Friday, June 18, 2010


Hello, Loyal Reader.

I fear that, despite the trusting nature of our mutual relationship thus far, I haven't been completely upfront and honest with you.  Although we've come a long way together in this short span of time, I must confess to keeping a pretty big secret from you.  Do you want to hear it?  Are you ready?  Here it comes...

I was once a superhero. 

No lie.  You've seen the movie "Kick-Ass", right?  Well, for a few crazy months just before leaving for my first year of university I was a full-fledged, card-carrying, bona-fide superhero. 

In my guise as "Ultraman" I would do my duty to speed the citizens of my small town on their way.

"Faster than a mink on Quaaludes!
More powerful than a parade float!
Able to leap concrete islands with a grunt and a muttered curse!

Look! Down there in the parking lot!
It's a smurf with a thyroid issue! It's a lost member of Blue Man Group! No, it's ULTRAMAN!

Yes, it's Ultraman - very strange visitor from another mental world who came to work at a gas station to earn just enough scratch to get the f#@% out of Dodge in September.  With powers and abilities of sarcasm and contempt far beyond those of mortal men.  Ultraman - who can change the course of mighty vehicles, depress steel nozzles with his bare hands, and who, disguised as David Pretty, mild mannered future university student, fights the never ending battle for Happy Motoring, Clean Windshields and the Atlantic Canadian Way!"

Okay, I hear some of you skeptics out there saying "But Dave, you weren't a superhero at all!  Sounds like you were just some lame gas-station attendant."   To which I would reply: "Oh yeah?  What would you call a dude who goes to work in a uniformed jumpsuit in the hottest days of the year, replete with headgear, goggles, and the whole magilla?  Someone who can speed motorists safely on their way with the power to clear their vision?  Who can keep mighty machines on the road with just a squirt of his life-giving fluid?" 

Look, just because I didn't have powers or any sort of motivation it doesn't give you the right be judgmental...

Okay, so I was a lame gas station attendant...happy now?

For a few months one summer, I worked at "Ultramar".  I had to wear a blue "Ultramar" cap and a matching blue pair of "Ultramar" overalls.  I also wore dark sunglasses as much as possible to avoid being recognized.

Generally, though, it wasn't too bad, especially if you worked an early shift.  You'd open up, set up your float, drag all of  the stealable loose display stuff back out and fill up the squeegee buckets.   During the day you'd pump gas, sweep the grounds, change oil, wash windows, and sell crap in the convenience store.  At some point in time you'd check your dips (heh, heh) by taking a long marked stick and dropping it down into the underground fuel wells, presumably to make sure no-one was weezing the gas.   

In the first of what would prove to be a long line of corporate-inspired stupid decisions I'd have to suffer through, every time I pumped gas for a customer I was told to that I had to clean their windshields and offer to check their oil.  When it wasn't busy I'd actually try and do this as much as possible in the remote chance that someone might actually give you a tip,  Unfortunately, this turned out to be about as likely as being hit in the shin by lightning while playing shuffleboard in your basement.  

In fact, the most common tip from I got from customers was "Move your f#@$%^$ ass!!!"  Eventually after being stung so often, I'd just pump the gas and let the rest go.     

What made the job really crappy was my supervisor, a redneck guy named...hmmmm, what can I call him?  Cletus.  Yeah, we'll call him Cletus, since that's actually a shade more fitting than his real name.  Anyhoo, Bubba seemed resentful that I'd been hired on there since I didn't fit the ideal male physical template for working at a gas station.  I was slight of build, wore glasses and still possessed the lion's share of my own teeth.   He made it his goal to make my life hellish.  Which would have been considerably more effective if I actually gave two s#!^$.

 "Lissen, buddy!" he told me one day.  "I needs you to go get the ladder, climb up there and change the price of the gas on the sign!"  Apparently this was long before the advent of those suction-cup "extend-o-arms" you see guys using to change the signs at service stations nowadays.  

After taking one look at the height I'd be scaling to and the condition of the ladder I'd be using I said to him: "Dude, I don't do heights."  

He turned a few shades of fuchsia and said "Well it gotta be done!"  

"Not by me it doesn't," I shot back.  "No-where in my job description does it say that I have to climb fifteen to twenty feet up on a crappy ladder only to fall and die reaching to replace a decimal point.  I'm not gonna contribute to the mortality rate of student workers.  You do it!"  

