Monday, July 6, 2009

Traveling Memory

When we first began trekking across the States on our Pre-field Ministry Missionary journeys, we made a pact we wouldn't become a Burger on Wheels. Simply put, when we could, we agreed to opt for anything but large greasy burgers and fatty fries washed down by a cup full of calories. We committed ourselves to seeking bowls of broccoli and baked potatoes, and we would resist urges to soothe exhaustion with frosty cups of shakes and cream.

Little did we know fast food restaurants with 99 cent menus are not the only danger. While busy watching for neon signs and value meals, we were caught unaware by what lurked within a necessary and seemingly safe activity...filling up and bathroom visits at gas stations.

When I was a kid a gas station was just that. You drove up to get fuel. Other hopes or desires weren’t addressed in the small square unit housing the attendant or mechanic. I hate to admit that my memory is filled with images of serviceman coming to our car to fill us up and wash our windows. As we traced and retraced miles of the highways in our nine state track, I realized things had changed. They drew us inside, and once inside, they had us.

Find yourself lured by large glass windows that let you catch a glimpse of a wide range of possibilities. Doughnut stands, roasting hot dogs, cappuccino bars, books on tape, fried chicken counters, an occasional adjoining restaurant. For the unsuspecting adult with a full bladder, it's an ambush. Add wiggly children, and there’s little hope for escape. One glance on the way to the glowing restroom sign and you find every kind of nut, gum, chocolate, and potato chip you want, in all size bags for any size appetite or any intensity of willpower. We tried several options:

First, we decided to stop at a lower scale version of modern gas station. It didn’t take long before I found myself in an outdoor Don’s Jon with 18 wheelers blowing by me, leaving me teetering on the lot. Maneuvering around a long line of lottery hopefuls, I decided I didn’t like that option.

I thought, I just can’t keep spending 99 cents on a 6 oz bag of crackers or a Slim Jim. Multiple stops in a day add up. Quickly, we compromised. 25 cents will buy you a lot when you’re traveling. All the benefit of anticipation (we don’t like the word bribe) for 25 cents. Once inside, make a quick scan on your way to the facilities and emerge with an offer. Point out two or three 25 cent or less options, and you’ll be victorious. For a quarter, buy a lolly pop, a piece of bubble gum, a mini candy bar, or other small treat. Back in the car again, you not only have purchased something sweet, but 15 minutes of diversion, an element of fun, and something new to talk about.

The final lesson in modern day gas station hopping came from one of our final trips. We were weary, so our guard was down in a neat little corner station with clean green styling and a bright checkered floor. The change of scenery from inside the mini-van excited Jacob, and he soon had his heart set on a bag of blue gummy sharks. We gave in ... for 50 cents.

Back in the car, the mountainous scenery was stunning, so much we became oblivious to the gorging in the back seat. You see, too much of a good thing is, well, just that. After several miles of curves wrapped around ridges and hollows, we heard the announcement that someone was going to be sick. As Jacob dove up to the front for air, Jeff emptied the baby wipes container and handed me the box, just in time. As Jacob braced himself on my lap, I saw mangled blue gummy sharks flash before my eyes and into the empty wipes container. After stabilizing the glutton, we did what any tired traveling parent would do. We found another gas station and dumped it.

The moral of the story is two-fold. First, when traveling ... what you fear the most may not be what you really need to fear. Secondly, you may get more for your 25 cents than you bargained for.

Happy traveling this summer!

2 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Anonymous said...

Love reading your blog. It's one of the first places I go when I turn my computer on. You are doing a great job Julie.


Kristi said...

lol... I love your descriptions of things!

Poor Jacob. Poor mommy with upchucked sharks in her lap.