Tag Archives: my job

Is This America? (Blog Post Bonus)

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Since today is American Independence Day, I thought I’d share an American story with you as a blog post bonus.

A couple of months before I started working at the fuel center (aka gas station), the corporation that owns it decided to stop accepting a major credit card. According to a flier given to customers before the major credit card was blackballed, the company I worked for

is charged excessive bank fees when customers use [the major credit card in question] at the checkout. To help keep your grocery price low, we’ve decided not to accept [this particular major credit card].

At the time I worked there, the fuel center accepted three other major credit cards, as well as debit cards, including debit cards with the name of the credit card we didn’t accept on them.  Confused? So were the customers.

The folks who lived in town and got fuel regularly where I worked were slowly growing accustomed to the change, but I worked in a tourist town, and the tourists who stopped in for fuel were in a perpetual state of WTF. Every day at least five visitors ran their card two or three times before the screen on the pump instructed the person pumping fuel to see the cashier. (Of course, when I was at work, the cashier was me.) Nine out of ten of the customers sent to see me were already pissed off. I could see it in their faces and their body language. When I told them the problem was that the store quit accepting their credit card of choice months earlier, they were usually incredulous. Some of them wanted to discuss the situation with me (What card CAN I use? or Can I use my debit card?) but some simply walked away without speaking, looks of anger and/or disgust on their faces.

You must be the only gas station in the country that doesn’t take [the credit card he wanted to use], one visitor spat at me during my last week of work.

Maybe, I said noncommittally to him. I wasn’t going to argue with him because for all I knew, he was right.

Many of the locals who knew they couldn’t use the particular credit card where I worked were not too happy about the situation. One elderly lady gave me an earful. Neither the bulletproof glass between us nor the scratchy intercom deterred her.

I know it’s not your fault, but it is ridiculous you don’t take [the credit card in question]. And it’s a shame they make you say it’s to keep prices low. Every time I go into the supermarket, everything is so expensive! My friends don’t even come here anymore.

I cut in to offer my apologies, but she didn’t want to hear them. She just wanted to rant.

I know it’s not your fault, she repeated, then started back in with her tirade.

I wanted to ask her why she was making me listen to her complaints if she knew the situation was not my fault and I could do nothing to remedy it, but instead I kept my mouth shut and tried to appear sympathetic. I didn’t understand why she continued to spend money where I worked if she thought the prices were too high and she hated the payment options.

The fellow in line behind her must have been tired of listening to her too. He was a big guy, easily over six feet tall, and he probably weighted upwards of 200 pounds. While he didn’t physically push the little old lady away, he used his size to intimidate her, so she stepped off to the side of the drawer I used to collect payment and deliver cigarettes, candy, and change. While the lady was still complaining, the large customer drowned out her voice by demanding, $25 on 6!

The elderly lady looked startled, then scurried away.

On the one hand, I thought the male customer had behaved very rudely.

What’s wrong with you? I wanted to ask him. That woman was old enough to be your mother. Would you want someone to treat your mother that way?

On the other hand, God bless him. If he hadn’t stepped up, that lady might have gone on for another five minutes.

Of course, each pump had a sticker saying we only took the debit version of the card. Of course, most customers don’t read the words on gas pumps.

One afternoon an elderly man approached the kiosk while a manager was in there with me. She happened to be closest to the intercom when the fellow walked up, so she asked how she could help him.

He said the screen on the pump had told him to see the cashier. The manager asked him if he was trying to use the credit card we didn’t accept. He confirmed that he was. The manager told him we’d stopped taking that card several months prior. He was obviously livid.

The customer stomped off, and the manager went to the back of the kiosk, out of sight. I thought she’d left.

Maybe two minutes later, I looked out of the bulletproof glass to see the already angry customer booking it back to the kiosk. When he reached the window, I switched on the intercom and asked how I could help him.

You don’t take [card we didn’t take], right? he asked me.

That’s right, I told him.

Then why does every pump have a sticker saying you take it? he wanted to know. He really thought he had me now.

