Many mornings, I stop at a convenience store near our house before or after going to the gym. It is typically before 5:00AM when I do.
There are three night-shift workers there, and they rotate nights. There is a young woman of about thirty or so; another young woman of about nineteen; and a man of around forty. I’ve gotten to know each of them fairly well, as I come in during a boring time of night for them and when there is rarely anyone (or anyone much) else there.
Yesterday, it was the youngest one. She and I have talked quite a bit in the past about sort of nerd-related topics: things like video games, and Star Wars, and comic books. I happened to be wearing a Hufflepuff House sweatshirt, and as I walked up to the counter, her eyes lit up. “You wear the coolest shirts.”
“Thanks,” I said, swelling a little with pride.
“I wish my grandfather would wear cool shirts,” she said as an afterthought.
“Maybe you could get him one,” I said as I turned to leave, considerably deflated.
Male ego. It’s the gift that keeps on taking.
As a matter of complete irony, the other woman at the store, the thirty-something, had, just a few days before, suddenly blurted out as I was about to leave with my purchase that I could call her if I wanted to.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m married,” I said, thinking that since I don’t wear my wedding ring to the gym, she probably just didn’t know.
“You can still call,” she said.
Well, I thought at the time, getting into my car, that was uncomfortable. Now, I’m thinking, Her co-workers would be shocked to know she’s trying to pick up grandfathers. Even ones with cool shirts.
For a while, I toyed with the idea of finding a new store to go to in the morning, thinking things would be really awkward going in there when she was on shift, but I decided not to. It’s not like she had committed a crime, and even if she had, she could plausibly plead temporary insanity.
As a sort-of-ongoing inside joke, the guy who works there always tries to sell me lottery tickets, knowing full well that I don’t buy lottery tickets.
It isn’t that I have anything against gambling, its more that since I’m in the professional statistics business, I shy away from anything outside of work that reminds me of it.
Once he realized I don’t buy them, however, it became a matter of humor for him to always ask me if I want any.
“What would you recommend?” I asked the most recent time.
He shows me the forty-eight kinds of scratch-off games, explaining that game #26 has been very lucky for people in our city.
“Nah, I think I’ll pass this time,” I said.
“Your taking more chances drinking those damned energy drinks then you would with these,” he said.
I had to laugh. “So I’ve heard.”
I have had, since my teen years, an incredible affection for convenience stores. I first learned to love them at the “Jr. Food Store,” a local convenience store in my hometown of Valparaiso, Florida. It would be a hundred degrees in the summer, and I would have just finished mowing the lawn; I’d ride my bicycle the four blocks down to the store just to feel breeze, and I’d leave with a cold Coke in a bottle and a couple of new comic books.
Cold drinks for a hot summer day and comic books. You name a store that sells anything better.
Convenience stores stopped selling comic books in this country back in the 1980’s and part of me died.
Even though I wasn’t buying comic books any more.
There is another convenience store, way over on the other side of town here in Georgia, that I have an extreme fondness for. It’s the place that hired my then-unemployed son after he’d been out of work for eighteen months.
He lives in Tennessee now, and is moving forward in his life. A big part of him progressing was that job and that convenience store.
Sometimes, on a weekend, I’ll drive over there while I’m out. I’ll stop in, pick up a few drinks and some chips or a hot dog, and look around the place. I still feel grateful there.
It’s kind of weird to be grateful towards a building, but, there you have it.
When I once again did encounter the woman who’d offered me her phone number back at my local store, she acted like nothing had ever happened. Which, in fact, nothing had.
“Headed to the gym, or coming back?” she asked.
“Headed to. You working later over at Hibachi Express?”
“No, thank God. I get to go home and SLEEP.”
“Well, you have a good one.”
“Thanks! You, too.”
And all of you, too. You all have good ones.