In honor of today being the long-time Busiest Travel Day of the Year, I thought I'd share a little travel story of my own. The names have been changed to protect the participants...
Mephistopheles? Oh, he’s the night clerk...
Picture it: A family of weary travelers stops to re-fuel their vehicle somewhere north of Atlanta and south of Seeing Rock City, in route from leaving one relative to go visit another.
Into the unassuming Texaco mini-mart goes the unsuspecting female of the group, in search of a bathroom, liquid refreshment and maybe a little something on which to nosh. One can really work up an appetite riding shotgun on a family road trip.
Approaching the entrance of the mini-mart, she's greeted by a cheesecake shot on the glass door -- and not the dense, very delicious kind of cheesecake from New York with strawberries on top, either. Although this shot did have its share of dimples.
Inside, she first notices a familiar ding-ding-ding sound... usually only heard in the smoke-filled, clockless neon rooms of Las Vegas or the smoke-filled, slightly listing rooms of big cruise ships in international waters. Yes, Virginia, this mini-mart features a row of old, but functioning slot machines. With an old, but questionably functioning woman plugging quarters into one of them as if her life depended on it. Quite a tableau.
She gives a quick survey of the interior, trying to spy the restrooms. Seeing as they are not immediately apparent, she opts to not pursue this any further. The prospect of needing a round or two of penicillin shots is less than appealing. Mother Nature can just be put on hold.
Looking around for the beverage coolers, the weary traveling chick finally finds them, tucked into a corner, eclipsed by the other larger and more numerous coolers full of every conceivable adult beverage one could want outside of a store that's not authorized to sell hard liquor. Who knew that there were so many colors and flavors of MD 20/20? Or so many ways one could take their Milwaukee's Best: Can, bottle, extremely large can, brown-bag size bottle. A more complete collection of such drink options likely does not exist. Amazing.
The weary traveling chick makes her beverage selections, which include a treat from her youth -- grape soda. Not Nehi, alas, but Fanta, which is almost but not quite as good. She turns to head to the front of this establishment to pay and check out, but not before she looks for something on which to snack. Finally finding the little endcap with the Lance Crackers, she notices a magazine rack. Thinking she might be able to grab a periodical to read while motoring, she scans her options. All of which are basically porn. Nothing but porn. A very narrow reading selection, that.
Finally, up to the counter she goes, drinks and crackers in hand. It's too bad she wasn't in need of a new lighter or tobacco product or OTC stimulant or prophalactyic -- because she could have engaged in some one-stop-shopping right there. Puts the convenient in convenience store, doesn't it...
The clerk, resplendent in a Big Johnson t-shirt and greasy hair slicked back in a purposefully nonchalant style, is busy with his lighter salesman, checking out the new merchandise which appears to feature many international beauties in some sort of swimwear. How chic -- that is certainly what every self-respecting smoker of all sorts of cigarettes will want to be carrying.
Walking out of the store, bag of purchases in hand, the weary traveling chick notices a shelving unit of knick-knacks for sale by the door. Confederate flag shot glasses and a slightly-faded tome detailing the nuances of How to Speak Redneck are featured. Along with a nice assortment of trucker caps. My. Such treasures.
As she says good bye to Cheesecake Girl on the door and meanders back to her vehicle where her family awaits, she thinks about all she has seen. And surmises that although they weren't obviously available, she probably could have inquired about procuring firearms or some controlled narcotic substances considered illegal by law enforcement and she would have received some positive information.
What a magical place, this unassuming mini-mart somewhere between Atlanta and Seeing Rock City. Sin Town masquerading as a Texaco. Clever. Very clever.