Shrouded by the dark night, my trusty steed Charlie the Wonder Car and I crept along towards one of Ypsi’s 24 hr gas stations. Aside from the howling wind, barely a sound was heard as I watched a couple tumble weeds roll down the sides of the road. Ok, so maybe they were discarded fast food bags/ghettoized tumble weeds. I really couldn’t be sure, as I was on a mission and concentrating on the task at hand; Doritos, Cheetos or Pringles? And then; to dip or not to dip, that was the real question.
I swaggered in to find the same attendant who’s always there for my late-night foraging. When I have a need for feed, he’s always there with a need to try and make me change my heathen ways by imparting his Sage-like wisdom on me. The last time I was in he chastised me for indulging in a bag of Doritos, and gave me a nice long lecture about the merits of fruits and vegetables. The time before that I was advised that I shouldn’t be working in a bar, and well before that he told me my car was a piece of shit and that I shouldn’t be driving it.
The attendant eyed me as I shuffled from junk food rack to junk food rack. I knew he was silently willing me to move up to the table of fruit to make a selection, but unbeknownst to him, Chester already had a lock on me, and unable to resist, I grabbed a bag of Cheetos and a tub of french onion dip.
“You not working tonight?” he said after I’d paid.
“Nope,” I reply. “As a matter of fact, I have less than a week left of work and then I’m done.”
“Done? Whatchyoo gon’ do?”
I share my plans for hiking the Wall, and with this news he could contain himself no longer. Eyes afire, he unlocked the door and steped from behind the bullet-proof glass. This wasn’t the first time he’d stepped outside his protective corral to lecture me, but it was the first time he came at me with both guns a shootin’.
“You no eat junk food for this!” he barked. “You must to eat froo-its and vegetables! You must work and exercise very much!”
“Well,” I said with a smile, “just because I eat junk food every once in a while doesn’t mean that I don’t work ou–”
My meek retort was stopped short by the attendant, just as always. To be honest, I’ve never been able to tell if he’s impatient to enlighten me with father-like advice or if he thinks I’m just a gluttonous, silly little girl ingesting the wrong sorts of snacks.
“The mountains, they are hard! You must run the stairs, you must–”
“I do run stairs, and I work out.”
“No, no, you don’t understand! You must build up these parts!” he says as he lifts his pant leg to show me his skinny calf.
“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me!” I laughed.
“And the money! It takes a lot of money! I know, I travel!”
“I have plenty saved, really.”
“More than five thousand, maybe TEN!” he declared with a lift of his chin.
“That’s fine,” I said, “I have more than ten saved.”
“Well, that’s good,” he said, pausing until he could come up with something else. “But you’re still young.”
“I’m 37, so yeah, I’m still young.”
He eyed me suspisciously until barking, “But you must know the languages! You can’t just–”
“I speak Mandarin,” I lied, opting not to show off what little I actually do know by asking him back to my place for a drink.
“And your family? What about your family?!” he scolded.
“Oh, I have a lovely family. That’s why I always come back to Yps–”
His rapid-fire questioning and advice seemed unstopable, and I began to wonder if I’d get out unscathed.
“I mean your children! Don’t you have children?!”
“No, I don’t.”
At this point he looked so shocked that I had to wonder if every inch of my facial skin had jumped to it’s death and landed on the floor in a bloody mask.
“Oh,” he said, the fire doused from his eyes.
Another customer strolled in and so he trudged back to his corral. Before locking himself back in he glanced over his shoulder and said, “Well, you have good time.”
Guns back in their holsters (or at least a bag of Cheetos dangling at my side), I happily rode off in the dark of night in my piece of shit car.