Oh, sir, I said nicely, those stickers say ‘debit only.”

He spun on his heels and took off without a word.

I thought his head was going to explode, my manager said.

I thought you’d left, I said to her.

I saw him coming back, so I ducked out of sight.

I’m really glad you saw that, I told her. It happens all the time.

A few days later a youngish woman came up to the kiosk. She was holding two red two-gallon gas cans. She seemed a little frantic.

The pump told me to see the cashier, she said to me.

Are you trying to use [the credit card we didn’t take], I asked her. She was.

I’m sorry. We quit taking those in April.

Now I’ve lost my place in line, she screeched. There should be a sign! There should be a sign!

I tried to tell her about the stickers on the pumps, but she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. She was already crossing the fuel center to negotiate with the woman who had pulled her truck up to the pump the woman with the gas cans had been trying to use.

My favorite response from a frustrated credit card user came one busy afternoon. The line was about five deep when a man stepped up the window and told me the screen on the pump had instructed him to see the cashier.

I asked him if he was using the credit card we didn’t accept. He said he was. I told him we didn’t accept it.

He busted out with, Is this America?

I almost busted out laughing, but managed to keep a straight face. I don’t know if the guy was referencing the free enterprise system or the Rah! Rah! Rah! U!S!A! freedoms certain segments of the population tend to celebrate. All I knew was it didn’t matter what country we were in—I couldn’t process the card he wanted to use.

I took the photo in this post.

Stolen Sprayer

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When I worked at the supermarket fuel center briefly in the summer of 2019, one of my duties was cleaning fuel spills. When fuel ended up on the concrete during my shift (and this happened daily and sometimes more than once a day), I applied a special chemical to the fuel. The chemical somehow neutralized the fuel and alleviated the possibility of it catching fire. I’d soak up the whole mess with big pads make from a superabsorbent material.

This is the type of sprayer we used to dispense the neutralizing chemical.

The neutralizing chemical was liquid and came in large jugs. My fellow clerks and I had to pour the liquid from the jugs into a two-gallon sprayer, the type of device landscapers use to apply herbicides to weeds.

The sprayer was already falling apart when I started the job. One day during my first week at work, I needed to spray some of the neutralizer onto spilled gasoline. I couldn’t get the chemical to shoot out of the sprayer’s nozzle. I paged a manager to ask for help. The person who returned my page (but did not identify himself) told me to just turn the container over and pour some onto the spilled fuel. I was pretty sure that was not the way things were supposed to be done. If we were meant to pour the chemical, we would just pour it from one of the large jugs and not put it in the apparatus designed for spraying. But what did I know? I was the new kid, so I did what the manager told me to do.

A few days later the store manager came out to the fuel center kiosk to do the daily walk through (which did not happen daily, trust me). I told him the sprayer did not spray properly. He started looking at all of the components and found the tube that was supposed to connect to the hose was detached. He reconnected the tube to the hose. Success! Now the neutralizing chemical could be sprayed properly.

Sometimes the blue, slightly oily liquid pooled at the top of the sprayer near the handle that did double duty as the pump that worked to pressurize the contents of the container. I’d use the absorbent pads to soak up the liquid, but was never really sure how it had gotten there.

One afternoon right before my coworker showed up to relieve me, I discovered diesel was flowing slowly but steadily from pump 2. Even after I turned off power to the entire pumping station, diesel continued to flow from the nozzle. I grabbed the last of the absorbent pads from the supply area in the back of the kiosk, wrapped a couple around the malfunctioning nozzle and used the rest to soak up the spilled fuel. When I went into the supermarket to pull merchandise to restock the fuel center, I looked for more absorbent pads, but there were none. One of the managers told me to use cat litter to absorb the diesel on the concrete in front of pump 2. I gave my coworker the cat litter instructions and left the cleanup to him.

When I returned to work the next day, there was diesel all over the lane in front of and leading to pump 2. My coworkers had not used the cat litter to absorb the still flowing fuel. After nearly 24 hours, what had pooled in front of pump 2 eventually flowed over to the next pump. It was a real mess.

