Category Archives: My Life as a Fuel Clerk

Marketing Fail

Standard

According to the What National Day Is It website, tomorrow is National Marketing Day. In honor of this dubious holiday, I want to share with you a total marketing fail I witnessed when I was a fuel clerk.

Closed Soda Bottles

A frail, elderly man shuffled toward the fuel center kiosk where I was working. When he got close, I turned on the intercom and asked how I could help him. I could hardly hear him when he spoke, even with the intercom set to high volume. I barely made out him asking, Do you have a Pepsi Coke?

I’m pretty sure he did not ask if we had Pepsi and Coke. I’m pretty sure he asked for a Pepsi Coke. He did not seem to be inquiring about two beverages but about some single entity.

I think he was using “coke” in a generic sense. For some reason, in the

Assorted Beverage Bottles

Southern USA “coke” has come to mean “soft drink,” what people in other parts of the country might refer to as “soda” or “pop” (or maybe even “soda pop.”) As a kid, I remember hearing the story of a waitress who asked, What kind of coke would you like? and being surprised that root beer, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and even Coke were all appropriate responses.

I didn’t quite know how to answer the old man’s question. We had Pepsi

Person Holding Pepsi Can

products, and we had Coke products, but I thought he really wanted a Pepsi cola. I covered all the bases by pointing out the cooler where we kept all the Pepsi choices as well as the one cooler where we kept all the varieties of Coca-Cola.

The fellow studied one cooler, then the other. His final choice? A Diet Coke.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/closed-soda-bottles-1904262/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-beverage-bottles-1384039/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-pepsi-can-1292294/.

Don’t Send Granny

Standard

The woman who stepped up to the window of the fuel center kiosk where I was working looked elderly, but not ancient. Her hair was light brown and curly, and she had some wrinkles, but she didn’t look as old as other people I’d helped there.

She asked for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in a box. I didn’t understand

Marlboro Cigarette Boxes

exactly what variety of Marlboros she wanted,so I grabbed the most popular type and showed it to her through the bulletproof glass.

Is that the right kind? I asked through the intercom.

The elderly woman looked like a deer in the headlights. She stared at the cigarettes for several long seconds.  Finally she said, That will be ok.

I thought she’d had a strange response. Most smokers seemed to be very particular about their cigarettes. They knew what they liked, and they didn’t want anything else. If those weren’t the cigarettes the lady wanted, I would have been happy to get what she did want. She might have had to guide me to the variety she wanted, but I would have gladly grabbed them for her. 

I didn’t ask to see the woman’s ID. She was obviously older than 17, obviously older than 27 or even 35.

I told her the total she owed for the smokes and said she could put her payment in the drawer. She looked at me blankly. She had no idea what I was talking about.

In the town where I worked, lots of people, especially older people, did not speak English as their first language. Perhaps that is what was going on with this customer. Maybe she really didn’t understand a word I said.

Lift the glass, ma’am, I instructed her. She continued to look absolutely blank.

The gentleman in line behind her took pity on us both (and himself, as he probably didn’t want to stand in line waiting to pay for gas for half an hour) and showed the elderly lady how to lift the Plexiglas and put her payment in the drawer.

I pulled the drawer into the kiosk and found a debit card in it. Ok. No problem. I could handle a debit card.

I swiped the card, and the computer prompted me to have the customer enter the PIN. I put the debit card in the drawer and slid it out to the customer. There was a PIN pad in the drawer too.

Person Holding Card and Terminal

Go ahead and enter the PIN using the PIN pad, followed by the green “enter” button, I said, giving my standard debit card speech.

I looked at the elderly woman and saw no sign of mental activity. The lights were on…no, actually, the lights were NOT on. The house was dark and no one was there. It was as if she had never before encountered the concepts of PIN, PIN pad, or payment. I felt really sorry for everyone involved.

