too.

Our transaction ended, and she stomped off.

Note to self: Get more information on fuel point promotions.

People continued to seem short-tempered throughout the afternoon, but the next major grumpiness occurred around 3:30 as I came back from my break. The woman covering the fuel center while I ate my lunch met me at the kiosk and told me the girl at pump 2 is trying to pump diesel and was having some trouble. I told her I don’t know anything about diesel, my relief said. I told her I’d go outside and try to help the woman.

Earlier in the day, there’d been a problem pumping diesel on pump 3.  I wondered if the problems were somehow related.

When I got to pump 2, I recognized the woman standing there as someone I’d sold fuel to several times in the last few weeks. She and I had always been calmly polite to each other, but she was neither calm nor polite on this afternoon. She demanded to know why pump 2 wasn’t giving up the diesel. She didn’t seem pleased when I told her I wasn’t sure. I mentioned we’d had the same problem with pump 3 earlier in the day, but she didn’t want to hear anything that wasn’t directly related to getting diesel into her car’s tank.

I tried pumping the diesel (thinking maybe she had made some mistake that kept the fuel from flowing), but had no more success than she had.

The woman was growing increasingly frantic. Was she just tired of being frustrated at the fuel center? Was she late for work? Was she anxious because she was on her way to a hot date? I don’t know. I didn’t ask, although her patience was decreasing by the second.

Diesel was working on pump 1 earlier…I mused. I was thinking about the bigger picture. First pump 3 wouldn’t disperse diesel and now pump 2 was having the same problem. Were the problems related? Would pump 1 develop the same problem? What if I told the woman to go to pump 1 and it wouldn’t give her diesel?

Just tell me where to go! she screeched. Just tell me where to go!

I figured I’d better send her to pump 1 and plan to deal with any fallout that resulted in its failure to deliver diesel. I directed her to pump 1 and scurried back into the kiosk. When I was safely in the kiosk, I looked out the window and saw the woman pumping her precious diesel. I definitely breathed a sigh of relief.

The next day I ended up in town a couple of hours before my work shift started. I went to a coffee shop to work on my blog during this precious free time. When I walked through the front door, there was the upset diesel lady calmly working on her laptop.

I wondered if there was anything I could say to chastise her for her behavior the previous day. I decided it was best to hold my tongue. Miss Manners says it’s improper to meet rudeness with more rudeness, and I’m sure the company I work for would not approve of me chastising customers, even on my own time.

What I wanted to whisper in her ear is a good reminder to me.

It’s a small town. Be careful who you’re rude to because you’re likely to see that person again, maybe even the next day.

We Do Our Best

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A tiny elderly woman came up the kiosk in the fuel center where I was working. Her face just peeked over the solid part of the wall so I could see her in the window. Her hair was totally white, and she wore glasses. When she began to speak, I could tell English was not her first language. Perhaps French was the language she’d first learned.

Communicating through bulletproof glass is a challenge. I use an intercom system to speak to the customers. When I want to talk, I press a button. When I need to listen, I let go of the button. Sometimes I let go of the button while I’m still talking. Ooops!

The intercom system is old and sometimes fades in and out while someone is talking. Often the customer and I look at each other in confusion. What did you say? I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?

Throw in a hearing loss, a thick accent, or a language barrier, and Houston, we have a problem.

The elderly French (or at least French accented) woman was trying to communicate her needs, but I’ll be damned if I could understand a word she said.

What pump are you on, ma’am? I asked several times.

Maybe she couldn’t understand a word I said.

Finally she was able to communicate that she was on pump 10.

We went through a similar fiasco to figure out how much fuel she wanted to pay for. After some back and forth, we nailed down an amount. Now came the time for her to put the payment in the sliding drawer so I could pull it into the kiosk.

Please put your payment in the drawer, I squawked over the intercom.

The woman looked at me dazed and confused.

Lift the glass, ma’am, I instructed. Put your payment in the drawer.

