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Lessons from a gas station attendant Featured

9:59am EDT July 22, 2002

On a business trip to Washington, D.C., I experienced one of those days where everything went wrong from beginning to end. Not only were the day’s business dealings a complete flop, but the 250-mile drive back to Pittsburgh looked like it was going to be a disaster as well.

The rain poured as I approached the halfway point, the Breezewood exchange on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There I glanced at my gas gauge and realized it read empty. So I pulled into a full-serve bay at the nearest gas station; a luxury of which I rarely partake.

Before I could even get my car into park, a young man of about 20 years threw open the service station door and ran to my car in the rain. I repeat—he ran to my car. From under the brim of his oil-stained and rain-soaked ball cap, his eyes gleamed, and he smiled as he asked, “Hiya sir! What can I do for you today?”

My reply was not so cordial as I ordered him to “fill it up.”

As he approached the rear of my car, he began to whistle loudly, and I panicked, watching him from my side mirror as he proceeded to jam the nozzle into my gas tank to make the gas empty into my car on its own. Why the horror? I realized that this left him free to come back up to converse with me. And he did.

“So, havin’ a bad day, are ya?” he deduced. “What do ya do for a livin’?”

I thought about a dozen smart-aleck replies, but opted for the shortest truth.

“I’m a motivational speaker,” I said.

He smiled a knowing smile and proclaimed, “So am I.”

Now he had my attention. So I asked, “How are you a motivational speaker?”

He looked me straight in the eye and explained, “Isn’t your job to get in front of people and get them up and going?” I nodded in agreement. He continued, “My job is to stick the nozzle in and keep them going!”

Think about that for a moment.

To this day, every time I go through Breezewood, I stop at the gas station in hopes of getting that young man to pump my gas.

Do people go out of their way to do business with you? To work with you? This young kid taught me two very valuable lessons. The first is simply to look at what you do from a different, more creative perspective. The second, and most important, is that people want to do business with others who seem to enjoy what they do for a living.

This kid obviously enjoyed what he did for a living, and I will go out of my way to get gas at his station whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

So, do you want to be a hero to a young kid? Next time you’re in Breezewood, stop at Scullio’s Exxon, and when Mick runs out to your car, ask him if he isn’t that famous motivator you have heard so much about.

Jeff Tobe, primary colorer at Monroeville-based Coloring Outside the Lines, teaches diverse businesses how to be creative in their sales and marketing strategies. Subscribe to his free creativity newsletter at www.jefftobe.com or contact him at (412) 373-6592.