It was one such Summer that I agreed to work the day shift with Frog, since he was having trouble finding a
suitable stooge. Working the day shift, you had to be at the station at 6am. That was a particular problem for
me, as I have always been a night-owl. I don't think I ever made it to work before 7:30, but Frog never said
anything about it, probably because he hadn't had sufficient time to get liquored up enough to melt away any
control at all over his temper. Frog never went off on me the way he did most other employees anyway, though he
might as well have, since whenever one of them screwed up - in his mind - I would have to hear about it for hours
on end, "Yep. Fuckin' employees, fuckin' with xxxx" where xxxx could be pens, the credit card machine,
paper clips, the gas pumps, the air hose, rubber bands, the water hose, the clock - basically anything under the sun.
The day shift was a whole different world. It might as well have been a different job altogether. It wasn't the
crazy free-for-all anything-can-and-does-happen environment of the night shift. Even the customers were different,
since most of the people who came in during the day were retired or working for businesses that had accounts with
us. The day shift was structured, predictable and boring. I would usually pull in at 7:30am or later with a pot
hangover and drag out the trash cans, air hose and squeegee buckets and then unlock the pumps. Frog would verify the
books from the previous night, stick the tanks and call in the tank levels to Larry. He would then fill a 32 ounce
plastic soft drink mug - the same one he had been using for years - three quarters of the way with vodka and then top
it off with Mountain Dew. He used a piece of gray rubber tubing he had picked up at an auto parts store as a straw.
Once we got everything setup, we'd hit off a brass bat until we were good and stoned. Frog would always have the radio
on KY-102 and would laugh hysterically at the zany antics of the Deejays. I thought they were more annoying than
anything. I would sit in the metal chair beside the desk and stare blankly out the window while Frog read the paper
to me. If he saw something particularly offensive in the paper, he would rant about it for a half hour while I prayed
for a car to pull in to release me from the bondage of his lunatic ravings. Sometimes, he would follow me outside
spouting on about some news item, not even stopping to breath.
Eventually, I started bringing a cassette player and headphones to work with me and would listen to music while Frog
just blindly continued ranting to me about crazy compact disk conspiracies or insane theories about the "Elite
Intelligentsia." We had one guy who worked there a few weeks who had just gotten out of the Marines. Frog got rid of him
because he thought he was a military plant investigating German ownership of the world's petroleum supply (the owners were
of German lineage). I am not going to attempt to describe any of these fruity ideas here, since I never really understood
them to begin with, and I'm certainly not going to try now. If I was really lucky, I would get to hear about Frog's
failure to have sex with his wife the night before. He would describe how he would tenderly try to initiate a night of hot
amphibian passion and she would roll over and say "get that thing away from me." Perhaps it was Frog's breath that turned
his wife off so. He had several bad cavities and, from time-to-time, would make an offhanded remark about how the piece of
food he had been using to plug a cavity for the past several days had become dislodged.
Frog's wife, Sandy, always seemed cool to us employees. A few of us went over to Frog's place one Saturday to trip on
mushrooms. He had yellow post-it notes stuck everywhere to give us instructions like "Look behind you! Is that a cat
trying to get outside?!" Sandy just laughed at our insanity and made sure we had plenty of orange juice to drink. She
even made some incredible peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. After that day, she always sent some to work with Frog
There were three basic types of customers on the day shift: business accounts, the elderly and lonely
housewives. Sometimes, it was fun to flirt with the lonely housewives, though none that I can remember were
particularly attractive - some were cute, I guess. They desperately wanted attention and would be overt about
getting it. I think some of them thought of a trip to the gas station as a wild night out on the town. Frog loved
those women... to me they were just a way to kill time. I remember one had very long blonde hair. She was pregnant and
would get out of her car and chat while I did her gas. She wouldn't let me do the windshield or anything, preferring
to talk instead. She would laugh hysterically at anything I said that was even remotely funny, then she'd put her hands
on my shoulders as if to prop herself up. I would always back away like she had a disease - she was pregnant
after all - and that would make her laugh even harder. She already had two daughters - who looked exactly like
her - and I would give them stuffed animals that another customer always left us as a tip.
The business accounts included the Metro Baptist Church and Gladstone Plumbing. The minister from Metro Baptist
Church was really creepy. He was tall and white as a sheet. He had coal-black hair and his lips were extremely red.