Before I could hit the button to run the transaction as a credit card and be done with it, a car pulled in fast to my right. A well-dressed young woman jumped from the driver’s seat and rushed to the older woman’s side. The young woman entered a PIN, and a receipt shot out of my cash register. I slipped it in the drawer and thanked the women. They got into the car, and the young woman drove away.

Caltex Gasoline Station

It seemed to me that the younger woman had sent the older woman to buy cigarettes, but why? The younger woman looked old enough to legally buy cigarettes. Maybe she didn’t have her ID with her, so she sent her granny (or someone old enough to be her granny) to buy the smokes. The problem was the older woman didn’t seem capable of buying a pack of cigarettes. She didn’t seem to know what cigarettes to buy or what PIN went with the debit card she was using. I don’t know if the problem was related to a language barrier, a hearing loss, dementia, or a lack of knowledge about debit cards and PINs, but granny was not able to carry out her mission and had to be rescued.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/smoking-57528/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-card-and-terminal-1308747/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/caltex-gasoline-station-1173770/.

Risky Behavior

Standard

I didn’t see many children during my brief career as a clerk in a supermarket fuel center. I suppose most of the youngsters who visited the gas station stayed in the car during the fueling process.

Once I did see a tween boy remove the nozzle from the pump and place it in the family car. He held the nozzle in place during the pumping process. Technically no one too young to legally drive was supposed to pump gas, but I didn’t run out of the kiosk to stop the boy. He wasn’t horsing around, and an adult woman was right there with him to help if anything went wrong. I figured the boy was probably as bright as the least savvy customers I’d encountered in that fuel center.

Occasionally adults sent children up to the kiosk to pay for fuel or buy snacks. Usually it was obvious the adult had not coached the child before sending it up to complete the transaction. Kids typically didn’t know what pump they were putting money on or how to lift the lid on the drawer through which I accepted money and returned change. Of course, plenty of adults didn’t know those things either, so I cut the kids some slack. At least children had the excuses of their tender age and inexperience.

During the last Friday I worked at the fuel center, I witnessed a child in a situation I could barely believe, especially since the adult guardians enabled the surprising behavior.

I’d returned from the supermarket where I had pulled merchandise to restock what we’d recently sold at the fuel center. I was standing outside the kiosk, waiting for my coworker to open the door for me. Outside the kiosk, standing on the other side of the bulletproof glass from my coworker were two adult women and two kids. Neither woman looked more than 35 years old. The older kid was 12 or 13 and the little kid was probably 6. The little kid was bouncing around begging for something. I was only partially paying attention to the interaction between the little kid and the woman. I was mostly thinking about getting off work in a few minutes and going home to cook dinner. 

At some point, I realized the little kid was begging for a Bang® energy drink.

The Bang® energy drinks were in a tall (probably 3 feet high) round cooler decorated to look like a can of the beverage. The cooler was on wheels and was brought out of the kiosk and plugged in each morning. At night the cooler had to be unplugged and rolled back into the kiosk. We didn’t sell many of the drinks (Red Bull® and Monster® were probably the two most popular brands of energy drink we sold) and for some reason no variety of Bang® ever showed up on our replenishment list. I don’t know who kept the Bang® cooler stocked. No one told me anything about it, so I didn’t worry my pretty little head.

Occasionally I opened the Bang® cooler to return to the upright position any of the cans that had fallen on their sides during the daily taking out and bringing in. A can must have burst in the cooler at some time in the past because the walls and sides harbored sticky residue and an overpowering scent of (fake) cotton candy. I like sweets, but the intense aroma of artificial candy flavor nearly made me sick to my stomach.

According to the Bang® website,

BANG® is not your stereotypical high sugar, life-sucking soda masquerading as an energy drink! Power up with BANG’s potent brain & body-rocking fuel: Creatine, Caffeine, & BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids).

Under the “WARNINGS” section on the same website, I found this disclaimer:

Not recommended for use by children under 18 years of age.

