This post was inspired by these musings and the subsequent comments they garnered.
I worked as a field engineer for BP Oil from 1987 through 1995. One of my biggest projects was the field testing and installation of those handy credit card readers that are on all the gas pumps these days.
There was a massive electronic system that went along with the new pump heads. After the initial roll out, there were constant software and hardware upgrades. I spent a lot of time up to my ass in snow in the middle of the night at a gas station (we could only close them down during the night in order to avoid rush-hour downtime at 24-hour sites.) I was often working alongside the maintenance men, trying to figure it out, get it to work, hunt down the design tech--you name it.
At some point, my boss wanted first hand feedback on how the equipment inside the stations was working. I was elected to don a uniform and perform as a regular clerk at a regular station for a week.
Rushes were hectic. It was easy to become flustered when the line got long, someone got impatient or if something locked up. It was not unlike waitressing, which I always said taught me more about people than anything. Behind the BP counter, I interacted with all different people, lots of them, as well as their money and time.
And any one of them might have pulled out a gun and threatened my life in order to get the money from the safe to which I had absolutely no access. I never forgot that for a moment during my week as a clerk. Or the measuring tape next to the door, which would help me estimate a thief's height as he fled the scene. The station was in a neighborhood that had a bit more than its share of crime.
I was alone in the store one afternoon when a man came in. He did not look well. He was unshaven and disheveled. His clothing was dirty and torn. He face was sort of sad and hollow. He approached the counter and puffed himself up a bit. Then he opened his arms, as if in offering.
"I am Jesus Christ," he said.
I blinked at this revelation for a beat or two then said, "And what can we do for you today Mr. Christ?"
He went on a quiet rant for a bit, then shuffled out. I turned back to authorizing pumps, making change and trying to remember when to hit the "tax" key. Meeting Jesus was the only oddity of the week. I was thankful for that and that nothing serious happened on my watch. Gas is serious business and mistakes with gas are very, very bad.
Gas is flammable and combustible and toxic. It is dangerous. There are tiny pockets of potentially explosive gas all over gas stations. When you pull into a gas station with your kid and someone is carelessly smoking, leave.
I mean it. Leave. You and your kid are in grave danger.
After my clerk stint, there was an incident at another station that was recorded in its entirety on the security cams. A fellow pulled onto the site and plowed headlong into a pump, which was in use by another customer. There was a terrible crash and a brief explosion. It was terrifying.
The gas station clerk in the store did not panic. Instead, he ran to the emergency stop button and slammed it down as soon as he saw the car was about to hit the pump, cutting off power to all pumps and stopping the gas flow that had caused the initial explosion.
Had that clerk reacted slowly or with uncertainty, gas would have continued to flow out of the handy hold-open nozzle and the resulting fire might have caused loss of life or limb or severe disfigurement.
And although it is unlikely that the 10,000-30,000 gallons of petrol underground would have caught fire or exploded, had the associated tanks or piping been breached, had the tanks been more empty than full, had there been enough oxygen and one ill-fated spark or flame, the resulting explosion could have taken out the surrounding quarter mile, maybe even more.
But an astute gas station clerk prevented all that and thankfully, no one was hurt.
So, to those who followed the link on the top of this post, let it be known that Jesus did come--if not first, at least in 1993. As far as Ms. Shepherd is concerned, I'm not at all sure she should seek work as a gas station attendant.