Friday, June 25, 2010


Greetings, if anyone's out there. The Gas Nazi has not felt like himself lately. (Of course, he hasn't felt like anyone else, either.) He's felt tired, worn-out, angry, sad, burned-out, overworked -- but mostly REALLY tired -- in short, like even MORE of a challenge to deal with than he usually is. Don't take my word for it -- ask the people who have to live and work with me!
This has significantly slowed down production of posts chronicling the Nazi's outrageous misadventures here, and for that I apologize. The past few days the Nazi has felt a little better, and so he plans to get Right Back At This Stuff Immediately.
There is also some hope on the horizon: The Nazi has projected his first real vacation in nearly 7 years for the second week of July. God willing, the Nazi plans to make a quick visit back home to Idaho to see his family. If the Nazi is barred from taking this vacation, There Will Be Screaming.
If I DO go on vacation, I plan to take my World's Smallest Laptop with me to perhaps blog a bit about the Great American Wasteland, my old hometown.
Other good news: The weather has improved a great deal here in beautiful, green Western Washington. The last few days have brought actual prolonged sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s. This is about 2 months overdue. Occasional glimpses of sunshine may be why the Nazi feels a little better.
Only downside to the improving weather is that it seems to bring out even more weirdos than usual. Just tonight I had what appeared to be a brain-dead, inbred brother-&-sister comedy team who tried to buy cigarettes without ID & who reacted to everything I said with a goggle-eyed stare of incomprehension. English is SUCH a tough language. To hell with them.
Last weekend marked several firsts for the Nazi: Sometime after dark last Friday night a slimy, hairy, skinny, distracted, homeless-looking guy stumbled through the front door & then spent 30 minutes shooting-up in the bathroom, leaving behind a used syringe and a handful of bloody paper towels.
Discovering this was a first for me in nearly 7 years of putting up with people's awful bathroom leftovers. (See the "SHIT!" entry below.) True, the guy MAY have been a diabetic. But he didn't ACT like a diabetic. He acted like a junkie.
Later the same night, a guy on a bicycle tried to steal a 12-pack of beer from the store -- running for it when I turned my back on him for 10 seconds while he argued on the phone with his credit-card company, who had declined his purchase. At first I didn't even realize he'd ran. Then when it dawned on me & I looked out the window, all I could see were little beer cans scattered across the parking lot. Apparently the idiot had crashed on his bike while trying to make his getaway & lost half of his beer. So I six-packed what was left & called it good. This was the first time someone had tried to steal beer from me in a couple of years.
And tomorrow night will be a full-moon Friday. Can't hardly wait.
If anybody out there is following the Nazi's adventures, there are a few things I have planned to rant and rave about:
* Why a sense of humor is essential to a job like mine -- and how I've pretty much lost mine.
* Drunks! Why we can't stay in business without them, & why I can't seem to get along WITH them.
* Screaming Fits! Or: Notorious Assholes I Have Known. In what other job do total strangers scream at you about things you can't control?
* The Gas Nazi's 10 Commandments.
...and more, more, lots, lots more.
Coming soon. I promise.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