Strange, the product’s own website says it’s not for children, but the list of available flavors include kid-appealing yummies like Birthday Cake Bash, Cotton Candy, Rainbow Unicorn, Sour Heads, and Root Beer. Sure, sure, adults can and do like those flavors too, but it seems a little strange to go with such sweetness while trying to appeal to a market that “consists principally of fitness enthusiasts” (according to Wikipedia.)

Also under the “WARNINGS” section of the Bang® website is the admission that

one serving [a 16 ounce can] of BANG provides 300mg of caffeine which is more than three cups of coffee.

For further comparison, 16 ounces of Red Bull has about 160mg of caffeine, a Starbucks Grande Caffe Americano contains 225mg of caffeine per 16 ounce cup, and 16 ounces of Mountain Dew contains about 73mg of caffeine.  Coke Classic offers only a paltry 45mg of caffeine per 16 ounce serving. I think we can all admit that consumers of Bang® get an awfully big caffeine bang for their buck.

So why shouldn’t kids enjoy a Bang® energy drink and its 300mg of caffeine? According to the February 2015 article “Why Energy Drinks and Your Children Don’t Mix” on the Cleveland Clinic website,

Energy drinks won’t only cause your young children to bounce off the walls—they may cause an irregular heartbeat, too.

The article goes on to say that a study presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting showed that kids younger than 6 made up more than 40% of emergency calls related to energy drinks.

The effects the energy drinks had on the children included heart arrhythmia and seizures.

The AHA said this was

because many energy drinks contain pharmaceutical-grade caffeine in addition to caffeine from natural sources…These combined sources of caffeine may cause the heart to race and blood pressure to increase.

According to the article,

The American Academy of Pediatrics prefers children consume no caffeine at all.

While the possible health effects of high levels of caffeine on children are disturbing, that bouncing off the walls thing would be enough to keep me from giving an energy drink to a child. Most kids I’ve known have had plenty of energy without introducing 300mg (or even 100mg or 50mg) of caffeine into the equation. Apparently the woman the little kid was begging for a Bang® had no such concerns, because she agreed to buy him one!

I couldn’t even believe it! Does that seem like a good idea? I wanted to call out to her. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to me! I wanted to tell her. But who am I to tell someone what to feed her child? I am no one. I kept my mouth shut.

Once the woman agreed to buy the Bang® for the little kid, both women urged the older kid to get an energy drink too. The older kid picked a Monster with a more manageable 160mg of caffeine in the 16 ounce can.

My coworker rang up the two energy drinks and whatever else the group had decided to buy for their Friday night fun. Once he collected payment and gave them change, he opened the back door for me.

I wonder how that’s going to work out for her, he was muttering as he let me in. I knew he was talking about the woman who’d just provided a very large amount of a stimulant to a very small child.

I shrugged. Maybe this would be the night the woman learned that children and caffeine simply shouldn’t mix.

Nice Customers

Standard

As I’ve said before, I tend to write about people who are rude or hostile or strange or interesting. Those people make for better stories although perhaps not for a better day. However, not all customers I encountered at the supermarket fuel center where I worked (briefly) were rude or hostile. I had unremarkable encounters with most customers and some interactions that were actually pleasant.

You give great customer service, one woman said to me through the intercom. She liked the chitchat she told me, although I was actually keeping it to a minimum because the intercom system was such a piece of crap.

Thanks for confirming how much gas I want and what pump I’m on, another lady told me. The others don’t do that. I didn’t tell her I repeated the information in hopes of stopping mistakes before I made them, but I was glad she appreciated the effort.

They should clone you, an older woman with a Southern drawl said one afternoon as I was loading sodas into the cooler. I guess she’d seen me hustling around the fuel center on previous visits and thought I was doing a good job.

(I told one of the assistant store managers about the cloning remark during my last week on the job and she said, I know. We’re really going to be hurting without you here.)