I heard fumbling around on the other side of the wall, but when I pulled the drawer in, there was no money in it. I pushed the drawer back out.

A line had formed behind the woman. Usually when a customer has trouble with the drawer, someone in line steps up to demonstrate lifting the Plexiglas so payment can be placed in the drawer. On this day, no one took pity on the woman; no one offered to help.

I’ll need you to put your payment in the drawer, I told the woman. Go ahead and lift the glass.

I heard more fumbling on the other side of the wall, but again, the drawer was empty when I pulled it in. I pushed it out again and wondered what to do.

A white-haired man stomped over from the direction of pump 10. He bypassed the line and stepped up to the window next to the elderly woman. He began speaking to her in what sounded like French to me. He was berating her; that much was obvious despite any language barrier. I heard loud shuffling on the other side of the wall, followed by the loud opening of the glass over the drawer, followed by a slamming of the glass strong enough to rattle the metal drawer.

The woman said something sharp to the white-haired man, but he never even looked at her. I gave the woman her receipt (this time she knew to lift the glass to get it from the drawer), and she was on her way.

I felt really embarrassed for the woman and sad for her too. That man (her husband, presumably) had been really mean to her in front of God and everybody. Those of us who witnessed the interaction didn’t need to understand French to know he he’d been ugly.

Before too long, the elderly lady was back at the kiosk for her change. I got it for her and sent it out through the drawer.

Have a nice day, I said at the end of our transaction. I wanted to offer her some small kindness.

I will try, she said. She rolled her eyes in the direction of pump 10. We do our best.

I smiled. I stayed silent, but in my head I agreed. We certainly do our best. Even when our strongest efforts are futile. Even when people stomp over to speak gruffly to us. We do our best. It’s all we can do.

Blood Money

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Content warning: blood

Photo of Gasoline Dispenser in Station

The first half of my opening shift at the fuel center was fairly slow, but around noon things really picked up. I’d gotten up at 4:15 so I could open the place at 6am, and I was really tired. I couldn’t wait for my coworker to arrive at 1pm so I could complete my restocking mission and clock out.

At about 12:45 a man came up to the window and said he wanted to put $11 on pump 6. He also asked if I had a paper towel. I didn’t think to tell him there were paper towels outside at the windshield washing stations. I just ran to the back of the kiosk and grabbed a couple of paper towels for him. I shoved them into the drawer and sent them out to him.

When I pulled the drawer back in and picked up his money, I understood

1 Us Bank Note

why he needed a paper towel. Several of the eleven $1 bills he’d put in the drawer for payment had bright red blood on them. The blood was neither smeared nor splattered; the customer had somehow bled neatly upon the bills. It seemed as if the blood had soaked into the bills immediately. Even though the money wasn’t dripping blood, it was still really, really, really gross. I’d only thought boob money was bad until I was presented with blood money.

I dropped the bills on the counter, then ran to the back of the kiosk again and grabbed a vinyl glove from the box on the shelf. I put the glove on my right hand before I touched the bloody money again.

I’m not particularly squeamish about blood. I wouldn’t say I’m attracted to it, but neither the thought nor the sight of it makes me feel sick or faint. However, I certainly don’t want to come in contact with a stranger’s blood.

A veteran worker from the supermarket was in the kiosk with me repricing all the merchandise inside. She had just been telling me how much she respected me for being able to handle all the difficult fuel center customers and how she would never make it in the fuel center. I showed her the bloody money and asked her what I should do. She suggested I rub hand sanitizer onto the blood.

It didn’t occur to me at the time not to take the bloody bills. Money’s money, right? It didn’t occur to me until I started working on this post that the bloody money contaminated the drawer, the cash register, and all the bills it touched. If the bleeding customer had any kind of disease, he could have infected me, the coworker who relieved me, the bookkeeper who would count the day’s cash drop the next morning, the bookkeeper at the corporate office who received the money, the banker who eventually received the money…How long do germs from blood live once they hit currency?

