For those who thought working at a gas station was boring, think again!
Gas station workers on Quora share their most intense moments at work. Content has been edited for clarity.
He Had No Idea
“Back in around 1977 while I was in college, I worked part-time as a pump jockey at an Amoco station. One day a car pulled in wanting me to fill it up, check the oil and add oil if necessary. I fired up the gas pump, popped the hood, and checked the oil. Sure enough, it was down a quart. This was in the winter, it was cold and there was snow on the ground.
Some old-timers might remember the days when oil came in cardboard cans with a metal top and a metal bottom. You had to shove this metal spout thing into the top of the can, piercing the metal. Then, you would stick the spout into the top of the (typically) valve cover somewhere. I think I still have one of those spouts in my big toolbox somewhere.
In the warm months when the oil was flowing fine, you could stand there and it would only take a few seconds to empty the oil. But in the wintertime, the oil was a lot more vicious; you didn’t want to stand there holding the can for several minutes. It was always a trick to find the perfect balance point when you were trying to get the can and spout to stand up correctly. Typically, the spout wouldn’t go all the way into the valve cover, it would just go a little way so it was kind of wonky. I got it balanced (I thought) and went back to deal with the gas pump. I glanced up to see a cloud of smoke coming out from under the hood.
I ran up there just in time to see flames start flickering up. Apparently, my well-balanced oil can have tipped over and spilled oil on the hot exhaust manifold and it burst into flames. I grabbed the oil can and spout and flipped it out of the hood onto the ground, then ran over to grab the fire extinguisher. I yanked it off the bracket, then realized that the pin was pulled and the gauge showed empty or very close to it. Even in my panic, I’m also looking at the gas station where the customer was inside flirting with the cashier. He’s not looking at me at all.
So, I ran over to the car and grabbed handfuls of snow, and started throwing it on the dwindling flames. As fast as I could, I wiped up the oil residue on the engine, grabbed another can of oil, and put the quart in. The whole time the customer has not even glanced my way. I get everything cleaned up and closed the hood.
As the customer comes out of the station he sees the oil globs all over the snow and in the area in front of the pumps and says, ‘Well, I hope some of that oil got in my car.’
He got in the car and left, none the wiser.”
This Could Have Ended Horribly
“It was 1986, I worked at a full-service station (we pumped your gas) around the corner from my house. And, while one would think that gas stations are ho-hum boring, let me tell you – they are not. You get every nut in the neighborhood. And, some from out of town.
We had a customer who came in about once a week to fill up her 1974(?) Mercury Comet, and buy a pack of smokes. She pulled up and gets out of her car, smiles, and says, ‘Fill ’er up.’ And, I complied. And, if you know the Mercury Comet, you know – the gas fill tube is in the middle of the rear panel, just above the bumper. And, the gas cap is a large circular ornamental type deal.
I know the car, you have to hold the pump handle or it falls out.
The woman says, ‘I’ll need my smokes too,’ while I’m inserting the nozzle. So I tell her to hang on and let me get them, and set the handle on the hook – and she says, ‘You can start pumping, can’t you?’ as I was walking into the station.
I said, ‘No, it will fall out,’
She replied, ‘C’mon, I’m in a hurry – let me have it, I’ll hold it.’
I said, ‘Go ahead,’ as we had no rule about customers pumping their own gas.
As I walked back to her with her smokes, she let the handle go with the pump going – she engaged the auto-lock. And, I dove for it; Too late.
If you have never seen a gas station pump into the open air – let me describe it for you: it is like a fountain – it is like a garden hose without a spray end attached – it pumps an amazing amount of gas in a very short time. The handle fell out and soaked me from head to toe – literally.
I shut it off, and hung it up – AND!!!! – when I looked back at the woman, she was opening her pack of smokes she picked up off the ground and had a lighter in her hand!!!
I started yelling, ‘Get away from me with that,’ and she started tapping a smokes out!
Another customer saw the whole thing and jumped out of his car and pushed her away. The lot was drenched.
She had no clue. She was yelling at the guy who took her out of harms way – and I ran into the station and shut down the pumps and took the hose from the slop sink in the back room and drenched myself with water – then called the manager to tell him what happened and that I was going to have to go home and shower and change. He said, ‘Lock it up and go.’
So, I spread a bag of kitty litter on the spill. The other customer and I pushed her car out of it because we were afraid to have her start it in the middle of a fuming gas spill. She paid me and drove off.
I went home and showered. And, when I came back, the guy was still there! He was guarding the lot so no one started it on fire. He helped me sweep up the kitty litter and shovel it into the containment barrel! What a guy.
