My last day at the fuel center was perfect because it included all the chaos I was leaving behind.
When I’d applied for the job, the application had asked about my availability. I’d responded that I was available any time except Tuesday mornings. When I had the prescreening interview over the phone, I’d told the lady from the corporate hiring office that I was available to work any time expect Tuesday mornings. During my interview with one of the store’s assistant managers, I’d verbalized that I was not available to work on Tuesday mornings. Over the eight or so weeks I’d worked at the fuel center, I’d been scheduled to work on Tuesday mornings at least three times, including on my last day on the job.
Working in the morning meant opening the fuel center which meant getting out of bed no later than 4:15am so I could make the forty minute drive to town and clock in by 5:45. How appropriate that on my last day of employment I had to wake up in the dark and drive 20 miles in the dark and start work in the dark.
I was late clocking in on my last day. What are they going to do, fire me? I
thought bitterly. I moved slowly while getting ready for work and left the house late. I knew I wasn’t going to make it through the morning without coffee, so I stopped at the 24 hour convenience store and bought a cup of their nasty joe. Even six packets of sugar and two squirts of nondairy creamer couldn’t redeem the stuff, but I drank it anyway.
After clocking in nine minutes late, I headed to the fuel center, unlocked the door, and disarmed the alarm. As always, I counted the cash drawer, opened the cooler and merchandisers, put out the squeegees, and completed my paperwork. Then I checked the spill buckets, cleaned all the pumps, and went back into the kiosk.
I said, Hi! How can I help you today? about a thousand times.
Every hour, I went outside and made sure all merchandise was pulled to the front and facing forward.
Around 10:30 the alarm system repairmen arrived.
The guy in charge of the team of two came up to the kiosk and told me through the intercom that they were there to work on the alarm and needed to get into the kiosk. I told him no one had informed me they would be there, and I’d need a few minutes to confirm it was ok to let them into the kiosk. The repairman seemed fine with my caution.
I called the managers’ office and told the person who answered the phone (managers never, ever identified themselves when I talked with them on the phone) that the repairmen had arrived and wanted to come into the kiosk. The manager on the other end of the line said the repairmen hadn’t checked in with him. It sounded to me as if he didn’t even know they were coming. Send them inside to check in, he instructed me.
I told the guy he’d have to go into the supermarket to check in. They left, and I continued to sell fuel and cigarettes and sodas.
The repairmen returned, but no one from management let me know it was ok to allow them in the kiosk. I had to call the managers’ office again to find out everything was on the up and up. Typical that when I really needed to be in the loop, I was out of it.
While the repairmen where in the kiosk, they witnessed how difficult it was to communicate through the intercom. They heard how one older man got really pissed off at me when I mistook his request for $20 on pump 9 as $30 on pump 10. He corrected my mistake before I even put the wrong information into the POS (point-of-sale) system, but he spoke to me roughly. I could tell he was mad. I don’t know if he thought I was purposely going against his wishes, but I truly misunderstood what he said through the crappy intercom system.
Some people are really rude, the younger repairman observed.
After they’d been in the kiosk about half an hour, the lead repair guy said they had to go outside and check the alarm on each pump. While they completed their task, I’d be in the kiosk listening to the alarm sound continuously for minutes at a time.
The alarm was high pitched and annoying. I guess alarms are designed to be irritating so they grab attention. Anything less terrible would surely be ignored. While the alarm was horrible to be subjected to, I was able to put it at the back of my consciousness. It was both at the forefront of my reality and not there at all.
My coworker who relieved me at noon was late, as he had been late every time he’d relieved me over the past two months. This time he was only about eight minutes late instead of the 14 to 26 minutes he’d been late before. At least he didn’t pull another no-call\no-show on my last day.
I went into the supermarket to pull merchandise for the fuel center. I found all I could from the list of needed items, then brought everything up to the front for the manager in charge of fuel center replenishment to check. He was still giving me instructions on how to restock correctly, and I realized no one had bothered to tell him I’d given my two weeks notice. He obviously had no idea it was my last day on the job. I figured if no one else had told him, I wasn’t going to be the one to break the news
Oh, yeah. Right. Sure, I agreed with everything he said. I knew he’d figure out eventually that I was gone when he never saw me again.
After I dropped off the merchandise at the fuel center, I walked back to the supermarket to clock out and turn in my name tag and pink safety vest.
The manager I really liked was in the office working on the computer even though she’d told me two days before that she wouldn’t see me on my last day because she’d be on vacation.
I thought you were in West Virginia, I said,
She turned around, and I saw she wore no makeup and had a baseball cap pulled down low on her forehead. This woman usually wore a ton of eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow, but that afternoon her naked eyes looked young and vulnerable.
I leave tomorrow, she said. I’m just here today tying up a few loose ends.
This isn’t how you start a vacation, I teased.
I know, she laughed.
From the moment I’d met this woman, I felt a bond with her. Maybe it was just the connection of middle age woman working shit jobs (although I think my job was more shit than hers). I made her laugh, which always endears a person to me (I feel so understood when people laugh when I’m trying to be funny), but more importantly, this woman really seemed to care. I always felt as if she truly cared about me, the fuel center, the customers.
I just need to drop off my vest and name tag, I explained while setting the items on the cluttered desk where the human resources woman sat when she was in.
We’re really going to miss you, the manager I liked said.
She told me if I ever needed a reference or a recommendation, I should look her up. I assured her I would
Then she said, I don’t know if you’re a hugger…
Actually, I am, I said, and we embraced
Thank you, I told her. From the moment I met you, I felt a warmth from you, and this place really needs some warmth.
Then I said I’d see her when I went into the store to shop.
I walked out to my truck an unemployed woman. It was the end of an era. I
can’t say I was sad to see that door close behind me.
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