In my line of work, you haven't truly become a member of the team until you've cleaned up at least one "human explosion." Unfortunately, dealing with hazardous waste is one of the hazards of the job.
Most of these experiences make you wonder what people are REALLY like in the privacy of their homes.
My "favorite"(?) shit-induced horror story involves a little old man with a deep, gravelly voice. I've been waiting for that little old guy to come back into the store for about 5 years now....
I was working the morning shift, cleaning up the coffee bar or stocking coffee cups or something. A silver Toyota 4-door pulled up right at the front door and a hunched-over little old man with glasses and a cane came hobbling out of the passenger's side of the car, into the store and asked in gravelly tones if we had a restroom he could use. I pointed him toward it and went back to work.
It was the usual Morning Busy, customers passing through and beer & soft-drinks vendors dropping off shipments. I was ringing customers up & taking cash & writing checks for shipments, & slowly I realized that the little old man had been in the bathroom for a LONG TIME. At least 15 or 20 minutes.
Somebody spilled some soda or something on the floor, & I went over by the coffee bar to clean up the mess, which wasn't too big. The store emptied, & the next thing I heard was the silver Toyota as its tires screeched and it vanished out of the parking lot.
A light bulb went on over my head. The little old man had snuck out, not even saying thank you, & whoever was driving the car had wanted to get away as soon as freakin' possible. Obviously a crime had been committed.
As I walked over to the front of the store from the coffee bar I noticed a brown trail leading from the front door back to the men's bathroom.
I screamed.
Avoiding the trail of shit, I ran back to the men's room door, threw it open and....
It was EVERYWHERE. All over the toilet, all over the floor, all over the WALL.... The little old man had exploded, and then crawled quietly away.
He didn't even turn on the bathroom fan on his way out.
I screamed some more, grabbing for mops and towels and wondering where the key was so I could lock up the bathroom -- something we NEVER did.
Then, of course, it got busy. Another beer vendor dropping off a shipment ducked into the bathroom before I even had a chance to post an "Out of Order" sign.
"You don't wanna go IN there...." I called. But it was too late.
The vendor bounced back out awful quickly.
"I TRIED to warn you," I said.
It took over an hour to clean up the mess, between customers. We had plastic gloves that went halfway up my arm. I wished they'd gone up to my shoulders. Or my neck. I was wishing for a gas mask. Or a HazMat suit. The only thing to do was stop breathing and dive in.
I filled a garbage can with foul paper towels. I used up 2 buckets of hot water and more Pine Sol and 409 than I'd normally use in a year. Finally I got the place almost clean, as clean as could be expected under the circumstances.
And he's never come back. That old myth about criminals always returning to the scene of the crime -- well, it hasn't happened under my watch.
We've all been through it. & though I've had other shit-related nightmares at work since then -- including one explosion in the women's restroom that I'm absolutely SURE, due to my persistent, naive belief that women represent all that is Good, the far-better half of humanity ... that NO WOMAN could have created, or at least no woman I ever want to meet -- none of them tops that gravelly-voiced little old man ... who's face is still on my Shit List.
For the past month, we've only had one functioning restroom at work, after some unknown barbarian plugged-up the men's toilet for the absolute Last Time. & amazingly, although it's been a pain, the co-ed bathroom has stayed MUCH cleaner. Up til now. I've probably jinxed it just by writing this....

The Screamer!

