Monday, January 11, 2010

Girl Gas Jockey

One of my first jobs was working in a gas station.  It was the early 90s and women working as gas attendants were not as common as it is now.  Especially in my city, where a woman working in a man's job was so stunning you would think it was the 1940s.  

People (okay, creepy older men) would drive out of their way to come to our gas station so a girl could pump their fuel.  They would stand on the sidewalk in front of the building and stare as I pumped the gas, washed the windows, and checked the oil.  (The men were the only ones who ever wanted me to check the oil.)  I was 19 years old, young and fit (I was still playing rugby at this point), and completely oblivious to the world.  I just needed a job and knew how to work hard.

The station was run by the husband of a woman my mother worked with.  He was a short, slight Vietnamese man with traces of an accent.  He was... well, he was creepy.  His eyes always looked me firmly in the chest and I knew I never wanted to be in the same room alone with him if I could help it.  He didn't work at the station, which I was pleased about, but he did drop in now and again to check on his staff and offer suggestions.  One of the few things I remember him saying to me was, in event of a robbery, "Put many cigarette cartons in your trunk.  Fill  gas in cars.  Then call police."  

There were four of us who worked there on a regular basis that summer.  We were all in our late teens or early twenties.  That was about all we had in common.  

Mike* was a tall, barrel of a guy with a simple smile and a mind to match.  He was friendly, but always reminded me of Lennie from Of Mice and Men.  Ben was a friend of my brother's and was the youngest of us all.  He had a great sense of humour, but had never worked a day in his life as far as any of us could tell.  Then there was Joey*.  He was medium build, thin as a rake, and looked a bit like a rat in that his face was long and narrow, he had beady eyes and a goatee.  Joey was the "manager" at 20 years old and spent a lot of time in the parking lot, sitting on the trunk of his blue Trans Am**, peddling his wares to other kids.  I found out later that summer those wares consisted of acid tabs and other drugs.  

Originally, the team was split into me working with Mike and Ben with Joey.  However, after an incident with regular gas in a diesel vehicle, Ben moved to working with Mike as Joey threatened to "beat the ever loving sh** out of him".  I didn't like it, but went with the program.  

I really didn't like Joey much.  He was from the North end, he drove a Trans Am, and he did drugs, so I assumed he was below me.  I would bring books to read during the slow parts of the shift and he would fling things at me with a pea shooter he made of a pen and a rubber band.  If I got up to fill someone's tank, he would hide my book somewhere in the station so I would spend the next half hour looking for it.

One afternoon, Joey had to run an errand, so he sent his little brother to keep me company.  Dallas was a cute kid, about 14 years old, with a quick mind, a shy smile and trouble in his veins.  It was a slow day so we went outside to hang out waiting for someone to need my services.

I sat on the cement step and leaned back against the brick building.  I stretched out my legs in front of me and tried to get some sun.  Dallas leaned forward, arms wrapped around his knees, piling sticks and leaves in front of him.  We talked about philosophical things in the warmth of the day while we listened to the sound of cars passing, birds chirping, and savored the familiar and comforting smell of gasoline.

When Dallas had a substantial pile in front of him, he looked at me and said "Wanna see if we can get a fire going?"  Always one for a love of fire, I said sure.  I grabbed a book of matches from the supply and handed them to Dallas.  We both leaned over the pile fascinated with the small lick of flame appearing. 

We were so enthralled, we never heard the vehicle pull up.  Suddenly, Dallas's Mom jumped from their family van and screamed at us.  "What are you two doing?  Are you trying to blow yourselves up?"  We jumped guiltily, stomped on the fire with our Converse runners and turned to face her.  She had the wrath only a mother can harness and we knew we were in for it.

Sincerely, it never crossed our minds that building a bonfire in front of a gas station (and the 4 pumps in front of it) would be a problem.  His mother became aware of our complete ignorance and let us go with a warning.  Dallas had to go home immediately and I went back inside my cubicle.  

I worked there all summer and never heard hide-nor-hair about the incident from either my boss or Joey.  I figured his mom had kept her word.  Each time Dallas came to visit after that, we had a inside secret smile we shared.  The summer seemed to last a long time and yet was hardly more than three months I worked there.

Years later, I found out Joey became an RCMP officer.  Mike runs his own towing company.  Ben is the manager of a restaurant and has the cutest little boy.  But I never heard what happened to Dallas.  I can only assume good things.

*Names changed to protect the innocent.  Also, I can't remember their names.
** Why did drug dealers in the 90s always drive Trans Ams??

This post is part of Write-of-Passage: The Job


  1. Whenever I read your blog I think, "MAN I want those shoes".

    That's it.

  2. Ha. Yeah a fire probably wasn't a great idea... but I guess that's one good way to learn!

  3. "Also, I can't remember their names."

    I'm sorry, but that just had me giggling into my coffee cup :)


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