When I asked what was going on at pump 2, my coworker seemed completely unconcerned. There were no absorbent pads, he shrugged. He seemed to think there was absolutely nothing he could do to improve the situation if there were no absorbent pads.

He went into the supermarket to get merchandise to restock, and I got busy cleaning the mess he’d successfully ignored all morning. I spent the better part of the next five hours cleaning the spilled fuel.

The first thing I did was drag out the sprayer with the neutralizing liquid. I wanted to spray down all the diesel on the concrete so at least the fuel center wouldn’t go up in flames if someone created a spark. I had just sprayed everything down and used the short-handled scrub broom to make sure the fuel and the neutralizer were mixed thoroughly when I looked up and saw a customer standing in front of the kiosk waiting for me to assist him with his cash purchase. Dang! I hated abandoning my cleaning project, but the customer came first and all that jazz. I carried the scrub broom with me into the kiosk, but left the sprayer behind. I’d use it again momentarily; no need to carry it in and back out again.

By the time I helped the fellow waiting at the kiosk, two people had taken his place. By the time I helped them, three or four other folks had gotten in line. I was stuck behind the cash register for five or ten minutes. When I finally cleared out the line, I headed back outside to finish the cleanup. I looked around. Something was missing. Where was the sprayer? Had I brought it into the kiosk?

I went back inside the kiosk. No sprayer. Some low-down dirty thief had stolen the sprayer. How was I ever going to be able to clean the mess if I couldn’t spray the neutralizing chemical?

I paged a manager so I could alert someone in charge to the latest turn of events. When I told the manager who answered my page that the sprayer had been stolen, he laughed bitterly, as if he wasn’t even surprised.

After getting off the phone with management, I grabbed one of the jugs of the neutralizing liquid from the storage rack in the back of the kiosk and took it outside. I sloshed some of the liquid from the jug onto the diesel slick concrete. The application wasn’t as neat as it would have been from the sprayer, but the effect was the same. Once I had the fuel and the neutralizing liquid thoroughly mixed, I laid down a thin layer of cat litter. I figured I’d let the litter sit for a while and absorb the chemical stew before I swept up the whole mess.

I went back into the kiosk and enjoyed the air conditioned coolness. I’d have to go back out there eventually, but for now I’d relax a bit, if you call talking to customers, taking money, making change, and authorizing gas pumps relaxing.

I don’t know how much time passed before I had a moment to look up and gaze out of the window and across the fuel center. There…by the air pressure machine…was the sprayer. What? The thief had returned our sprayer!!!

I had to laugh to myself as I hustled over to scoop up the sprayer. The thing was such a piece of junk that the thief had decided it wasn’t worth stealing. I just imagined the chemical in it bubbling up to the top of the container, then sloshing around all over the thief’s vehicle. I bet that was a surprise. What really astonished me was that the thief returned the sprayer instead of just chucking it into a dumpster. The thief had probably not even made it out of the parking lot before realizing the sprayer wasn’t worth keeping.

I took the photo in this post.

Trainer

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John, the guy who trained me for my job at the supermarket fuel center, was not someone I would choose to spend time with. He was pleasant enough to me, but he talked a lot of shit on the customers.

He had much to say about women and their looks. That one was too fat and obviously lazy; she should go to the gym and work out. The one walking up to the counter had been attractive before she had kids. He’d thought about getting with her but decided against it because she was married to his friend. He was not at all attracted to the woman with the really short hair walking across the parking lot. He’d just never been attracted to women with boy cuts. It was a good thing there was glass between us and the woman paying for gas because she stunk! He’s smelled her once at the laundromat, and she needed to learn to wear deodorants.

I don’t know why he thought I was interested in his taste in women. I didn’t care who he was or was not attracted to, but I didn’t much want to hear his opinions about women’s bodies. I knew he was allowed to think whatever he wanted, but I certainly didn’t want to hear about it.

John didn’t talk about men’s bodies, but he did have preconceived notions about which ones were assholes. Often some man who John said was going to be grumpy was neutral or even pleasant to me. Perhaps the fellow in question was pleasant because I was pleasant to him.

