Brief Conversations With Strangers: The Gas Attendant

I had just taken my bikini top off minutes before we pulled into the gas station. We had a good two-hour drive back up north from the Jersey shore, so it felt amazing not to have strings digging into my skin. There was only one car being serviced and when trying to decide whether to dig through the backseat for my top, or taking the risk of covering my nips popping out through my shirt, I was too lazy to even bother. I got out of the car with the mindset of getting in and out of the gas station’s mini-mart as fast as I could.

When I walked in, me and the cashier were the only two people in there. I wasn’t nervous anymore, but I continued covering my nips with my elbows, quickly grabbing a few drinks for the ride. On my way to check out, I picked up a bar of chocolate, which I like to take some credit for since its quite difficult for a person to hide their boobs, while holding water bottles across my chest.

I said hello to the gas station cashier.

He silently rang everything up, and in my mind, I was busy thinking how well my plan of getting in and out of the store was going. I handed him my credit card and he said, “Is it after midnight?”

I knew it was almost one o’clock in the morning. “Yea,”

“I’m going to have to charge you a 15% tip because it’s after midnight,” he was chuckling at his obvious sarcasm.

“Put it on my tab,” I said.

He handed me the credit card back and his laughter had died. With a very serious look on his face, he said, “You know, I was just kidding. Some people don’t like jokes.”

After I reassured him that I am a lover of sarcasm and sassy, classless jokes, he began telling me the inspiration behind his 15% tip joke. A few years back, there was a newly hired employee who only worked at the gas station for two days.

“The police got involved after a series of phone calls were made by the community about some guy who was charging people a $5 tip at the gas station, but get this, he only charged if it was after midnight.” He was cracking up. “Don’t get me wrong, I felt bad for the guy. He seemed nice enough, but what a moron. He really thought he could get away with that.”

I was enjoying my conversation with this man, but I really getting tired of hiding my boobs. I probably looked really funny to him.

“So this is where it gets even crazier,” he says, “I ran into him not that long ago at the loony bin where I work.”

“You work at a mental health clinic?” I had to ask him.

“I know, you probably think I’m joking, but I do facilitate self-esteem groups.”

I was fascinated by this old man and even though I was quite sure if he was joking or not, I asked him a few questions about his groups since I used to do the same when I worked at a shelter.

“I don’t want to say any names,” his eyes widen and he leaned in closer over the counter, “at one of my family nights, I met a political figure. Let’s just say, he was a prominent mayor in New York at one point.”

I guessed the name and he pretended to seal his lips.

“This public figure shared a story about his childhood when he attended family night for one of his relatives. Might have been a cousin? Anyway, he spoke about this teacher who told him that he would never amount to anything. Imagine that – an adult telling a child that they will never amount to nothing. Terrible.”

He shook his head, “But instead of the comment negatively affecting him, he used it as fuel to prove not only the teacher wrong, but anyone else who felt the same way. And how beautiful for this mayor – he ended up accomplishing many wonderful and positive things – and all because he didn’t let his childhood trauma affect his adulthood. He didn’t carry the bad with him as weight, he carried it as a reminder to do better.”

 

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