How I Ruined an Innocent Truck Stop Employee's Day

May 16, 2013

You may know that I’m currently in the process of moving cross-country to Virginia for my internship this summer. You may also know that I have an unreasonable amount of stuff, most of which I cannot bring myself to part with. So when I arrived in Socorro after returning from Portland last Tuesday, I proceeded to fill the trunk and back seat to the brim with boxes, trash bags, and eventually just random items heaped on top. I realized as I pulled out of the self storage center that I looked like one of those crazy people who are probably homeless hoarders, but I pushed the thought aside and started the long drive east on I-40. Of course, the economic impact of my materialistic failings immediately set in at about -3 miles per gallon.

After staying a night in Tucumcari due to adverse weather conditions, I got back on the road to make up lost times (I had been hoping to get to Amarillo). I’m in Oklahoma when I realize that it’s three in the afternoon and I haven’t had lunch yet. So I pull off the freeway at the first exit that promises food, and am rewarded with a small truck stop with a Subway. I get myself a sandwich and then realize that this truck stop has no seating. Never mind, I think, I’ll eat it on the road.

About ten miles later it’s become clear that this particular sandwich contains entirely too many stray vegetables to be eaten without complete concentration. On top of that I’m getting in to the last quarter of my gas tank, so I decide to pull over at the next gas station, buy gas, and eat my sandwich. And that’s how I end up at a Love’s truck stop off the side of I-40 in between a small place and nowhere in Oklahoma. I spend my entire life’s savings on gasoline and then park in a gravel lot next to the convenience store.

I pull out my sandwich but get distracted by the fact that I have just parked next to honest-to-god storm chasers. They’re peering at maps and weather radar images spread across the hood of an anemometer-armed minivan bristling with antennas. There is more than one Skywarn bumper sticker on the vehicle, categorizing them as the kind of people that I avoid interacting with for the safety of my future social life. Eventually they come to some decision and leave, though, leaving me bored with my sandwich.

Now, the drive is about 28 hours, and I get bored very easily. So to keep myself amused I bought an audio copy of best-selling-novel-that-I-hadn’t-read The Hunger Games from Audible, and by this point in time I was nearly half way through and despite the female narrator’s poor attempts at faking multiple male voices I was seriously in to it, to the extent that I had driven so far continuously because I didn’t want to stop the book. So I start it up again and sit in my car in a truck stop in the middle of nowhere eating my sandwich and listening to the trials of Gale and Peeta and that one girl with the archery.

I’m just at the part of the story where (spoiler alert) Dumbledore Rue has just been killed and Katniss receives the bread gift from the people of District 3 and, let’s be honest, that was like a super emotional moment in the story, so I’m getting a bit teary eyed. Just then a Love’s employee walks out a side door of the store to take a smoke break and mills around in front of my car, taking a sideways glance at me.

Now, imagine with me the scene this guy witnessed. Here I am sitting alone in my dirty sedan filled to the top with what from the outside appears to be principally towels and old network hardware with a bike strapped to the back at an odd angle crying in to my now mostly eaten sandwich. To all the world it appears that I have hit rock bottom.

The guy did a sort of embarrassed double take and then gave me a look of profound sadness before quickly milling over the other direction with his cigarette. Part of me wanted to roll down the window and explain to him that in actuality I’m a moderately successful upper division college student on the way to the east coast for a summer internship that I’m looking forward to and seriously I’m only crying because Rue died and there was this bread and that isn’t really trash in the back of the car it just kind of looks that way because I put the things I care least about in last…. but by that point the opportunity was gone, so I just quietly pulled out and aimed for Arkansas.

And that’s how I think I ruined the day of an otherwise innocent truck stop employee.