The Interesting Part

My family and I were driving West to Odessa, TX for the Fourth of July when a piece of shredded tire the size of a man appeared too soon for my wife to avoid. It hit us like a man-sized piece of shredded tire. It tore our front bumper up something bad, but we lived, so this isn’t even the interesting part. Without the man-sized piece of shredded tire, we would never have stopped at the horrendous gas station at which we most certainly did stop.

Gas stations right off the interstate tend to have useful things like strong tape and cheap crescent wrenches. This one also had a wine bottle opener, for truckers with discriminating tastes. I bought two kinds of tape: duct tape, and strapping tape, that clear kind with string in it. I noticed they also had a small grill for burgers, fries, and the usual fare. The place was mostly empty, but while I stood there waiting to enter my pin, I was aware of the white noise of active fry oil.

Back outside, I could hear my wife on the phone with her father as I was prone under our vehicle. I tried not to think of what stew of dried poisons I was lying in – reactivating! – as I worked. There was too much road grime on the bumper for the tape to stick so I used the two tapes like rope to lash up the now hobbled undercarriage of our minivan. And it was not a bad job, I must say.

Naturally, I was filthy after this, so I resolved to go back inside the gas station to wash up. Entering the bathroom of an interstate gas station requires resolve.

The men’s room was appalling. There was graffiti floor to ceiling and the walls had been painted dark brown. I didn’t realize they were out of soap until I had my hands under the running water. By out of soap I mean there was a place on the wall where a dispenser used to be. There was another kind of dispenser on the wall I’m sure was well stocked.

Remembering the place was staffed by two women, I thought the ladies’ room would be better appointed. Mercifully, it was. Still, that electric hand dryer looked suspect, and there was no way I was about touch anything with my now clean hands. I was able to turn off the faucet with my foot, which, I believe, though I’ll have to double check, is part of the aptitude test they give parkour gang recruits. And for once I was grateful a restroom’s door latch was broken, enabling me to open it with my foot.

But that’s not the interesting part either. This is it.

There was a gap in the counter between the gas station side and the grill side. It was how they got behind, and out from behind the counter. The lady who sold me the tape was standing in the gap, leaning against the gas station side, thoughtfully regarding something on the floor. It was a one inch long beetle, also standing in the gap. Big as day. She looked up at me, unabashed, then back down at the beetle. She didn’t step on it, didn’t try to sweep it up quickly and lie, “This – well I just – I mean never – !” She just kept looking at it peacefully.

Maybe she was hallucinating. Maybe she believed it was a very short man asking for directions in another language. She certainly wasn’t acting like she believed it to be a one inch beetle standing feet from where food was being prepared.