I like your hair, a gal told me shyly at the end of our transaction. I thanked her even though I thought it probably looked weird. I’d hacked off the bottom to chin length a few weeks earlier, and I knew it was choppy and uneven. I thanked her anyway, and she said, The color is really nice. That sweet person really made my day.

Most of the people I went outside to help use the pumps were really grateful and thanked me for my assistance. Of course, some folks seemed to become angrier when I got their debit and credit cards to work, but most customers were glad for my help even if they were embarrassed by their own mistakes.

One day a man came up to the kiosk, and I said (as I did to most customers), Hi! How can I help you today? I found out what pump he was on and how much money he wanted to spend on fuel. I gave him his receipt and his change and thanked him.

Thank you, he said. Thank you for being here.

 I suspect he liked paying cash, so he was glad I was there to receive his payment, but I also like to think he was happy see my smile and to have someone pay a little positive attention to him.

Angry Old Man

Standard

According to The British Association of Anger Management, National Anger Awareness Week begins this coming Sunday (December 1) and runs through December 7.The aforementioned website says,

The aim of Anger Awareness Week is to identify anger as a disturbing social issue which needs to be brought out into the open and addressed effectively. Anger Awareness Week will help people befriend anger by using the right tools to calm themselves down and to deal effectively with this emotion, be it of their own or that of others.

In honor of National Anger Awareness Week, I will share the story of a very angry man I met during my time as a fuel clerk. This guy really needed to befriend his anger, but since I was a fuel clerk and not a psychologist, I concentrated on getting gas in his car’s tank so he could take his unhappy self as far away from my workplace as possible.

When I worked at the supermarket fuel center, customers sometimes had problems using credit and debit cards at the pump. Sometimes the problem was trying to use a credit card we didn’t accept, but other times the nature of the problem was mysterious.

I usually knew when someone was having a problem because my POS (point-of-sale) system began beeping. When I looked over, I saw a yellow exclamation point flashing near the credit card icon. If I touched the credit card icon, a new screen popped up. The new screen showed what pump was having trouble and what kind of trouble it was. Whenever I heard the beeping, I tried to see who was having the trouble so I’d know what to say when the customer showed up at the kiosk. On busy days customers with trouble often made it to the kiosk before I could check the POS system.

One day an older man stepped up to the window in front of me. He was tall,

Sailboat Sailing on Water Near Island

and his grey hair was cut conservatively short. He wore shorts that hit just above his knees and a pink plaid shirt with a collar, short sleeves, and buttons. He was dressed the way I imagine rich people dress to play golf or go sailing. The guy obviously had money.

The guy was obviously angry too. I could tell he was upset by the look on his face and the way he carried himself. I did not look forward to hearing what he had to say.

Hi! I said brightly through the intercom. How can I help you today?

Pump 6 said to see the cashier, he sputtered. Yep. He was mad.

Were you trying to use [the card we didn’t accept]? I asked him.

No!  he barked. I was trying to use this, he said and showed me a credit card we did accept.

I know I made a face before I said, That’s strange. I can run it in here for you, I told the already angry man. How much do you want to put on pump 6?

I want to fill it up! the angry man said as if I should have already known that.

I’m sorry, I told him. I can’t do an open ended transaction here.

Grayscale Photo of Explosion on the Beach

I thought the old guy’s head was going to explode. Trying to avoid a meltdown, I said, I can come outside and help you if you like. He gave me a brief nod and stomped off. I took that as a yes.

When I got out to pump 6, I saw the white-haired man was accompanied by a middle age fellow—his son perhaps or his much younger lover. The middle age guy exercised his right to remain silent.

Let’s see if I can help! I said brightly.

The older man tried to jam his card into the reader, but I stopped him. We have to follow the steps on the screen or the computer will get all confused, I said to him. His head was definitely going to explode if he got any angrier. 

Do you have a rewards card? I read from the screen.

No, he answered through gritted teeth.

