Don't worry, this will not be a rumination on the sociopolitical manipulations and the ecoenvironmental causes behind rising oil prices which lead to sharply rising gas prices. There are numerous places you can go if you would like to participate in (or even merely spectate) that kind of conversation, including, apparently, the cereal aisle in the grocery store where, just a few days ago, I walked past two unassuming women holding cheerfully (albeit artificially) colored children's cereals while heatedly discussing tensions in the Middle East as they relate to gas prices.
Instead, this is a post about two recent stops I made at gas stations in my itty-bitty town. First, on Tuesday night--the scrambled night--I left work early to go pick up Son-Two for an appointment he had in town on Wednesday. I stopped to get gas at the station where I stop most frequently. There's a young man who works there who is a little absentminded at times1, but otherwise friendly. I know his name because this is a small town, but my only interaction with him has been right there at the pumps.
So, on Tuesday night, I pulled up to the pump at a little after ten and as the gas was flowing into my van, he said, "Hey, if I give you three extra dollars in gas, would you run over to McDonald's for me?"
My first response was that barking laughter that is more shock than amusement, but I recovered quickly, gave him points for nerviness, took his order (but not his offer of three extra dollars in gas) and ran across town to grab his Triple Whopper. (Turned out, he wanted Burger King, not McDonald's. Told you he was absentminded sometimes.)
Fast forward to Thursday morning, when I stopped at our town's other location of the same gas station franchise that employs Mr. Burger King. This time, a young lady, also around the same age as my boys, came out to my van. I had never seen her at this station before or even in town, which is a pretty rare thing, especially given her age. The fact that I didn't know at all who she was is important because it makes what happened next all the more baffling.
She walked up to the van and said, "What can I get for you?"
And I said, "Could I get 40, please?"
And she said, "Sure, as long as you're not as nasty as the lady I had a few minutes ago."
I mumbled something sympathetic--I've got decades of retail and customer service experience, so I really am sympathetic to victims of unreasonable customers. Then she launched into a three-minute-barely-a-breath rant about ungrateful customers. She said she couldn't believe how few people tipped her for putting gas in their cars and she couldn't believe how mean people were and how they expected so much from her and acted like she owed them something and people tip waitresses and you would think they would throw her a dollar or two but not in this crappy little town and she tried to be nice to everyone...and...and...
Somewhere in there was the story of the nasty woman, who when our long-suffering heroine asked her, "What can I get for you?" had said, "Fill it up and I better not catch you topping off my tank."
I did not tip her2, but I wished her luck for a better afternoon...and, silently, as I drove away, I wished the rest of her customers a little luck as well.
1. Case in point: a few weeks ago, I pulled up to the pump and there were several other cars waiting as well. He was the only one on duty and came out of the station, where he had been waiting on someone inside. He came straight to my van, opened the fuel door, took off the gas cap, stuck the nozzle in with the "trigger" propped open and walked off to wait on the next car, without even asking me how much gas I wanted. I was watching the numbers go up on the pump and ready to get out if they reached the amount I had planned to get. A friend of the attendant's walked up just then, saw how swamped he was and asked him, "Do you want me to finish up that van?" The attendant gratefully said, "Yes, please." The friend said, "How much is she getting?" Attendant: "Oh shit! I forgot to ask. Oh shit, oh shit." FYI: saying, "Twenty dollars is fine." is more difficult when giggling uncontrollably.*
2. This tipping gas station attendants thing is something Hubby and I have occasionally discussed. His father tipped every full service attendant, even the ones who only pumped gas and Hubby kind of clings to that as the standard in theory, if not always in practice. I don't know what my father's stance on it was. My stance is this: I would tip an attendant who washed the windows or checked the oil or did something above and beyond, especially if I asked them to do it. (If they do the "extra" without being asked--then there is the whole conversation I start having in my head about whether they're doing it solely in hopes of getting a tip in which case I get all contrary and don't give them a tip because I feel a it's a little manipulative.) For just the basics service, I do not generally tip gas station attendants though I do tip waitstaff even for just the basics, in part because I know that labor law allows employers to pay them (often significantly) less than minimum wage under the assumption that the rest will be made up by tips. As far as I know, no such law applies to gas station attendants. If I am filling the tank and have, say, $60 and it comes to $56-whatever, I will occasionally tell a pleasant attendant (unlike the young lady in today's story) to keep the change. But, usually, no tip.*
*These footnotes are so long it's like getting three posts for the price of one, word-count-wise anyway. Substance-wise it's probably more like none for the price of three.
The Traveling Salesman
15 hours ago