For more background, I thought I'd introduce you to the man who dragged me into this line of work 6-1/2 years ago: My former boss, normally a rather quiet and shy early-50's Korean gentleman named John (NOT his real name), but who for our purposes we're going to call The Screamer. Why will become obvious.
I owe The Screamer a lot: He hired me to work in his little gas station (where I still work) after I'd been unemployed for 9 months and was at the absolute end of my rope. I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to go back to being a reporter....
At my job interview I was struck by how soft-spoken John was. He seemed very nice & probably saw immediately how desperate I was. He said I could start work the next day. I wore a rather bright orange & purple African-mask-motif shirt to the interview, hoping to make an impression. "We have no dress code here," John said. "You can wear anything you want. But not THAT shirt."
I started training the next night, working with a younger guy named Tony who had dozens of tattoos & about 84 piercings. As soon as I walked in the door I thought I'd walked into the wrong store by accident. Tony, though as gentle-voiced as John, looked like something out of a Clive Barker movie. "It's OK," he said in mellow tones, "you're in the right place...."
Tony taught me everything I know. Every night I use things he taught me. Tony himself went on to flip houses, a less stressful line of work, as you'll soon see....
After 2 days of training they threw me to the wolves. Every time John came in I babbled about what stupid thing I'd done and been embarrassed by, or what minor little incident seemed to offend some customer. & John gave me a priceless bit of advice:
"I know you're trying to be good guy," he said. "You ARE good guy. But you can't worry all the time about everything that goes wrong. If you do, you'll be useless to me. If something goes wrong with customer, they'll be gone in five minutes. You still have to be here."
For awhile I worked mornings & quickly learned that John wanted the place immaculate by the time he came in at 8 a.m. That was his way of judging whether the morning person was actually working or not. That gave me 2 hours to make the store spotless. Sometimes I made it, but John would always find something to trip me up about. That didn't stop me from trying to make the place perfect. I still try to make the store spotless when I'm working, as if I expect John to walk in any minute -- & John sold the store 5 years ago....
I stopped racing to make the place spotless each morning when one day John walked in and started yelling about something I knew nothing about, had no control over and couldn't fix. That didn't keep him from yelling. Finally he started winding down and said "I'm not angry at YOU, I'm angry at SITUATION."
Thanks for clarifying that....
When I WANTED John to yell he wouldn't. John was there on my worst work day ever, when one of our morning Regulars (a constantly-grumpy businessman) grabbed his usual 64-cent refill cup of coffee & then yelled that he was NEVER GOING TO BUY GAS HERE AGAIN because he couldn't count on us. We ran out of gas about 3 times a week at that point, & I had to agree with him that we were pretty unreliable.
The customer immediately after him, a short, 80-year-old man with gray hair, glasses & a cane, screamed at me that our milk prices were "A FUCKING RIP-OFF!"
And John stood beside me all through it, nodding his head up and down as if he didn't understand or didn't speak enough English to be able to respond.
Later the same day I gave away $150 in "free gas" to 2 customers who drove away without paying -- half to a Regular I never saw again, & the other half to a guy who said he was working at a building project in town and he'd be back in to pay me the next day. I gave him a week, then went to his work site and had to embarrass him in front of his boss in order to get the money.
John said of the drive-offs: "This will not cost you your job ... THIS TIME."
When the new red, white and blue $50 bills came out & I took one as payment for gas, John came UNGLUED. "Why'd you take this bill?!" he screamed. "You KNOW it's fake! You probably even know who you took it from! Why everybody always trying to rip me off?!"
When I told John the new bills had been all over the news -- hadn't he seen anything about them? -- he responded very quietly: "Why are you trying to make me more angry about this?"
When the bank confirmed the bill was real, John didn't apologize for his screaming fit.
The screaming became so common that I could tell it was going to be a bad day if I pulled into the parking lot at work and my co-workers were shaking their heads "No" through the window at me. That meant I'd want to be anywhere else but at work while John was on a rampage.
The Screamer did do some amazing things, though. The gas-station business works on a credit/account system: If you order a gas shipment, the oil company will send it as long as they know you're credit's good & that you'll pay them within a certain period. By July 2004, John's credit had run out. By then, to get a gas shipment, John had to wire the oil company the money up-front, & then they took their time getting the shipment sent.
For 10 days after the 4th of July that year, we had no gas at the gas station. In the middle of that 10-day period was a pay day. I still don't know how John got us all paid then, when we were only selling about $300 worth of stuff per day at the store. But somehow he did it. I don't know how he got the gas shipments rolling again, either....
The Screamer sold the store in December 2004. He said he was going to retire, that as he neared age 55 he couldn't take the stress anymore. Though he'd kept us working and usually paid us on time, my co-workers and I were happy to see him go. My new boss is a quiet, happy guy, who I've seen upset maybe twice in 5 years, & never at me. He never says two words when one will do, & I've never heard him raise his voice at his employees. Things are MUCH smoother and quieter now.
Last I heard, The Screamer had bought another gas station about 10 miles down the road from us. I feel sorry for his employees....

The latest....

The Gas Nazi took a couple days off earlier this week to briefly escape from the job-related stress, but I'm Back At It now & Friday night was actually pretty smooth -- as most Friday nights are. Customers are usually in a great mood on Friday nights because it's their weekend & they want to get on their merry way, & that suits me fine.
Enough customers in the past week have thought enough of my approach or attitude or efficiency or friendliness or SOMETHING to compliment me, & that gives me The Strength To Carry On against impossible odds.
To wit: We got a computer "upgrade" a week ago that now REQUIRES us to ask customers what kind of gas they'll be putting in their car. Without that key information, they might not get their gas.
Which means it now takes TWICE AS LONG to set people up with the amount of gas they want. This doesn't sit well with some people. Especially those who are in a hurry. & it's a whole lot of fun during Rush Hour....
I've lucked out thus far & haven't been hassled too much, but I've heard that the woman who works the mornings got SCREAMED at by a guy who thought what kind of gas he was buying was none of her business, that she was invading his privacy for no reason, & he promised he'd speak to her boss about this.
So, let him. Does he think she'd ask this stuff if she didn't HAVE to? Like we really CARE what kind of gas you're buying? People can be so SO stupid....