Confessions of a Woman Petrol Pump Attendant

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“Women are more efficient in clearing vehicles than men... Customers don’t dare cut the line. Maybe because it’s shameful to be ticked off by a woman in public”

I have been working as a petrol pump attendant for the past two years. I was earlier working in a garment factory where women were treated like slaves. The pay is paltry here but it’s still better.

In the beginning, many customers would snigger and pass comments. They don’t do that now because women are more efficient in clearing vehicles than men, especially two-wheelers. Customers also listen to us and don’t dare cut the line. Maybe because it’s shameful to be ticked off by a woman in public.

I have to deal with all kinds of people. Some try to strike up a conversation, while others are too shy to even clearly state how many litres they want. Students on two-wheelers bother us the most by trying to lean close or brushing against us. Some older men are also like that. They try to flatter us by saying pretty women should not work at petrol pumps.

The dangerous hours are after sunset. Not a day goes by without a driver soliciting us. We take things in our stride and try to ignore them. But there are days when I have asked lecherous customers if they don’t have wives or sisters. That shuts them up.

None of the women work in any pump after 7 pm. We have fixed eight-hour duty. Nowadays, the job opportunities are quite good as even the oil company-operated pumps are employing women. Earlier, it was only the private dealers. Often, they promote us as cashiers-cum-attendants.

I know a lot of pumps cheat—either by rigging the meter or by dispensing sub-standard fuel and oil. Petrol is often mixed with some chemical before the tanker arrives here. I don’t want to know what is mixed along with petrol. The dispensing machine too is tampered and it fills three to five per cent short for every litre. But, only owners and cashiers make money, not attendants.

In my last job, many customers would ask me if the petrol was clean. It is difficult for women to lie. After government officers raided the pump and shut it for malpractices, I changed jobs.

My parents want to marry me off. But, I secretly wish I fall in love with a customer and ride off on his motorbike to a better life.

(She works in a Bangalore petrol pump)

As told to Anil Budur Lulla