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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gas Station Attendant

Inspired in part by Cynical Dad's post about working at a gas station and also by the fact that I've been aggressively looking for work to help defray the cost of getting my car jacked, I've been scanning the classifieds and job web sites like a desperate girl on

Cynical Dad stirred up a long lost memory I had of working at a gas station as a full-service attendant. I did not then - and still don't today - know jack shit about cars but I could clean a mean windshield and fill your tank with wicked ease.

The station in question was in Kensington, Maryland - a Shell station nestled right by the DC/Maryland line on main thoroughfare Connecticut Ave.

The night shifters always had weird stories about what they saw after dawn from the confines of their bullet proof box but then again most of the night shifters liked their hard drugs so I was always skeptical about their talk of werewolves and vampires and sexy ladies wearing nothing but trench coats.

One of the oddest things I saw involved an elderly couple.

They pulled up in their Cadillac right by one of the open bay doors and parked it. They had New York tags and were quite clearly the kind of bluebirds who drove from NYC to Florida to winter. The nagging wife got out and asked where the bathroom was and my boss pointed her to the key on the wall and told her the door was around the side.

Someone came up to a pump, called my name several times [see below] before I assisted them with refueling and window cleansing.

When I finished I noticed that the husband had popped the trunk and was getting out some luggage and placing it on the sidewalk next to the office. He was selective in his choices of luggage and for a moment I thought he was trying to locate the spare tire or something.

Then he closed the trunk and drove off leaving the luggage behind. I assumed the old timer was having one of those "senior moments" I'd heard my parents talk about and stepped into the office to inform my boss. Just then I saw the woman return from the bathroom and hand my boss the key.

He turned and hung it up on the hook.

And at the precise moment the key met the hook the woman launched into a tirade.

"Where the hell is my husband?" she screamed.
"Where did he go that bastard?"

I remember being perplexed by it all and unable to fill in the blanks at the said time. My boss spent the next few hours bearing the brunt of this woman's expletives and offering her the use of the phone from time to time to call someone to come pick her up.

I don't remember how it resolved itself but what I do remember was the words my boss told me the next day when I asked him what all of it was about: "Sometimes you just have had enough," he said.

"You mean the guy just drove off and left her here?" I asked.
"Yep," he said.
"Happens every so often," he said. "Sometimes those long drives get to you."

My tenure working at a gas station also led me to the conclusion to never ask for directions at a gas station. I don't think anybody I worked with gave people the right directions including myself. It was a way to entertain yourself on the job. Someone would come in and ask me where the White House was or how to get to the Mormon Tabernacle and I would tell them to ask the guy in the booth. The booth guy would then send them in the complete opposite direction. Usually directions would involved something like "go about three miles until you see a steep grade in the road and right about the time you feel you've gone too far and missed the turn, turn right. Then drive past the mall and the car dealership and go left. You can't miss it."

So there you have it: I have just explained why men don't like to ask for directions at gas stations. It is not that we are too proud to ask for help, it is that most of us have worked at - or known someone who work at - a gas station and know the secret of giving the wrong directions on purpose when asked for them.

To all the GSAs out there, much apologies for breaking the code, I've kept it for over 20 years and besides cars now come equipped with GPS.

And no, you are not getting my GSA shirt back. And not because it was hip and cool to wear such a thing a decade ago, nope it is because I never got to get my own personalized shirt because I told my boss I'd only be there temporarily.

For six months I wore a shirt that said "John."

I bet people thought I was dumb as a rock because it would take them three or four times calling my "name" before I would reply.


Chag said...

Cool story. Maybe we could start a blog on the side, Tales Of A Gas Station Attendant.

But you guys had bulletproof glass? Wimps.

Matt said...

This is your best post ever!! Truly an inspiring story. It even beats your story of the weirdo vampire guy in the car beckoning you to come with.

greg said...

chag - i always wondered about the people that would apply for a job in the booth when it had a visible bullet hole crack in it

matt - yer going to love the next few posts if you liked this one...