Gas Station Observations

Taking a lengthy road trip can be mind numbing boring. Hours of an endless blacktop, old conversation and little interest in any more audio books can stress anyone. Through some in ‘are we there yet’ and you have a stress mix waiting to pop. But there are bright moments to be had if you want to take a few extra minutes.

Everyone has to stop to get gas, run to the washroom, caffeine up. Do all that, then pull your ride over to the side somewhere, nosed out, so you have a view of gas pumps and approach to any convenience store, food outlet or whatever attracts people. Every once in a while you will see something interesting. Get out and stretch the legs but don’t be rude and stare, become a spectcal, or in any way infringe on anyone’s privacy. It’s ok to observe your surroundings but not ok to point and make fun. We are writers. We do not want to disturb our canvas.

See them unpack their tired cramp bodies from hot, stuffy vehicles. Wa1tch as they limp, stumble, stretch on the way to washrooms and hot cups of old coffee. You can feel the tension; the stress fall away. Can you see the stress? It looks like little dark red goblins with long skinny arms. See the mischievous devils run back to the highway to use those long arms to seize an innocent passing traveler. It’s what they do. Now you saw them they won’t bother you.

Sometimes a dog will leap out of the backseat, run around the parking lot as if it forgot who the owners are. Sometimes the master will have a leash, and the two will walk in unison around the grounds until little Fido dumps a few days worth of poop. Usually, happening in the grass area off to the side, where the worn picnic tables are. A surprise for those barefoot ladies and little children feet. The most difficult smell to rid in a hot camper, next to, well, stale chunkies on the back seat.

I love to watch the people come and go. It only takes a while to see something intersting, like 15 minutes. That little bit of time on a long trip is worth the insight into the world of people around us. Individuals with problems like the rest of us, trying to get somewhere just like you, who do and say things that we may never have thought.

For example. A few months ago my wife and I drove about 7 hours that crossed a few states. We used the main interstates, stopping every two or three hours to water and gas up. We walk the dog too if he is with us but not this trip. Our schedule on this trip did not allow us to linger long, but because of a busy service center, I enjoyed a few extra minutes to see an interesting fellow and his bird.

Ok, it is not a big deal. The bird did not do any bird acrobatics. The heavens did not open to reveal the future of humanity. I think the animals know more than we do anyway. As far as the bird, man and the lady with him go, they were just passing through just like everyone else, totally oblivious to the world around them.

So, about the bird. I know little of these creatures. My wife knows a lot more about the ones you pay a lot of money for, are full of colorful feathers, sometimes wagging their beaks (do birds have tongues?) telling secrets of the house, and are from exotic places I dream about. She owned a few in her time. To be honest, I am intimidated by the size and sometimes grumpy attitude of that kind. Bite fingers off if you get too close. Not a pet I like to have around the house especially if in its little bird mind your the enemy taking up to much attention. Won’t find any on my shoulder.

This bird was not big, but big enough I saw its body the instant the fellow started to walk across the pavement on the way to the store. On the left shoulder, the bird stood as if its killer claws embedded into the fellow’s meaty frame. It was windy that day, not a gentle breeze either; the cold arctic gusts ruining an otherwise beautiful blue sky. My first impression, it’s a joke, a plastic thing stuck there to get a rise out of people. Until the birds head turned from side to side, I am sure getting a bead on who got too close.

The fellow with the bird had hair running down the center of his head, Nothing else. Blue and red hair, like a mohawk. And he walked like he owned the world. He strutted. Older chap, say middle aged, stocky as in don’t mess with me, or my bird, and as bow-legged as a man who rode a thousand miles atop a very wide horse.

The bird looked around and said it its little bird mind, this is my master, and I’m his bird, do not mess with me or face my fierce talons of doom.

The two made their way into the store. Tempting as it was to go inside and see this combination up close, taking a risk upsetting the bird seemed a bad idea. I could see the bird flying wildly around the store terrorizing me and everyone else. Besides I moved the car to a spot where my wife did not know. I rather upset all the birds in the world, rather than lose my wife at a gas station.

Standing there wondering what it would be like to travel any distance with a bird, not in a cage of thick steel and iron, suddenly out of the oversized SUV, which also pulled a trailer longer than the SUV itself, a young woman fell out of the front seat. She shook herself awake then open the back door and out sprang a beautiful Lassy type dog. The show Lassy theme song ran through my mind. I remember the only dog that never wanted to bite me, who waited for me at the bus stop every day, the dog my parents gave away. I forgave them, eventually.

A jubilant to be outside dog. Running around the SUV, giving me a scare it would come bouncing over to see if I tasted like kibbles and bits or worse, get run over. The lady had the dog in hand with a couple of commands, loud enough I almost laid down too. She found a long, really long, leash then walked the tongue wagging happy dog around the parking lot. Nothing unusual. A normal dog stopping to sniff everything including the frozen dog poop near the old picnic tables. Just a beautiful dog, filled with life and I am sure more than happy to lick anyone who asked permission.

Interesting people. They are everywhere. As writers, we need interesting people to help populate our imagination. Where in any story these folks could appear is unknown, for now. At least in my little imagination world.

My wife finally caught up with me, and when I told her about what I saw, I am certain she and the bird would have had a chat about the weather and world politics. As for the Lassy dog, well she and that beautiful dog would have shared kisses and lots of hugs. She loves animals, one of many reasons I love her.

For the record, I do not kiss her after she shares her delicate lips with the dog’s tongue. Also, our dog never bites, but rather hides a safe distance behind mom. He likes me, though, for which I am eternally grateful. Otherwise, I’de be sleeping on the floor.

I do wonder what people make of us in those shared gas stations out there in the wild. I hope we give people a reason to smile.