FEBRUARY 28, 2014: HIGH SCHOOL CONFESSIONS–WHY I WANTED TO BE A TEENAGED PUMP JOCKEY

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We have moved well past a bygone era for gas stations.

 

There was a time when gas stations were something much more than a place to buy gas, lottery tickets and micro-waved adventures in potential food poisoning.

 

A gas station was a fixture in many neighborhoods and they did not have junk food grocery stores attached to them.

 

Instead they had full service automotive repair bays where people got to know and trust the mechanic who was probably also the owner.

 

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They worked on pretty simple cars and they used few electronic gadgets, other than maybe a timing light and a charging system tester. He was able to perform miracles on cars and was capable of tackling major mechanical work, flat tire repairs and oil changes on the same day.

 

Old school gas stations offered full service at the pumps. They checked the oil, tire pressure and cleaned your windshield while they put gas in your car because that was the way people did business in a real full service gas station from the past.

 

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These days we pump our own gas and can even pay at the pumps, so we do not even have to develop a real connection to the bored kid behind the counter at the gas station/junk food emporium. He hates his job and is angry about the fact he has not become CEO of the parent company with a salary commensurate with his delusion of self-worth.

 

He will be gone tomorrow and replaced by yet another kid who wonders why he has to work when a limitless world of e-fantasy is waiting on the other side of his I–phone connections. He does not like you, his gas station job and probably his parents for forcing him to work at a gas station.

 

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Things were much different when I was in high school and the neighborhood gas station was king of the desirable jobs for me. I wanted to work at a gas station with service bays because I wanted access to a place with everything near and dear to my young car guy heart: a fully equipped service bay to work on cars.

 

I had a buddy who was lucky enough to get a job at a gas station with these amenities and he was allowed to work on his car after the gas station closed or on the weekends when the mechanic was not at work.

 

He had full access to a car lift and tools in a warm place designed specifically to work on cars. I had my parents’ back yard with a very limited number of tools, warm weather days and useful skills to work on my cars.

 

My car guy conditions were less than spectacular and I could not have been more envious of my buddy if he was dating the head cheerleader. Well maybe a little (make that a lot) on the cheerleader angle.

 

He wasn’t dating the head cheerleader so I focused on his great part time job in high school: pump jockey. He was able to get paid to pump gas in order to gain access to an old school gas station where a licensed mechanic would guide him through the dangerous and uncharted territory of teenage automotive projects. He was living the life and I worked part time in a greenhouse.

 

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I never did get a dream job as a pump jockey in high school and I was never able to live that dream of working on my own car under highly favorable conditions like my buddy. I never resented him for his good fortune, but I will always envy him for his part time dream job in high school.

 

Incidentally, he did become a mechanic after high school.

 

Jim Sutherland

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