Insights From a Midnight Gas Station Attendant

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The best way to describe a gas station attendant’s life is one of long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of entertainment, excitement, and downright absurdity. Viewing a city from behind a blast shield of bullet-resistant glass, all manner of people will be encountered. Their stories will be as varied as their appearance.

A nightshift gas station attendant can expect to staff the register, clean, perform checks, complete required documentation and encounter all manner of people. They may experience security challenges, explosions, leaks as well as personal health problems due to working nights. In most cases they work independently.

Informed by interviews and firsthand knowledge, this article will center on a staple of the entry-level job market. For those wishing to forgo the obvious food service path, gas station attendants live a very different life than most. Believe it or not, there are many unexpected benefits to be found languishing in the dark like a maniac too. Other than talking to yourself.

Time and the Midnight Gas Station Attendant

Time is on your side…No, it isn’t!

While you will be expected to do routine maintenance, conduct transactions, and generally not let the building explode, there will be enormous amounts of idle time.

What then does one do with this precious resource (time, not the unnerving amount of fuel stored under your feet?)

The best way to spend this time is to improve yourself. No, not in a bizarre spiritual way of praying to the petroleum gods, but in a way to improve your marketability.

Chances are, you’re in a service station that doesn’t merely sell gasoline. Many have secondary operations such as mechanics and car washes attached. This provides an excellent opportunity to increase your potential.

Evenings spent learning basic vehicle or machine maintenance can make your midnight job a long-term career.

So in between bouts of dusting off a Snickers bar from 1978, learning how a carwash conveyor belt system works can help you further down the line.

The point is that you are on a midnight shift, you will probably spend 3 hours of an 8-hour shift doing actual work, how you spend the rest of that time is completely up to you. Making puppets out of Styrofoam coffee cups and reenacting King Lear may certainly seem entertaining, but it sadly has no real future benefits. 

Wait, they are paying me though…

Correct. Stop being an ingrate and be a decent worker. Besides the rare occasions where a customer does in fact enter the establishment, you will mainly be doing routine maintenance. This entails the seemingly pointless tasks of cleaning merchandise (a surprising amount of dust collects on those playing cards from the Truman administration,) as well as mopping questionable stains from the earlier shifts.

While these tasks may seem mind-numbing (well, they aren’t seeming that way, they in fact are mind-numbing,) they are still necessary.

As the midnight attendant, you will be expected to maintain a level of professionalism that carries through the day. Quite the responsibility, sure, but it also stops you from going all “The Shining” around three in the morning. In point of fact, surviving the drudgery of a midnight shift is best accomplished by routine.

So, between bouts of reading about particle physics or neurological surgery, go ahead and restock the soda fountain. You are getting paid, after all. 

Weight Gain and Midnight Gas Station Attendants

A strange thing happens when clothing is exposed to petroleum fumes: they shrink.

Well, that or maybe living off a diet of microwave burritos, potato chips, and soda just might be making you a tad girthier (and by “tad” I mean “massively.”) The unfortunate reality is that unless you pack a healthy lunch every day (which we can help you do here) it’s hard to eat healthy in a convenience store setting.

All manner of dietary horrors resides in those coolers. Delicious, calorie-fortified, sodium-enriched, health-reaping horrors. If you’re not careful, this can cause a very real problem. Boredom eating is certainly possible, but also consider the basic fact that your store is arranged to entice customers to impulse buy all manner of snacks. It stands to reason that you are not immune to this marketing ploy, as you are staring at the same displays for hours at a time.

Luckily, this is pretty easily combatted. Maintaining healthy habits is simply a matter of planning ahead. You can, in fact, prepare healthy food and store it in the many coolers surrounding you. Here are a few suggestions of what you can pack.

More importantly, you can exercise throughout the evening. Jogging around the parking lot, lifting boxes, all sorts of physical activity can make your time pass faster as well as stave off the boredom assaulting you. Just don’t get carried away, you’re in the parking lot of a gas station, not lifting weights in the prison yard. Don’t want to scare the customers away.

[Video] – Night Shift Weight Gain: Stop a Blow-Out Tonight

Meet New and Interesting People Working the Night Shift

A strange thing happens after midnight. The quality of people you meet tends to vary wildly. You will meet normal, evening shift folk such as yourself. You will also encounter all the delightful, inebriated masses at closing time. Yes, sometime around two or three in the morning, a shambling horde will reach your door. If you’re lucky, they won’t be driving (you won’t be lucky.)

These will range from exceedingly friendly people looking to buy anything to soak up the booze in their stomachs to the enraged, frothy-mouthed drunks looking to blame someone, anyone, for dropping the winning touchdown pass from twenty years ago.

There will also be those looking to score (and seemingly thinking you run a drug empire between bouts of mopping toilets).

The point is, you must prepare yourself to encounter all manner of people, and you will be expected to be professional and polite while doing so. Luckily, you will most likely be in a bulletproof cage behind locked doors, so you won’t be in much physical danger (it will likely be oddly entertaining, like a bad movie you can’t turn off.)

