A Culture Shock This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   As I arrived for my first day of work ever, I felt confident, yet uncertain. The station was under construction and the convenience store had been transformed into a small cubicle, referred to as "the trailer." I knocked on the window and the young woman working the 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. shift told me she was expecting me at eleven. It was 11:06 a.m. I apologized and then proceeded to the port-o-potty, or "John Boy" to finish getting ready. I had a uniform together with a fanny pack and walky talky. I was ready to work.

I learned later that this young woman was nineteen years old, had been married for four months, and was more pregnant than married. Her husband worked the night shift at the gas station.

I was not a cashier; my job was to greet customers and offer services such as washing windows or checking oil. After running around for three long hours in the blazing Virginia sun, I met my next associate.

The cashier who took over at 2:00 p.m. had come in and begun counting cigarettes. This woman was short and stout and looked about 50. She was dressed in a uniform like mine, plus a pack of cigarettes in her pocket. It seemed that practically everyone smoked, including the pregnant cashier.

I learned later that the older woman had two daughters. The older was in the Navy and had children of her own, but the younger still lived at home. That is not to say that she did not have her own child. Her little girl was six years old; her mother was twenty. The mother was young and did not want to give up her social life to take care of her child, so my associate took care of her grandchild. And this poor woman was raising a seven-year-old boy, too, whose mother left him at her house so she could run to the bank. And never came back.

It was my second week when I met my final co-worker. I was stocking the soda cooler, while keeping an eye on the gas gauge, when a small car decorated with rainbows came whipping through the lot. Out popped a girl who looked about my age. Finally, someone, a potential friend. She seemed full of energy, although she smoked too.

I learned that she was 17 and gay. The fact that she was different from me bothered me more than the fact that she was gay. At that point I wanted so much for someone to be like me, that when I learned she wasn't, I was crushed. For the next two weeks, she spoke of gay bars where she wanted to bring me, and spoke of a Tino-type friend (of "My So-Called Life") whom I never met. Despite our differences, we became friends.

The job only lasted three weeks. I quit because school was beginning and I could not keep a full-time job. After attending an all-girls Catholic school, and leaving one of the more affluent towns in Massachusetts to work at a gas station in Virginia for three weeks, I have to admit the experience was a culture shock. Although we were different and had different lifestyles, I accepted them as they did me. This story is not meant to be stereotypical, only true. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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