He had a mousy wife and three sons who looked like him. They all sort of looked inbred. He was constantly
trying to get me to go to church. Constantly. It annoyed me to no end. Eventually, the head of the church called
us and canceled the account because this guy was charging way too much gas. The Gladstone Plumbing guys were funny.
They always gave Frog a hard time, calling him "Furry Beak." They liked me, because I was the only person there that
ever cleaned their windshields.
It was toward the end of the Summer when Frog had finally found someone who was a known drug user to be his
faithful sidekick during the days. I was anxiously awaiting the next week, when I could finally return to the
night shift and it's world of loud music, insane druggies, gas station groupies and girlfriends coming and going as
they pleased without fearing a visit from Larry. Jason would take over on the day shift.
Jason was a pretty cool guy. He was fresh out of high school and part American Indian. He was a tall thin guy with
curly black hair and he had some sort of problem with his eyes that made them bulge out. He eventually went on to have
surgery to have that repaired - they basically pulled his eyes out and reset them. He videotaped the whole thing, but I
never saw it. He played the drums, which he had learned in a military school. He wasn't terribly literate though and
he would often have me write letters for him. A few years later, he repaid me by taking Stacy and I to see Nirvana - his
treat. It was their last tour.
Poor Jason would have to deal with Frog's insane paranoia and the weird old people that came in during the day. I
didn't mind doing a little extra for the elderly, but sometimes they were downright disgusting or just outright insane.
I remember one old lady in particular who would blow her nose and spit in a really small, thin tissue and then ask us to
throw it away. There's nothing like grabbing onto a tissue and getting old lady slime all over your hand.
Everyone at the station had customer groupies. Some customers, for whatever reason, would become attached to a
certain employee. They would demand that only that employee put gas in their car, check their oil and air up their
tires. Some of them got downright mean about it - if Frog was busy mowing the lawn or unclogging the women's
toilet and one of his groupies came in and I tried to pump their gas, they would yell at me angrily and
demand I get Frog. One of Frog's groupies was a woman in her fifties. She claimed to be a psychologist,
but as far as I could tell, she wasn't practicing. Every single time she came in, she had gauze wrapped around her
neck and hands. She'd been wearing that gauze for years. Sometimes it would unwrap and fall off while
she was digging for her credit card and there would be nothing unusual about her hands.
There was another regular who worked as a salesman for a major drug company - I felt a sort of camaraderie with
him. He was into music quite a bit and he had personalized license plates that said "SUBPOP". He would always give
me new music to listen to. He gave me one tape I particularly remember. I played it a couple of times, but
was unable to listen to the whole thing because of constant interruptions by customers. Eventually, I listened to it in
the Walkman to escape Frog's rantings. The more I listened to it, the more I loved it. The name of the album - you
couldn't call anything that wasn't pressed on vinyl an "album" around Frog without inciting a one hour long diatribe -
was "Bleach" and it was from a little-known band called "Nirvana."
I had accumulated a couple of groupies during my time on the day shift. One was an old woman who was clearly
getting a bit senile. Frog called her my Princess. She would come in every Tuesday at exactly 10:45am. She would
always pull in the exact same lane and park at the exact same spot in the lane. She always got ten dollars worth
of gas and had me check the oil, which was never low, and the tires. She'd always give me a fifty cent tip, which
was good for a Dr. Pepper at least. The funny thing about it is, her gas cap was in the middle-rear of the car, just
behind the license plate. She could have pulled into either lane on the near island, but even if there was another
car in the inner lane and the outer lane was open, she would wait behind the other car so she could pull into the
Frog was driving an old blue 280zx at the time - the car he had before he got his primer-gray Ford pickup.
Actually, Frog had a different car every few months, because he usually just got his cars as throwaways from
friends and relatives. He really was an excellent mechanic and he taught me a lot about it, which would come in
handy later when Stacy's dad replaced her Ford Probe with a convertible Jeep that liked to break down constantly.