I don’t think refusing the money occurred to the supermarket veteran either. She never offered refusal as an option for me. She said I should slap some hand sanitizer on the blood, so I did, then put the bills in the drawer. A few minutes later when my coworker reported for duty, I told him about the bloody (and now also soggy from generous dollops of hand sanitizer) bills. He shook his head.

He must have called management immediately after I left to pull items for our restock because when I returned, the first thing he told me was that management said we did NOT have to accept bloody money if we didn’t want to. Thank goodness for that!

Person Putting White Bandage On Left Hand

I feel sorry for the customer who was bleeding; I truly do. Who among us has not cut ourselves unexpectedly in a public place and had to staunch the blood flow with limited first aid supplies? However (and that is a BIG however), that man should not have paid with bloody money. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! It is not my job to clean blood off his bills. I’m glad to know my bosses agree with me on that point.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-gasoline-dispenser-in-station-1051397/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/1-us-bank-note-47344/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-putting-white-bandage-on-left-hand-1409706/.

Flex Fuel

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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. 

Irate Hippie

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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

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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.

Amazing

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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

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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/.

Boob Money

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When I work at the fuel center, I spend most of my time in a booth where the customers can’t touch me. The booth has windows on three sides; the windows are allegedly bulletproof. (I don’t need to see evidence of this with my own eyes, thank you.) Conversing is done through an intercom. Money, credit cards, and tobacco products are passed through a sliding drawer in the wall. The company I work for calls the booth “the kiosk.”

One afternoon I was outside the kiosk conditioning. Conditioning just means making sure the product displays look good. I pull items to the front of the display cases, turn items so the fronts are facing forward, and fill any empty slots. It’s an easy task, improves the look of the sales area, and gets me out of the kiosk. While I’m outside, I also look around for trash on the ground, empty paper towel dispensers, and problems with the pumps.

While I’m outside conditioning, I keep an eye out for customers who have approached the kiosk. When someone walks up to the kiosk, I have to stop what I’m doing, walk to the kiosk, unlock the door, go inside, make sure the door closes behind me, approach the window, and use the intercom to find out how I can help the customer. It would be a lot easier if I could do my outside work without customer interruption, but that’s never the way it works.

On the day in question, I glanced over to the kiosk and saw that a customer had approached the kiosk. This customer was very tall and hyper-feminine. At first I thought she was a drag queen. Maybe she was.

(While I’m not sure of this person’s biological sex—and it doesn’t matter to me anyway—I will use feminine pronouns because this person was definitely presenting in a way that our society reads as female.)

The customer was wearing high heels, jeggings printed to look like red snakeskin, and a pink bustier. Her long, thick, dark hair cascaded down her bare back. I wondered where this person was going dressed this way on a weekday afternoon. It didn’t much matter because her fashion choices were none of my business.

I returned to my kiosk sanctuary and approached my base of operations at the window where the drawer is. I used the intercom to say, Hi! How can I help you today?  

Rolled 20 U.s Dollar Bill

She said she needed $20 on pump 6. She had a few crumpled bills in her hand, but after looking at them she seemed to realize they wouldn’t be enough. That’s when she started digging in her cleavage. I don’t mean she reached daintily between her breasts and gently extracted a bill. No, she was rooting around in there, digging under her left breast, having a hard time finding what she needed. I honestly thought she might pop her boob out completely. Thankfully she did not.

She finally found the twenty dollar bill she wanted and put it in the drawer. I wasn’t disgusted so much as astounded. I had no real reason to be disgusted. Her boobs were probably cleaner than mine. Hers were probably lotioned, perfumed, and powdered. However, I have to admit I felt a little weird about touching money that had been stashed in such an intimate place.

I’m not saying I’ve never carried money in my bra. Ladies’ dressy clothes often lack pockets and a gal doesn’t always want to carry a purse.