You seem more suited to this job than I do, John told me after observing my interactions with customers for a couple of days. I thought he was probably right.

John was great at cleaning and completing the daily paperwork. When we arrived at 5:45 each morning, he counted the money in the cash register drawer, prepared the paperwork, then set out to clean and shine all ten gas pumps. When that task was finished, he pulled out the leaf blower and used it to remove dirt and small trash from the fuel center pavement.

When a customer had a problem paying at the pump, John would go outside to find the solution. It wasn’t that he refused to help. He did help, just not very cheerfully. While he wasn’t outright rude to customers, he wasn’t really friendly either.

I’m sure part of John’s problem was his dissatisfaction with the job. He’d been working in the fuel center for two years without a raise. He wanted to “move up,” but there was nowhere to go as long as management kept him out of the actual supermarket. He opened every single day he worked, clocking in around 5:40 in the morning. I think management was hoping he’d quit, but he’d stuck it out for a couple of years. John had finally given his notice two weeks prior, and his last four days on the job were spent training me.

I think another part of John’s problem was his negative attitude. I think it’s difficult to be of service to people when one feels superior to everyone who crosses his path. John certainly acted as if he felt superior to most folks who approached the kiosk. What John said aloud was bad enough. I fear what might have been going on in his head. Perhaps he was keeping the worst of it to himself.

I had to laugh to myself when John told me about the three young men who would be my fuel center coworkers.  They’re nice guys, he said, but they’re not the brightest tools in the shed.

Maybe I should have told him that he who makes disparaging remarks about the intelligence of others should not mix his metaphors, but I didn’t say anything at all. I stayed quiet and was glad I’d soon be working in the fuel center kiosk alone.  

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.

What I Appreciate About My Job

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The lady was right. Sometimes working as a clerk in a supermarket fuel center is a hard job. However, I was able to come up with ten things I appreciate about the place where I work and the work I do.

#1 The booth I’m in for most of my shift is air conditioned and heated. I even have control of the thermostat Although I’m not able to set the a/c below 65 degrees, I can pretty much keep it as cool or warm as I need it in my little domain.

#2 The booth also keeps me out of direct sunlight and away from the wind, rain, dust, and bugs.

#3 Uniforms are out!

The company I work for stopped requiring uniforms days before I started working for them. I can wear almost whatever I want as long as I look neat and professional. (In reality, I typically look dirty and rumpled. Working at a gas station does not lend itself to cleanliness, and for some reason I perpetually look like I’ve slept in my clothes.)

Employees can wear pants (but not jeggings, leggings, pajama bottoms, yoga pants, or sweats) and a shirt with sleeves, even a t-shirt or sweatshirt as long as any logo on it is small. Tank tops and revealing blouses are not allowed.

I have a pair of black men’s Wrangle business-casual style pants I paid full price (!) for because when I was hired, the uniform still required black pants. While I wasn’t keen on spending $15 (plus tax!) on a pair of pants, I owned nothing suitable for work and couldn’t find anything that fit at the thrift store.

A couple of weeks later, I did find pants that fit at the thrift store. Both pairs are from the Gap, and although the inside of the waistband says “khaki,” one pair is dark blue and the other is black. I found them at the same store, but on different days. The blue pair (bought first) has a fit that is surprisingly perfect for my short, fat body; the length is exactly right! I never find pants that are the right length for me, so the fact that these are makes me think diving intervention was involved. The black pants are just the tiniest bit too long, so I fold them up a little.

The greatest thing about the pants was the price. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask, but the fellow at the cash register only charged me $2 for the blue pair, a shirt, a belt, and a Thermos jar. Score! I love me some 50 cent pants that fit as if they were sewn with me in mind. The black pants were a little more expensive. They cost a whole dollar! Ha!

As for my shirt, I usually wear one of several long-sleeved, light, 100% cotton shirts I own. It’s fine that I wear them untucked and loose. I make sure to keep my middle-age cleavage covered.