I will never forget how cold the fuel was.”
Always Willing To Lend A Hand
“I worked at one gas station, then the other gas station either side at a roundabout. Sometimes I would stop by the other one to rent a video, as it also had a rental going on. Anyways. One day, some old woman was making a commotion. She’s quite clearly senile, would only talk to the poor guy behind the counter. She’s making a scene, and worse… holding up the queue. I tried to step in, but she almost panicked so I stepped back. I asked the guy behind the counter if I can help. He nodded. So, I staredt by going into the office and calling the police. I told them we have a confused, scared old woman here, and we don’t know what to do about it. Then, I took the office chair into the store, for the woman to sit on. The store was now packed, from the door to the counter in three rows. I told the other dude to take the old lady into the video display room, and that I would take the counter. He reluctantly agreed.
So I take off my coat, showing my competing uniform, and start helping customers. Quite quickly, I get into the habit of using this counter, instead of the one in my new station. Cool.
A couple of customers noted the uniform, I told them we had an emergency with a little old lady, and I was just stepping up, to get everyone along.
The police arrived and picked up the lady. Turned out she had dementia and had run off from the elder center.
So next week, I was called into my boss’s office. He wanted to know why a lot of people were telling him to thank a guy that looked like me, had a uniform like me but was at the wrong gas station. So I told him the story, and he called the boss on the other side. After reviewing the video footage, both bosses agree that both employees did their best to help in a bad situation.”
Gone In An Instant
“When I was a young man, for a time I had a part-time second job at a gas station, where I worked weekends and the odd evening after my day job. There was this stunningly beautiful young lady that used to frequent the station in her Impala SS convertible. We’ll call her ‘Karen.’ She was the kind of person whose photo could be in the dictionary next to the word ‘vivacious.’ She had an over-the-top, extroverted personality and was always behaving flirtatiously with everyone. We all came to both know her and, quite frankly, like her a lot. While all of that other stuff was true, it was also true that Karen was a really likable, approachable person. Even though she easily qualified as one of ‘the beautiful people,’ she was friendly and not the least bit haughty about it.
After a time some of us, who were chatty with the customers, got to know her a little. I ran into her one day at a local ice arena where I went to skate for fun or on a date occasionally.
I was like, ‘Hey Karen, how are you? Were you just skating?’
She proceeded to tell me that this was her ‘home arena,’ she was there everyday working out and had been since she was three years old. We got to talking and I learned that she’s a finalist to make the 1984 US Winter Olympics Figure Skating Team. She’s a world-class figure skater.
This went on for a whole summer, Karen frequenting the station with the top down on her SS and being very chatty. We all became so close to her that, when we clocked in, the question of the day was, ‘Has Karen been in?’
Then, as instantly as she had first appeared, she disappeared. No one saw her for a long time. We all began to assume that she had moved away.
One of the bits of information that I had learned from her during our chats was where she lived. I drove past her house on my way to and from the station. During the summer I often saw the Impala in her driveway. After she disappeared, I never saw the Impala again. I told the guys and again, we all assumed that she moved away.
One weekend after many months, she came into the station, but not in her convertible. She was wearing Jackie-O sunglasses and had a scarf wrapped so thoroughly around her head that nobody could recognize her. I would not have any way, because this girl did not have Karen’s personality.
When I finished servicing her car, I went to the window for payment, whereupon she said, ‘Hello, [my name].’
I looked again and drew a blank. She removed the sunglasses and I was floored. Sure enough, it was Karen. She had the healing remnants of a long scar on her face. She was changed. It was Karen, but it wasn’t really.
I told her that everyone missed her and asked where she’d been. She told me that was nice of us all. She’d been in a catastrophic auto accident and had been severely injured. For a time, she’d been in a coma. She had missed the Olympics and could no longer skate. I was young then and knew exactly nothing about psychology, but I could tell that she was broken inside. That not only her whole life had changed, but that her mind and heart were broken too. I was certain the Karen we had all known was gone as surely as if she’d moved away.
No one else working that day knew she had been in. She asked me to not tell them. I planned on adhering to her request, until a lull in business when I was just sitting inside the station looking out the window. I started sobbing, literally. Everyone came over and asked me what was going on. The only thing I could think to tell them was the truth. That was an awful day at work.”
The Dog Wasn’t Doing His Job
“Many years ago while living in New York, I was working with a Guy ( also a friend at the time), installing flooring. We had this job in a house upstate, took hours of driving to get there, and that was taking the freeway. After the job was done, we were driving back, but took a wrong turn, and ended up on an old country road. However, we were still heading in the right direction. After driving for quite a long period of time, without any sign of civilization, we were running low on fuel and needing to stop at the next station.
