Category Archives: My Life as a Fuel Clerk

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.  

Kick in the Nuts

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It’s not a good sign when the work day starts with wanting to kick a customer in the nuts.

I’d opened the fuel center that morning, and even though I’d gone to bed at 8:30 the night before, I was tired. I hadn’t stopped for coffee at the one open-all-night convenience store on my route although I was close to falling asleep at the wheel several times during my commute. My spirits hadn’t lifted any when I looked at the schedule and saw I had to open the next two days as well as two days later in the week. One month on the job and I was already burnt out.

Still, I was trying to do a good job. I counted the money in the cash register drawer, unlocked the coolers, and made sure all the merchandise was neat. Then I went to each pump and cleared paper jams in the receipt printers. Maybe I would make it through this day.

Photo of Tire Inflator at a Gas Station

While I was cleaning one of the gas pumps, a young woman approached me and asked for help with the air machine. She’d used her credit card to pay for her five minutes of pressurized air, but she wasn’t sure she was using the hose properly because the car’s sensor still said the tire’s air pressure was low. I said I’d try to help, but warned her I had zero training in how to work the air pump.

What does this number mean? the young woman asked pointing to the machine’s screen. I had to admit I had no idea.

She said when she’d tried before she’d removed the hose from the tire before the machine beeped. She wondered if that might have been the problem.

Could be, I said, but I had no idea.

During my interaction with the young woman, I’d seen a man approach the fuel kiosk. I have a strict one-customer-at-a-time policy, so I continued to try to help the young woman.

I look at it this way: whatever customer I’m with at the moment deserves my undivided attention. When I’m finished helping that customer, I’ll move on to the next one and give that person my undivided attention. Even if the line in front of me is long, I can get through if I concentrate on one customer at a time. Besides, I get distracted and make mistakes if I try to do too many things at once (and by “too many,” I mean “more than one”).

I saw the waiting customer look over and realize I was the worker on duty. Probably the fluorescent pink safety vest gave me away.

I’ll be right with you, I called out to the guy, and he started grumbling loudly, acting as if he’d never in his life had to wait in line at a gas station.

I wasn’t really helping the young woman with the air pump, so I excused myself. The young woman apologized for asking for help, and I assured her it was no problem.

As I walked back to the kiosk, I turned on the (fake) good cheer, and said, Sorry for the wait! I was helping the lady with the air pump.

Up until this point, I was a little miffed with the guy’s impatience, but not really angry with him. Maybe he had a good reason to be in a hurry. Maybe he was on his way to work or a medical appointment. Maybe he couldn’t afford to be late. However, what he said next caused a flash of white-hot anger to shoot through my being.

She should know how to do it herself, he sneered. It’s not that hard.

This was when the desire to smash his testicles reared up inside of me. His attitude was so unkind. There was no reason for him to say such a thing. I was furious. I hurried to the kiosk before my leg could shoot out and land my foot between his legs.

I killed him with kindness through the bulletproof glass of the kiosk. I hope he knew I didn’t mean one bit of my niceness.

I know violence doesn’t solve anything and an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. I know being an asshole to an asshole only increases the world’s net sum of assholeness. I know the company I work for does not condone kicking (even deserving) customers. I know I behaved the right way, did the right thing, but I really wanted to be an angel of vengeance and righteous anger in that moment.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-tire-inflator-at-a-gas-station-1886580/.

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/.