Then we’ve got to push the “no” button on the PIN pad, I said, reaching over to push the “no” button.

The next screen came up saying it was time to insert his credit card. I told him to insert his card now. As he did so, I told him to push it all the way in, then pull it out fast. If looks could kill, I would have been so dead.

The next screen asked the customer to enter his zip code. The customer did

Person Holding Gasoline Nozzle

so. Much to my relief and pleasure, the next screen instructed him to lift the nozzle and choose the grade of gasoline he wanted. I was tickled pink. I had saved the day!

The angry man was even angrier it seemed, although he didn’t voice his rage. Again, I could tell by the look on his face and his body language. Apparently, he’d become so invested in his belief that his credit card wasn’t going to work (and I bet he thought it was all the fault of the company I worked for!) that he got even madder when I got the card to work. Of course, he couldn’t complain because his card had worked, so his anger seethed inside of him. I figured I’d better get out of there before his head exploded and splattered me with brain matter.

As I headed toward the kiosk, I saw that the angry man’s younger companion had already wandered that way. When I caught up with him, I smiled and said, I guess I have the magic touch. The younger man smiled back.

I was glad I’d thought of something nice to say instead of Your friend is really pissed off or I hope your friend doesn’t have a heart attack or Your friend sure is an asshat. Sometimes when I open my mouth, the right words do come out.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sailboat-sailing-on-water-near-island-1482193/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-explosion-on-the-beach-73909/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/car-refill-transportation-gas-9796/.

My Receipt

Standard

The woman walked up to the fuel center kiosk where I was working. She was in the midst of middle age and had long, blond hair.

I turned on the intercom as I saw her approach. Before I could say a word, she barked out, My receipt!

Excuse me? I said. I was genuinely perplexed. What about her receipt?

I need a receipt on pump one. She spoke as if I were a not very bright child who should have known what she was talking about.

Oh. OK. I said, turning to my computer screen. I didn’t mind getting a receipt for her, but she didn’t have to be rude about it. Had she never learned those magic words “please” and “thank you”? If she knew those words, she’d chosen not to use then with me.

The printer’s out of paper, she told me sharply. You need to put in more paper.

Now that she mentioned it, my computer screen had told me there was a paper jam on the pump one receipt printer. I’d meant to get to it, but instead I’d been counting the cash in the register drawer, putting out squeegees, picking up trash, opening coolers and merchandisers, taking payments, making change, completing paperwork, and helping customers. Clearing a paper jam on pump one had completely slipped my mind.

I printed the woman’s receipt, put it in the drawer for her, and wished her a nice day. I waited until she’d left before I dealt with the paper jam on pump one. I didn’t want the woman to think that when she said “jump” I asked her “how high?”

Twenty Dollars

Standard

My shift at the fuel center where I was working was ending soon, and I couldn’t have been happier. I was so ready to get out of there!

A customer walked up to the window of the kiosk. I stood on the other side of the bulletproof glass, ready to help him.

How can I help you today? I asked through the intercom system.

His reply was garbled, but I did understand him to say twenty dollars. He opened the glass over the drawer and put something inside.

What pump are you on, sir? I asked.

He replied, Twenty dollars! The look on his face and the tone of his voice told me he was already agitated.

Yes, sir, I said. And what pump are you on?

I heard him open the Plexiglass over the drawer roughly and grab whatever he’d put in earlier. The whole drawer rattled. He held up his $20 bill to the window and shook it while yelling twenty dollars! His whole face contorted. He looked like a madman. He was obviously really angry.

I leaned down and put my mouth right next to the intercom. I spoke slowly and (I hoped) clearly.

Yes, sir, but I need to know what pump you’re on.

Oh, sorry, he said as his face relaxed. He looked like a totally different person. He put the money back in the drawer and said in a normal tone of voice, Pump 10.

I took his $20 bill from the drawer and sent him on his way to get his fuel from pump 10.

Trainer

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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.