…co-starring the ghost of Jerry Garcia
Here now, our final entry for “The Middle Of Nowhere Week“!
The Doclopedia #106
The Middle Of Nowhere: Next Gas & Food: 100 Miles
We’ve all seen the joint before, those of us who sometimes drive on those lonely interstate highways. It’s always by itself, no houses around. Just a cafe and a two pump gas station with that big old sign that reads “Next Food & Gas: 100 Miles”. After dark, the lights are always on and during the day, the place usually looks half abandoned.
It’s almost always at least 50-75 miles out from the last town and anybody with a full tank, an empty bladder and no hunger will just zip past it without a second thought. But for those folks running on fumes and yesterday’s breakfast…those down on their luck or brokenhearted or running away or running towards or just plain running sort of folks, it looks pretty good.
The faces change over time or location, but there’s always that just past her prime but still full of piss & vinegar waitress, the cook in the back who’s been at this so long he probably sweats burger grease and the young high school age kid who helps the cook or washes dishes or some shit. The place is cleaner than you think and the grub is pretty good and pretty cheap.
There’s always a couple of regular type customers sitting at the counter. Could be Ed the farmer or Gary the trucker or Sandy the hippie chick or any of a couple of dozen others. Just who kind of depends upon what might happen later.
The gas station part of the operation is made up of the old fart and the young dope. Old fart almost never leaves the office unless he comes out to ask you about your hot looking car or to give advice on how to get somewhere. Young dope does all the work and he never shuts up talking to you, like he’s hoping you’ll give him a big tip for the conversation.
The special thing about this place is that some folks find stuff here. Those people just passing through don’t find anything but food & gas, but the ones who need a place to stop, think and think some more, they’re the finders.
They might find love, be it temporary or otherwise. They might find an answer…hell, they might find a question. Some have found freedom and some have found justice and some have found peace and some have found fear and some have found redemption and some have found out they weren’t really looking for anything after all. Once in awhile, somebody finds death and somebody else finds a new life. You just never know.
About the only thing you can be sure of is that almost nobody ever stays more than a few hours. They eat, they talk, maybe they get an oil change or a transmission job and then they go. What happens during all that, well, it’s different for everyone.
My story? Hey, I’d love to tell it, but I see that young dope is taking my car down off of the jack and my flat tire is fixed. I’ve got to hit the road, man. You stay a while though, have a cup of coffee and a cruller on me.