Out in the middle of what seems nowhere, we come upon this run-down station, which seemed to be open and we pull in at one of the pumps, Instantaneously a large Alsatian dog appears at the driver’s side door. Pete (same name as me) was the driver, but hugely afraid of dogs, and wouldn’t get out to pump the fuel. So, he requested for me to get out and pump it. I’m not overly fond of dogs either, especially these breeds, but he hadn’t come to my door yet, and we needed fuel. I got out and started pumping, and the dog came around to me. He didn’t bark but was doing enough to make us uneasy.
I returned the nozzle to the pump, and then the dog grabbed my arm just above my hand with his jaw. He wasn’t biting me, nor really hurting, he had just clamped my arm. He started walking, and taking me along with him, towards the office/shop, and through the door.
There’s an old guy, behind a desk, doubled up with his head on the table, a bottle next to him, nearly half full on one side of him, and a glass with some in it on the other side ( I at first thought he might have died).
Before I even talk to get his attention, the dog released my arm and barked a number of times, waking the old guy. He immediately pulled a weapon from under the desk and pointed it at me.
I reacted by raising my arms in the air, and declaring that I just wanted to pay for the fuel.
The first question the guy asks was whether the dog had barked when we drove into the station, it hadn’t. He then went on to chastise the dog, declaring he was useless to him if he didn’t bark when someone drove in, and that he was nowhere near as good as his previous dog, which had served him well for years and had only died in the previous six months or so.
I actually thought that the dog had been extremely clever.
Paid the old man, had a quick drink with him, and wished him all the best before leaving.”
Why Didn’t The Boss Mention That?
“I was working as a cashier temporarily as a part-time thing as a teenager. It was a normal night; I was texting a girl I liked while working. I only had the occasional customer since it was like three in the morning. It was in a tiny exit with only a gas station or two, an Applebees, and a cheap motel for about 30 a night. So, these two come in stumbling a bit eyes glazed over. You’d think they were zombies if you saw them.
So one of them comes up asking for several boxes of smokes, while the other one grabbed several cans of sodas. I ask for ID which number one just grumbles. Number 2 just pulls a weapon, demanding the cash while number one grabs more stuff. I just froze there with thoughts of being shot execution-style. I quickly bagged all the cash which was about two hundred something. One held the weapon on me while the other looted the store for about ten minutes. They took my keys, stole my vehicle, and like idiots, checked into the cheap hotel less than a mile away. How do I know? I was staying in the SAME cheap hotel at the time.
When they left the store after a quick questioning by the cops, they brought me back to my hotel room. Where I saw my scooter in the hotel lot dinged up like crazy. After asking the clerk which room they were in the two went in and dragged them out. I don’t think they even knew what was happening anymore. After all that I was finally able to lie down and sleep. The most ironic thing I found out later is my boss had a panic button installed. Yet he never told me about it. That made me so mad.”
It Just Wasn’t For Her
“I applied to work at a gas station. I figured since it was close to home, within walking distance, I should do it. I’d spend no money on gas and I’d even get a discount on it. So.. why not?
It took a couple of months, but I ended up finally getting a call back landing an interview. However, the location that called me, was not in the best area and was close to a 15-minute drive, being as much as a half-hour with traffic. As I share a car with my mom, I would be able to make this work, but it did put a damper on my plans.
I go for the interview and when I walk in, a bunch of tough-looking people were outside. I was going to play it by ear and if the interview went badly, I had applied for another job I could possibly rely on. I didn’t know what to expect, I knew the job would be easy. It was just another type of retail. I had just left that scene.
The woman who interviewed me was awesome. She loved me. She hired me on the spot once I told her I could work afternoons/evenings. They needed the help. My shifts would range from four pm until midnight and anything in between, but the typical shift was 4–11 pm. That sounded good to me, especially since I could get whatever days I wanted.
However, I wouldn’t be working at that location either. I’d be at the one right off the highway. Granted, it was about 5 minutes closer but had far more traffic. This would allow my shifts to go by faster but they were critically understaffed. I’d be working about six days a week until they could find more employees. Sure, the money would kill, but I’d be exhausted. Imagine if someone for the next shift didn’t come in.
I ended up, oddly enough, meeting the manager of the other store I would be working at that day. He was kind of a meanie. And the hours I’d be working at this new location would be overnight. 11 pm-7 a, range.
I absolutely did not feel comfortable with that as I’d be working alone for most of it and I just don’t trust people enough in that area to do it.