He was super-pissed climbing up there laden down with an armful of plastic letters and numbers like a petulant kindergarten kid.

He had more attempted humiliations planned for me.  One day on the way out Cooter breezed by me and said: "Lissen, I needs you to go over to the Golden 'G' Dairy bar later on today."  

Now this wasn't an odd request since if the gas station even needed change, one of us would just run over to the owners other business and they'd hook us up.  But it was still early in the day and normally if we needed change it was an immediate task.  Something was different this time.  He was looking way too pleased with himself as he tore off.  

With my voice dripping with suspicion I managed to ask him "Why?" just before he left earshot.  

He shouted back "We need you to be the 'Birthday Bear'!"  

 I gawked after him for a bit, completely baffled by the the request. After he was gone I turned to one of my co-workers and asked "What the f#@% is the 'Birthday Bear'?"   

The guy just chuckled and said: "They must have a birthday at the 'G' this afternoon.  You just go over there and they dress you up in this bear costume and you dance around for the kids.  It's not too bad.  No one can see who you are since your head is covered the whole time.  All of us had to do it when we first started here."  

Really?  I thought.  Interesting... 

Well, I fumed and stewed and formulated my carefully crafted rebuttal so that when Enos showed up and told me, "'Well?  What are ya waitin' for?  Git over there!" I sprung my carefully constructed riposte.  

"No f#$%&@# way," I told him.

He spluttered for a bit and then flew into me.

"They needs someone over there right now and the new guy always goes!"

"Well, this new guy ain't going anywhere."

"Why?!" he demanded as if I'd had the gall to pass up his Huck Finn-style white washing offer.

"Look, there's no way in God's green earth I'm gonna dress up in some moist, foul-smelling, ratty bear costume only to die of heat prostration while being punched in the balls by a pack of hypoglycemic rug rats.  It just isn't happening."

He turned to the other guys but every single one of them shot him down in turn, as if they were bolstered by my open rebellion.  I could hear his bitter mutterings all the way down the street as he crawled like a Dead Man Walking down to the Dairy Bar.  

Later on he returned smelling like sweat and spoiled ice cream.

"So, how was that?" one of the guys asked him.

"It wasn't that bad," he pouted, shooting me the stink-eye.  

I knew he was fed up with me at that point because next week Roscoe transferred to the "Ultramar" out in Stephenville Crossing.  I didn't complain for three reasons:
  1.  I'd be away from Skeeter for good.
  2.  The risk of someone recognizing me was diminished. 
  3. I got to work with a cute blond girl who liked drawing and horses.
We made a great team.  She would handle most of the cash-related crap and I'd do all the gas-stuff.    

Speaking of, while pumping gas, in order to save time, you'd often lock the handle and let the pump work automatically as you cleaned a customer's windshield.  Well, perish forbid you ever got distracted (like, say, by a cute blond co-worker) because you risked turning the entire gas station into the lowest level of Dante's Inferno.

There were a few downsides about working in the 'Zing (as we called it).  You wouldn't believe how many people pulled up and asked for $5.00 worth of gas.   In this day and age that wouldn't be enough fuel to get an Escalade to the edge of the parking lot...

"Bolters" were also more common out there.  You'd set up the auto pump for a customer and then clean their windshields but just before you brought the squeegee back, the a**hole would tear off, sometimes leaving the still-pouring gas hose snaking around on the ground.  And, hey! guess who had clean up and pay for that when it happened?  Yours truly.

In between failing to get morons to pay for their gas, selling beer to someone illegally on a Sunday by mistake, and cleaning hundreds of dead flies out of the pan of the soft-serve ice cream machine (hey, we were next to a swamp, whattaya gonna do?!) we spent hours talking about our future plans when we left town.  I remember trying my damnedest to get her to break up with her skeezy boyfriend but it didn't work.  They guy's probably an investment banker by now, so, who knows, it probably worked out for her.

Despite my griping and how poorly I was paid for this, it seemed like more honest work than my last job (which paid a comparable fortune).  

But that's a story for another occasion.

So, the next time you're getting full service at an "Ultramar" gas bar, when that member of the "Ultraman Corps" gives you back your receipt be sure to tell them "Thank you, Ultraman!  You're my hero!"

I'm willing to wager they'll really appreciate it.  


And here's this week's comic:


1 comment:

Mark Rose said...

life giving fluid...huh huh huh