The difference is that when I’ve carried money in my bra, I discretely removed the cash before I was ready to pay. I can attest to the fact that store clerks DO NOT want to know where your money has been. My customer could have counter her money in the car and when she realized she didn’t have enough for $20 on pump six, she could have gotten out her boob money before she approached the kiosk. I didn’t really need—or want—to see her pull her money out from under her breast. 

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/rolled-20-u-s-dollar-bill-164527/.

Why I Quit My Job (Blog Post Bonus)

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Today is my last day as a clerk in a fuel center! By this evening, I will be a free woman!

Photo of Car on Gas Station

I started working in the fuel center (aka gas station) at a supermarket in mid-June of 2019. It was the only job offer I’d gotten after a half-assed job search, so I took it. I immediately disliked the job, although I did find some good aspects of it. Reason after reason to hate the job piled up as the weeks went by; here are 13 reasons why I quit.

#1 Working the opening shift. The worst days on the job were the ones where I had to open the fuel center at 5:45am. I lived about 40 minutes from where I worked, so I had to leave around five o’clock to get there on time. I move super slow in the morning, so I had to get out of bed no later than 4:15 in order to leave the house on time.

I’m typically an early riser. I wake up around the time the sun rises, anywhere from 5:30 to 7:00 (if I sleep in), but getting out of bed in the dark is difficult for me. Also difficult? Making a 40 minute drive in the dark. There were many mornings I knew I was falling asleep at the wheel, but I kept driving.

To be fair, once I arrived at work and got into the swing of things, I was ok, especially if I had a cup of coffee on my way in. However, at the end of the day I was physically and mentally demolished, especially since I never got to bed early enough on the nights before opening shifts.

#2 Having to deal with fuel and the chemicals used to clean it.  I had to clean up fuel spills nearly every day. To clean up spilled fuel, I sprayed another chemical on top of it, scrubbed the chemical soup with a long-handled brush, then used super absorbent pads to soak up the whole mess. What kind of chemical neutralizes fuel? I have no idea. Is that chemical safe for long-term exposure to humans? I have no idea. I’m pretty sure gasoline fumes and car exhaust are no good for human people, even if the chemical used to clean the spills is harmless.

#3 Lack of hand-washing facilities. There was no sink and no soap in the

Person Wash Hands

fuel center kiosk. We were supplied with vinyl gloves and hand sanitizing gel, but those things are not as good as using soap and water (in my opinion). There was a water spigot at the far edge of the fuel center, and I suppose I could have brought my own soap, but such a hand-washing situation was inconvenient at best.

#4 Limited breaks.  If I worked less than 8 hours, I was allowed one 20 minute break. In that 20 minutes I had to walk across the parking lot and into the store to get to the break room, wash my (filthy) hands, use the restroom, wash my hands again, eat my lunch, then walk back through the store and across the parking lot. If someone was in the only employee restroom when I got there or if I had to heat my food in the microwave, I lost precious minutes.

If I worked an 8 hour shift, I got two 15 minute breaks. Two breaks are better than one, but getting everything done in 15 minutes was an even bigger challenge.

When I worked the morning shift, a cashier from the supermarket would come out to give me a break right around 9am. When I worked afternoons, I was supposed to get a break around 3pm, but good luck with that! A customer service manager (CSM) told me early in my fuel center career that I was out of sight/out of mind, and if I wanted a break, I’d have to remind the person in charge of scheduling. After I was given this bit of info, every afternoon I worked, I paged the CSM on duty to remind them about my break.

The CSM on duty might not have been prompt about giving me a break, but I sure as hell needed to be prompt about leaving and returning in my allotted amount of time.

U.s. Dollar Banknote Lot

One morning just as my relief showed up, the cash register prompted me to make a safe drop. I said I’d do it when I got back. My relief (a veteran cashier) pulled a long face and said the prompt would keep popping up the whole time I was gone. I knew he was right, so I stuck around for a few minutes to complete the safe drop. Then one of the big bosses arrived, and I had a couple of things to tell her. I was maybe five minutes late leaving.

