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Pump it up

Weathering highs and lows to keep drivers on the road

Kirsten Murphy
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 28/01) - Pumping gas is one thing. But when Baffin Gas Bar attendant Blake MacIsaac was asked to remove cigarette butts from a front seat, the 16-year-old politely declined.

"The woman wanted me to clean her ashtray," MacIsaac said, noting her request was within her own capabilities.

So go the duties at one of three gas stations in Iqaluit. Shifts fluctuate between crazy and quiet.

"I can go two hours without sitting down," MacIsaac said.

One minute, the four gas lines are churning out fuel while hoods are up and dip sticks flying. The next minute MacIsaac is sipping pop or chatting with the cashier waiting for the next rush.

Part-time, minimum wage employment is readily available in Iqaluit, he said. The low pressure, routine expectations at the Baffin Gas Bar appealed to the Grade 11 Inuksuk high school student.

"I like being outdoors, especially in the summer," he said.

Given the back jarring potholes lining the city streets thanks to the ongoing lock-out of city workers, MacIsaac said he's remained surprisingly busy.

"I figured people would walk or take a cab."

One development surfacing since the road deterioration is the number of flat tires.

MacIsaac is one of four gas attendants on the company payroll. If you drive it, they'll refuel it and squeegee it; cars, trucks, vans, snowmobiles, ATVs and motorbikes. MacIsaac pumped up his first tour bus during the trade show earlier this year.

The two best things about working at the busy corner between the Discovery Lodge and the Navigator Inn are people and paycheques.

"I just took a little vacation south to Ottawa and Quebec to hang with a friend. It was great," he said.

When he started work in February, MacIsaac stayed indoors, emerging in a cocoon of winter clothing when needed. With the warmer weather, people are more independent (i.e. pump their own gas) if MacIsaac is busy.

Upon graduation next year, he's heading south.

"Maybe to study science. I'm not really sure. I'll probably be back," he said.