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Mind your manners when you gas up. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Mind your manners when you gas up. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Life as a gas-station attendant Add to ...

Dear Motoring Public,

I work as a Guest Service Attendant, which is a fancy name for "the person standing behind the counter when you buy gas," at a station in London, Ont. I am embarrassed to admit that I have had this job for more than two years. I have two college diplomas and started working here after my husband of 32 years left me - on the same day my business failed. It's not a job that anyone aspires to, and is not respected by most people.

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Every day, my fellow employees and I deal with you, the motoring public, and there are a few things that we would like you to know.

Yes, the price of gasoline is high. This, however, is not my fault. And no, I am not making any percentage of that profit. I work for minimum wage. If you are unhappy about the price of gasoline, buy stocks in our company; at least then you will benefit from its obscene profits.

When you are required to pay for your gasoline before we turn the pump on for you, it's not because we think you are a criminal. In fact, we know you are an honest, law-abiding citizen who rescues kittens out of trees and donates to the poor. Unfortunately, you are not the only person who uses our gas pumps.

The sad fact is that there are people in our community who can't afford to pay for gas (especially now), or don't want to. And when they fill up their tanks and squeal out of here, we don't want them to run over you or the children standing at the bus stop beside our driveway.

You can come into our station to pay or, if you are really advanced in embracing technology, you can pay for your fuel at the pump. No standing in line, no need to unbuckle your kids from their car seats. If you don't know how, and you ask nicely, we might even come out and show you how to do it.

Then there's the car wash. First off, if our station doesn't have a car wash, we can't sell you a car wash ticket. We don't know how much a car wash costs, and we don't know which is the better car wash. We don't have a car wash.

On the other hand, if we do have a car wash, and you don't know how to use it, feel free to come into the station and ask. We won't think you are an idiot.

If you get out of your car and leave the door open while you try to start the car wash, or block the entrance with your vehicle while you come in to buy your ticket, we'll know you are an idiot.

Car washes are computerized. If you don't follow the required activation steps you will mess up the computer. If you drive through instead of waiting for the conveyor to carry you, you will mess it up. If you drive through partway and stop, you will mess it up, and the next car coming through will hit you. If the box of your truck has tools, empty coffee cups and extension cords in it when you start going through the car wash, they will probably not be there when you exit. And if the car wash brushes picked up the extension cord, the vehicle following will be beaten by it, which at that speed will break the windshield.

If you are no longer able to identify the colour of your vehicle because of the caked-on-dirt or bird droppings, one pass will not clean it to a brilliant shine. It's not the fault of our car wash - there are limits to what can be removed in three minutes. You do not deserve a free wash because you are too cheap to clean your vehicle more than once a decade.

Those of us who provide you with the fuel that powers your travels and generally contributes to the gridlock of our fair community would like you to think about a few things.

No. 1, most of us did not dream of working in a gas station some day. We are doing this because we have to. We are not stupid, or something you stepped in. And if you lose that manufacturing job next week, you might be working here too. I would never come into your place of employment and yell at you, so please do not yell at me.

We work eight-hour shifts. We do not get a lunch break, so if you come to the door and it says "back in five minutes" it might mean we finally went to use the washroom. Please be patient.

Our job is solitary, physically demanding and dangerous. This is why we don't keep enough money in our till to change your $50 or $100 bill, so please don't buy a pack of gum and expect $98.12 change.

Gasoline is highly flammable and explosive. We will turn the pump off if you allow your four-year-old child to pump gas, or if you are talking on your cellphone or your vehicle is running or you jam the gas cap into the handle of the nozzle. We have been trained to operate a fire extinguisher, but we don't want to.

In addition to all of this, we are a source of refuge for frightened people who are walking alone. We are the place where cops stop to tell us of missing Alzheimer's patients and children, and we keep our eyes open for them. We will call a cab for you and we will let you wait for the bus inside when it's really cold. We will give you directions and let you borrow the phone book or a pen. We will laugh at your corny jokes, hoot with you when your lottery ticket pays off and call the police when someone is obviously impaired.

We want your experience with us to be pleasant.

Please return the favour.

Sincerely,

Your neighbourhood GSA.



Diane Haggerty lives in London, Ont.

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