When I returned to the kiosk, the person who had relieved me left immediately. I hadn’t been back two minutes when the phone rang. It was the CSM in charge of scheduling breaks calling to find out if her cashier had left. I said he had. She wanted to know why he was late returning to the supermarket. I explained I was late leaving because of the cash drop and having to talk to the store manager. She told me if I was late getting back from my break, it threw off the schedule of all the breaks that came after mine. She said if I was late leaving for a break, I’d have to take a shorter break so her schedule wasn’t messed up. I understood where she was coming from but her pissy attitude did not endear her to me.

I simply told her, I understand (which actually, I did) and made up my mind

Fireman Illustration

that I’d never be late leaving for a break again, no matter what was going on. Safe drop needed? Sorry. I’ll have to do it after my break. Irate customer? Sorry relief person, you’ll have to handle it because I have to go on my break. The fuel center is on fire? Could you go ahead and call the fire department and the management team because I have to take my break now?

The worst part about having only one break in a shift was that I only got to use the restroom once in 6 or 7 hours. I learned quickly that I needed to visit the restroom immediately before I started work, but some days I was desperate to see the toilet when my break rolled around.

One day I mentioned to one of the (female) store managers that three hours is a long time to go without a bathroom break. She said to just ask if I needed to visit the restroom during my shift, and they would get someone to the fuel center to cover for me. I appreciated her support but was skeptical of how asking for an extra break would work out. I could imagine the pissy CSM fussing at me for messing up her break schedule by having a bathroom emergency.

#5 Not knowing when my breaks would be. If I had known what time I was supposed to get my break, I’d have spent less time worrying I wasn’t going to get a break. I also wouldn’t have had to call the CSM to remind them I still needed a break. However, such a level of organization and communication was much too high of an expectation when dealing with the company I worked for.

#6 Being required to stand during my whole shift. Why do corporations think excellent customer service can only be provided while standing? I think I would have given better customer service if my feet and legs hadn’t hurt from standing for 6 or more hours. I guess the rule against sitting is part of the if you have time to lean, you have time to clean mentality, but I think morale would improve if cashiers were allowed to sit while ringing up sales.

#7 Having my availability ignored. When I applied for the job online, I had to provide my availability. I said I was available any time other than Tuesday mornings. When I was interviewed for the job, I told the assistant manager conducting the interview that I was not available on Tuesday mornings. The first several weeks I worked, I wasn’t scheduled to work before noon on Tuesdays (and often I got the entire day off), but suddenly I was scheduled to open on a Tuesday. No one asked me to do it as a special favor. No one apologized for scheduling during a time I said I couldn’t work. I strongly suspected that if I stayed at the job, I’d find myself scheduled on Tuesdays more and more often.

#8 I was working too much. When I was offered the job, I was told it was a part-time position. The assistant manager who hired me said the job offered no set number of hours. He said one week I might work 16 hours; the next, 23; another week I might work 35 hours. Since I was hired in June, I was consistently scheduled to work at least 32 hours each week. In reality, I never got out of there when I was scheduled to. I was lucky if I only worked 15 or 20 minutes extra at the end of a shift. Of course, I got paid for every extra minute I worked, but I’d rather have the time than the money.

Three shifts a week would have been ok, but five were too many.

#9 No sick leave with pay. When I was hired, the human resources person

Clinician Writing Medical Report

told me nothing about vacation time or sick leave. I found out later from a veteran worker in the supermarket that the state we worked in doesn’t require employers to provide sick pay. Guess what? Because they’re not required by the state to provide it, the company didn’t offer sick pay. This means anyone who is too sick to come into work doesn’t get paid for the shift.

I suspect workers who can’t afford to miss a day’s pay go to work no matter how sick they are. Most of the company’s employees work in a supermarket. Think about that for a moment. Those sick people are touching food. Even if they don’t touch the food directly, they’re putting their germy hands all over the packages containing food. Yuck! Now I understand why it sometimes seems like an illness is hitting everyone in town: germs are probably being spread through the supermarket.

