Almost thirty years ago, the instruments on the Mariner 10 spacecraft detected traces of hydrogen, helium, and possibly oxygen in the atmosphere of Mercury. There the matter rested until the mid-80’s, when emission lines of sodium (Potter & Morgan 1985) and potassium (Potter & Morgan 1986) were found in the spectrum of Mercury, resulting from resonance scattering of sunlight by metal atoms in the atmosphere. Searches for other metals in the Mercury atmosphere were fruitless until recently, when an emission line attributed to calcium has been observed (Bida, Killen & Morgan 2000). The densities of all these species are so low that gas phase collisions are negligible, so that the Mercury atmosphere is an exosphere bounded at its base by the surface of the planet. The fact that the exosphere is bounded by the Mercury surface means that interactions with the surface must occur. Energy exchange, surface absorption and desorption, and ion neutralization can take place, and these must be accounted for in models of the exosphere. None of these atmospheric species can survive long on Mercury, being lost mainly by photoionization followed by trapping in the solar wind and partly by solar radiation acceleration. Consequently, the species that we observe must be in a steady state, being generated as fast as they are lost to space. The metals must originate from the surface of the regolith, with the supply of fresh surface material maintained by gardening of the surface by meteoroid impact. The metals are released from the surface into the exosphere by photon-stimulated desorption (Madey et al. 1998), particle sputtering (McGrath, Johnson & Lanzerotti 1986), and meteoroid impact vaporization (Morgan, Zook & Potter 1988). Thermal evaporation of species condensed on the cold side may be important for determining their distribution over the planet (Hunten & Sprague 2002). The interaction and relative importance of all these processes has been discussed by Killen & Morgan (1993). Much can be said about these processes, but this review is focused primarily on the current status of observations of sodium, potassium, and calcium.