#4 Selling cigarettes is bad enough. I’m glad I don’t have to sell alcohol. Probably more underage people try to buy alcohol than cigarettes, and I can only image what a pain in the ass it would be to cut off a drunk person from their next beer. Ugh! The fuel center offers no beverage stronger than Pepsi, and I’m grateful for that.

#5 I don’t have to clean toilets. I have to pick up litter sometimes, but—oh sweet joy!—I don’t have to deal with the body waste of strangers on the clock. Knock wood.

There are no restrooms at the fuel center, so cleaning toilets does not fall within the realm of my job description. Of course, sometimes customers think I’m hiding a restroom in the kiosk. One day I was outside cleaning, and as I approached the kiosk’s (one) door, a man strode purposefully toward me.

Can I use your restroom, he asked.

I directed him to the supermarket across the parking lot. He looked skeptical, as if perhaps I simply didn’t want to share my gas station restroom with him. I unlocked the door and disappeared into the kiosk. I’m not sure if he went into the supermarket to use the facilities or if he decided to wait until his next stop. I do know I didn’t have to clean up after his restroom visit, and I’m glad for that.

#6 I get paid every week on Thursday. How cool is that? Nothing like getting paid this week for the shifts I worked last week.

#7 People don’t tend to linger at the fuel center and try to tell me personal stories I really don’t want to hear. Nothing says “move along” like bulletproof glass and a crackling, hissing intercom system.

#8 On a similar note, customers don’t come to my house when I’m off work and ask where they can camp, how far they are from the General Sherman, or where they can fill their water bottles. When I clock out at the end of my shift, my life belongs to me.

#9 The customers at the fuel center are generally nice. Sure, there are a few grumps, but I turn up the friendly charm with those folks. My kindness may not change their lives (maybe it will!) but they won’t be able to complain to my manager that I’m rude.

Most people don’t want to cause me trouble. Most people want to pay for their fuel and get on with their lives.

#10 I get to help people. This truly is my favorite part of the job. Maybe after I’ve done it a million times I’ll hate leaving the kiosk to help people follow the directions on the screens of the pumps. For now, it’s kind of fun. I’m convinced some folks would leave without fuel if I weren’t there to walk them through the steps.

So there you have it—ten things that I actually like about my job. As long as they don’t give me a whole week of opening shifts, I might be able to tolerate the job for a while.

Alright

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She walked up to the gas station kiosk in which I was working. She held her phone to her ear.

She was older than I, probably in her late 50s or maybe early 60s. Her long grey hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she wore a tan baseball cap. She walked over from a long white passenger van which held no passengers. She’d parked the van next to the kiosk, not next to a gas pump, and left the driver’s side door open.

When she stepped up to the window, I pressed the button on the intercom so I could communicate with her through the bulletproof glass. I gave her my standard greeting.

Hi. How can I help you this morning?

She didn’t lower her phone from her ear.

I released the button on the intercom so I could hear what she had to say.

Give me a pack of Marlboro Ultra-Light 72s, she said.

I noticed the lack of the word “please” turning what could have been a request into a command. Her cell phone was still next to her ear.

Marlboro Cigarette Boxes

I turned around to look at the vast array of cigarettes offered for sale. I found the Marlboros but got hung up trying to figure out which of the 30 (I’m not exaggerating!) varieties of that brand the woman actually desired. Luckily I was still in training, and my coworker knew exactly where to find what the customer wanted.

I rang up the sale. The woman was clearly over 18 (and 27 and 35 and 42)—definitely old enough to buy cigarettes—so I didn’t ask to see her ID. I bypassed entering her birth date into the register. I told her the total of the sale, which was over $9. (Cigarettes are expensive!) Her phone stayed next to her ear.

She put a ten dollar bill in the drawer through which the customers and I passed items. I slid the drawer into the kiosk and reached for her money. I got her change, which I slid out along with her receipt and the box of cigarettes.

I pressed the intercom button and said, Thank you! Have a nice day!

I let go of the intercom button in time to hear her say, Alright.

She didn’t smile, and her phone never left her ear.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/search/cigarettes/.