I probably started working when I was 7 – true story. It all started off innocently enough with dumping ice in drink coolers or dusting canned goods. But by the time I was 13, I was old enough to man a cash register and have real conversations with customers. Here is one such conversation that I remember to this day:
Customer: (Plops a 6 pack of Budweiser on the counter)
Me: Hello. May I see ID please?
Customer: (Cynically raises an eyebrow.) Seriously, kid? How old are you? [I was 13.]
Me: Sir, I must see your ID.
Customer: (Stoically hands me his faded ID.)
Me: (Careful inspection for dramatic pause.) 1959. Okay that will be $5.29 please. Paper or plastic?
1995, Tales from Pine Hill
You see, while growing up in Augusta, much of my youth was spent working for my parents. Like many Asian immigrants, my parents slaved away at factories until they were able to save up enough money to open up their own business. Many Koreans in Augusta went into the gas station business – including my parents. I would roller skate at our first store, build fortresses out of 12 packs, and eventually become the “general manager” of our final store. So while many of my friends got “cool” summer jobs like working at the mall or serving at fine restaurant establishments like Applebee’s, I got to do fun things like freeze my bum off while stocking Gatorades in our walk-in cooler.
Looking back on these times, I’m glad to have been able to help out my parents and allow them some extra time to hit a few balls on the golf course or grab a meal with friends. After all, why work at low paying minimum wage job for The Man when you can work at a low paying minimum wage job for Your Parents? Not only that, I had an endless sea of Little Debbie snack cakes (Star Crunch yumm) and Hershey chocolates right at my fingertips. My experiences at the store taught me many things like good work ethic, punctuality, and excellent customer service (self-restraint not so much). But the fact that I can instantly calculate in my head just how much change you owe me from that $20 bill for my chips and water is something that I cherish to this day. (I am one of the few who feels guilty for using credit cards for transactions under $4 at small businesses — another quirk I developed from working at my parent’s store.)
And in order to keep myself grounded and to thank my lucky stars for no longer having to spend my summers and weekends at the gas station, I have decided to chronicle some stories from those gas station days on this blog with a series of random stories.
Surely you are sitting on the edge of your seat for the next!