But usually, the cars Frog got were so far gone, he could no longer keep them running and the 280z was on its
deathbed - the thing was pretty much 90% rust and chunks of it would fall off anytime he drove it. I remember
traveling from Kansas City to Saint Joseph with Frog one rainy day to pick up some morphine. Every time we hit a
pool of water on the highway, the floor mat on my side of the car would get pushed up by a gush of water. It
didn't make me feel any better when Frog told me the friend who had given him the car had referred to it as a
One day, Frog and I had just finished off a couple of cars and we were standing outside chatting. He had just
turned in his registration for membership in the "Traveler's Protection Association" - "TPA" for short - to a
regular customer that was always trying to lure Frog and me into joining this or that club or attending some youth
function at the community center. Frog could never say "no." In exchange for his signature and twenty-five dollars
in dues, Frog received an official, blue TPA sticker that had big white lettering that read "WATCH THAT CHILD!" He
affixed it to the rear bumper of the Death Trap, positioning it so it covered a large rust hole.
As we stood in the shade of the canopy, Frog looked out to the street, "There's your Princess!"
Sure enough, the old woman was driving along - and she didn't stop. The station had two entrances, she usually
came in the south entrance, but she passed it. I wondered if she wasn't going to get gas or if, due to some
bizarre glitch in the fabric of space-time, she had actually decided to use the north entrance. As she approached
the north entrance, she slowed down and I just assumed she would pull in there. Except she didn't turn. She
stopped right there on the street. A couple of cars pulled up behind her and stopped. Frog and I watched as she
put her car in reverse and started backing up. The two cars lined up behind her turned and drove into the other
lane, honking their horns. Cars traveling in the southbound lane swerved over on the shoulder to avoid the
oncoming cars and started honking their horns. Employees of the Amoco next door and Texaco across the street
all stopped what they were doing and watched the ballet. Finally, the old woman had backed up thirty feet or so, which
was enough to turn into the south entrance of the station. She pulled into her usual position, acting as though nothing
unusual had happened.
The old woman got her usual ten dollars, but didn't ask me to check the oil or tires. She heard the pump stop
as I let go of the trigger right at ten dollars - an experienced gas pumper could have the pump going at full speed
and stop at an exact amount; you got to the point where you were able to feel the rhythm of the numbers changing
on the analog pumps. She called me over to the window and I left the nozzle in the tank, thinking maybe she had
decided she wanted more gas.
"Could you tell me the number of gallons."
"Sure. It's 10 gallons."
"But, you didn't check the pump."
"Ummm. Gas is ninety-nine point nine cents per gallon and you got 10 dollars worth, so it was 10 gallons." You'd
be amazed how many times I had to explain this to people.
She scowled and wrote the number down in a small notebook. She turned the car on and threw it in drive.
"Oh, wait, I didn't take the noz..."
"You've changed! I'm never coming back here again!"
"What??" I asked, incredulously.
But it was too late, she took her foot off the break and the car lurched forward. She hit the gas and tore the
hose out of the pump. It snapped around and lashed Frog in the leg, startling him. He stepped back, tripped and
crashed into the bumper of his Death Trap. The force was enough to knock it completely off the car. Somehow, it
broke the back hatch as well, since it wouldn't stay shut after that. The old lady drove off with the gas nozzle
and hose still hanging out of the back of her car. Indeed, she never came back.
Yep. Fuckin' employees, fuckin' with elderly customers.
Fortunately, the pumps are outfitted with a mechanism that prevented gas from spewing everywhere when a hose was
snapped off like that. It wasn't the first or last time that happened. Sometimes, the nozzle would come out of the gas
tank and leave a nice big scratch on the side of the car and the customer would eventually be referred to Bob or Larry
and they would never be heard from again. That played well into Frog's German petroleum paranoia, but I knew the owners
had just told the customer to get lost. They told all of us if anyone gave us a hard time to tell them to leave and don't
Frog killed two birds with one stone - he reattached the rear bumper of his Death Trap by running a piece of rope
through the trunk, down through a rust hole in the floor and around the bumper, then back up through the top of the hatch
where he had drilled a hole. He wrapped it around several times and drove the car that way with that stupid "WATCH THAT
CHILD!" bumper sticker patching up a rust hole like some decayed piece of food plugging one of his cavities. The car
died six months later with a thrown rod.
* * * *
01. The Pervert
02. The Night the Retards Came
03. The Paranoid Schizophrenic
04. The Art Institute
05. Frog's Restroom Misadventure
06. The Pixie Who Destroyed His VW Van
07. The Hooker