Downsides to Life as a Night Shift Gas Station Attendant

There is a very outside chance that someone will decide it is unfair that you have a cash register filled with money.

They will attempt to rectify this injustice by robbing you. Thankfully, gone are the days where you are exposed to gun-wielding psychopaths with nothing but the strength of a polyester dress shirt and your faith in God to protect you.

Modern gas stations tend to be as safe as a bank. There are usually a plethora of safety features that will assist you. These range from automatic locking doors, panic buttons, cameras, and more bulletproof glass than a presidential fish tank. Most people desperate enough to attempt a robbery are still aware enough to realize the risk far outweighs the rewards. Besides, you have a secret weapon on your side: Coffee.

No, this is not an endorsement of hurling boiling bean water at would-be ne’er do wells like a medieval catapult. This is saying that offering free coffee to midnight shift police officers ensures that a patrol car is almost always going to be right by your side. 

Besides warding off a machete-armed terror, police officers can just be downright fun to talk to. They are just as bored as you and like comradery as well. It will be completely normal for you to find yourself on a first-name basis with everyone from city police officers to county deputies and sheriffs, to even state troopers. Everyone likes free coffee, and it’s a lot cheaper to provide it than it is to buy a flak jacket. 

Expected Dilemmas for Gas Station Night Staff

So, while you’re avoiding roving drunks and armed robbers, what other lovely ways to meet your end will be expected to overcome? Well, let’s start with the fact that right under you are storage tanks filled with explosive fuel, which quite possibly could be leaking. While this may sound strange, it is very common.

Known as LUST sites (no, these are not dens of sin) Leaking Underground Storage Tanks are a very real concern. While environmentally unpleasant, they are actually relatively safe, and therefore no real cause for concern.

That being said, maybe don’t take up smoking cigars to pass the time. Real dangers from gasoline explosions have all but been mitigated by shutoff valves, fire suppressants, and a variety of automatic and redundant safety features that you will in no way interact with.

Then what of the electrical components of the establishment? Well, thankfully, those too are wired in such a way that you will never really have to worry. The neat thing about standing over a giant fuel-air bomb is that most civil engineers spent a few hours trying to ensure it doesn’t explode. So you’re not really on the hook for that.

No, your main concern will be superficial and non-fiery. Just make sure the toilets don’t clog and the windows aren’t too grimy, and you’ll be way ahead of the game. 

Also, if your station will likely serve some sort of food, you will want to ensure the expiration date hasn’t passed. Usually done by the vendors that supply the food, it’s still a good idea to check. Think of it as a public service, your diligence will save the intestines of countless decent citizens (and save you the clogged toilets I mentioned earlier.)

Related night shift post worth a read – I’m Freezing! Why Do I Get So Cold On Night Shift?

Other Tiny Annoyances for Night Shift Workers

Then of course there is the enemy you haven’t considered. See, late at night, you will be surrounded by all manners of lighting. This will attract all manner of bugs. Yes, bugs.

Everything from mosquitoes, gnats, weird, ungodly-sized moths, and spooky bugs that only you will ever see will visit. As bizarre as this will sound, you will be accosted by all sorts of things usually only equated with plagues of Egypt. So try not to look too surprised when locusts come slamming into the windows late at night. It’s creepy, gooey, and unattractive, but thankfully not dangerous. 

So there are your safety concerns: Food poisoning and Mothra attacks. Try not to sweat the fact that you’re standing on an ocean of lighter fluid.

Weird and Wonderful Parts of Being a Gas Station Attendant

However, there might be a time when the unforeseen can become a problem. These instances are unpredictable, unusual, and unlikely. They include environmental protestors, labor disputes unrelated to your company, and just plain strange occurrences. 

As a fossil fuel retailer, you might get activists posting signs or even protesting your establishment. It happens, though it’s very unlikely. In these instances, just do your job and let them do theirs. We live in a republic; they have the right to believe that driving windmill-powered cars will make the weather happy. Notify management, local security systems, and the police (if necessary,) and let them have their say. 

Labor disputes are possible as well. Perhaps you sell a product that is currently under strike, or maybe you are just found near a business affected as well. Again, this isn’t your fight. Do your job and let it go as long as you aren’t threatened directly (or indirectly, in cases where they are accosting your customers). You aren’t the target nor are you in any position to affect change. 

It goes without saying (though I will,) I met both of these as a seventeen-year-old kid working the shift, and as unnerving as they were, they were also largely overly dramatic scenarios that worked themselves out in time. 

In summary, while the prospect of watching your life pass by one night at a time may seem horrifying (it is,) keep in mind you may use your time in any way you see fit. You may continue your career as a retail fuel technician (pump jockey,) or improve your prospects in countless ways while earning a steady paycheck.

One thing is certain though, your time (should you choose to spend it thusly,) as a night shift gas station attendant will be boring, interesting, scary, and hilarious, all at the same time (sometimes in the same evening.) 

Just remember the warning about the no-smoking thing. That’s just tempting fate.


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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