#10 Selling tobacco products was a drag. From the day I started working

Close-up Photo of Red Cigarette Butt Lot

in the fuel center, I hated selling cigarettes, chew, and cheap cigars. I think using tobacco products is a bad idea, and I don’t like participating in people’s addictions in order to line someone’s pocket.(Every time I sold a pack of cigarettes, I ended the transaction by saying have a nice day, but I was thinking good luck with your lung cancer.)

I hated the hassle of checking IDs and entering birth dates in my POS (point-of-sale) system, but I hated even more the fear of getting busted for selling tobacco products to some underage kid. There just wasn’t enough time to do a thorough check of an ID when I had a line of customers, and I was worried someone was going to slip a fake one past me.

Selling tobacco products really slowed down my process. Although I’d learned the most popular brands and their varieties by the time I quit, searching for what the customer wanted took time. Then, unless the customer was obviously older than I was, I felt compelled to check the ID. All the while, the line behind the tobacco buyer grew.

I’ll be glad if I never have to sell a tobacco product again.

#11 Having too much responsibility. Not only did I feel responsible for not selling tobacco products to minors, I felt a huge amount of responsibility to make sure the fuel center did not go up in flames. The smallest fuel spill had me rushing outside to clean it up ASAP. I was constantly on the lookout for anyone smoking or doing any other stupid things that might lead to a fire.

Of course, I felt responsible for making correct change, helping each customer promptly, and being as polite as possible, but keeping the place from turning into the towering inferno was more than I had bargained for when looking for a summer job.

#12 The damned intercom system was driving everyone crazy. The intercom system was old and didn’t function very well. Often I’d press the button that was supposed to allow the person on the other side of the bulletproof glass to hear me speak, but something would go wrong with the system and the customer heard nothing. Sometimes the person on the other side of the glass spoke to me but no sound came through. Sometimes the sound that came through was garbled or crackly. Even on a good day, the poorly functioning intercom system was enough to irritate a saint. My customers and I were mere mortals and the misunderstandings caused by the crappy intercom system often led to frayed nerves and sharp tongues.

While I worked in the fuel center, a young man came out to repair the malfunctioning diesel pumps. (Spoiler alert: the diesel pumps were not repaired when he left.) When he was finished not fixing the diesel pumps, he worked on the intercom system.

He took a plate off the back of the intercom box and wiggled the wires hidden behind the plate. He said the intercom worked better now. Maybe it did, but not for long. I’m sure those wires wiggled right back out.

He said we could wiggle the wires back in ourselves if the intercom malfunctioned. Huh. I had neither a screwdriver to remove the plate, nor the time to remove it and futz around with wires. When people were in line to buy gas, they wanted to buy gas, not wait around for the clerk to repair the communication system.

I’m not surprised the company I worked for didn’t want to spend the money to get a modern, functioning intercom system in the fuel center. Why should the big bosses care if customers and workers alike are pissed off because communication is difficult? The big bosses don’t have to deal with it, and they’d rather save money instead of spend it to make the lives of workers easier.

#13 Dealing with grumpy people.  Oh lord. Grumpy customers. Grumpy coworkers. So many unhappy people, and they all seemed to want to bring me down to their level of agitation and dissatisfaction. I tried to be pleasant to everyone, but after being spoken to sharply several times in one shift, I was ready to pack it in. I will not miss the folks who wanted to take their troubles out on me.

Can you understand now why I quit the job? What would you have done? Would you have quit too or tried to stick it out until winter? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-car-on-gas-station-2440998/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-wash-hands-1327213/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/abundance-bank-banking-banknotes-259027/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/accident-action-danger-emergency-260367/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/clinician-writing-medical-report-1919236/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/dirty-addiction-cigarette-unhealthy-46183/.