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.
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.