Of course, the chances of me getting hurt were slim to none, I was still panicked. I thanked them, took my paperwork, and blocked their numbers that morning. I took a nap.
It was a week after I interviewed at my current job that this place sent me termination emails. Can’t fire me if I quit.”
A Special Type Of Tires
“WAY, way back in the 1970s, I had a part-time job in a petrol station (that’s what we call gas stations in the UK). It was a self-service station that was on the main road out of a fairly busy UK city.
My main role was to keep the forecourt clean by sweeping the forecourt twice in the day and washing all of the pumps. Other jobs included re-painting the white curbs, and cleaning/changing signage. I also used to help with restocking the cold drinks fridge (my boss was a stickler for all of the cans facing).
Once my main roles were completed, I would then be ‘free’ to help customers. This included checking the oil and water in their cars and cleaning their windshields if they wanted them done, or even checking tire pressures if they asked me to (once they had moved to the airline. This often earned me some good tips, and it was not uncommon for me to take more in tips in a day than I took in wages. To be clear here, I was not dependent on the tips, my boss actually paid me a very good hourly rate for the time).
One day in particular springs to mind when an elderly farmer type man came in and was filling his car with petrol. I noticed that all of his tires looked remarkably flat, so, being a conscientious type (and probably if I’m honest, hoping for a nice tip_ I went up to this elderly man and said, ‘Excuse me sir, your tires look quite flat, if you would like to pull over to the airline when you have finished filling your car up, I will happily check the pressures for you.’
‘You’m don’t need to be doin’ that boy,’ he said in a really thick country accent. ‘Them’s those there new TUBELESS tires!’
It took me a while to explain that although the tires were tubeless, they nonetheless needed to have air in them. Oh, and yes, I did get a nice tip.”
He Listened To His Gut
“All the way back in 2012, my bother stopped at a gas station to buy himself a pack of smokes after work. As he was going back to his car, some guy who he thought looked really creepy came running across the street.
As soon as he saw my brother, he called out to him and said that he needed a ride. So he told my brother that he was driving his car with his wife in it. Then he said that she was pregnant and suddenly went into labor. Right as that was happening, his car broke down and he told her that he would go get help.
So then he told my brother that he went inside a building across the street to use a phone and have an ambulance sent out to help his wife. Then he says he wanted my brother to take him back there so he would NOT have to actually walk to where he left his car.
My brother thought that story sounded rather strange and wondered if it was totally made up/ So he unlocked the front door by the steering wheel for himself and left the one on the passenger side locked. Then he started up his car and went driving off leaving that guy standing right where he was.
The guy was yelling at my brother to come back, but my brother thought that he only would if there really was a car with a pregnant woman inside right where he was told it was. My brother goes out there and sees that there was no car with anything like that at all.
He figured out the guy made up the entire story and was probably planning to steal his car. It was indeed a good thing that my brother did NOT trust a stranger. That gas station is no longer open as the owners decided to sell it. They might have thought that it was NOT located in a good area and probably attracted the wrong kind of people.”
This Could Have Turned Out So Much Worse
“As I worked in a service station over the years, including managing one I have numerous stories to relate to, but one really stands out the most, because it could have gone completely bad for me if it had gone the wrong way. This was before self-service, and we the staff filled the tanks at the pumps.
This particular day, I got quite busy, three or four vehicles, at a time. As you are aware, the filler cap can be in different places on a vehicle. This particular car came in and the filler cap was behind the number plate, which was spring-loaded, I inserted the pump, and set it on automatic, as it was a fill-up. I also had a lit smoke in my hand, (stupid I know). Two other vehicles came in and I went to them, one was also a fill, so I did the same. The other was for a small amount, so I attended that one. The first one was where the issue evolved. The pressure of the number plate knocked the pump out, and it didn’t cut off. It stood up like a power hose spewing fuel all over the place and the vehicles. I ran and grabbed it and I got soaked with fuel, literally from head to toe. At this point, I still had the smoke in my hand for a split second, until I flicked it as far away as I could/ I was lucky, everything could have caught fire; we would have all been injured, and the station maybe burned to the ground. I managed to shut the pump off; I could only guess as to what to charge the customer, and write off the rest of, maybe 20 gallons or more.
My clothes were soaked through, and I had no way to change them. I dried my hair as best I could, and as the fuel began to dry on my body, it burned for a while and irritated me, but nothing too severe. I smelt of fuel for the rest of my shift, a bath was the order of the day first thing when I got home.
But it could really have gone so badly. Thankfully I (we) were lucky.”