Did you serve your time?
That is the nick name given to working in a gas station when you first immigrate to Dearborn or first start looking for a job as a young Arab American.
Although Gas Station Attendant is rated as one of the most dangerous jobs in America, Arab Americans, in Michigan specially, found Gas Station business to be their niche and they gradually dominated it.
It is a small self-running business model, with not much marketing, experience, or planning needed. It takes a small investment, as well as a small family to run it. It found a good match with the hardworking, aspiring for a better life, small Arab American families.
The work is easy. It might take you a day or two to get trained. You basically run a cash register, hand people cigarettes, open pumps, prepare coffee, and sometimes restock coolers. If you work in the morning shift, you have to deal with all the salesmen, check orders, and pay them. Other than that, it is pretty much free time.
In that free time, many Arab Americans studied for their colleges and universities. They did their homework assignments, or pursued their research. Those who were not students, perhaps read, or watched videos on their phones or computers, built websites, communicated with relatives and friends, or pursued some online hobbies.
This has been a theme in the Arab American Detroit/Dearborn life that a movie has been about it, one of the very few Arab American movies, called Detroit Unleaded:
Some have used their time to pursue their passions and art. Here Eissa Shohatee, aka Arab Jeezus, pursues his passion of hip hop:
And some use their time to pursue their careers and entrepreneurial dreams and plans, like Mo Ridha, an iOS coder and founder of Simple Bin:
In the next episode, we will talk about the dangers and struggles of working in a gas station.