Saturday, March 04, 2006

Harv's Citgo

It's easy to forget that Michigan is a big state. When I think Michigan, I think Detroit, but it is actually quite a diverse place. West of Ann Arbor, and outside other cities like Lansing and Kalamazoo, it is more the domain of rednecks and mountain men.

Harsh assessment? Maybe. But I'm basing my determination solely on visits to two gas stations off of I-94 - one at the Waterloo exit, and the other near Parma.

We're used to cookie cutter everything in the US, including the sparkly clean chain convenience stores that seem to pop up at every major exit. These rural establishments are - shall we say - more independent. The orderly rows of Frito-Lay chips and Hostess cakes are replaced by off brand pretzels and Dolly Madison packages with questionable expiration dates. They have either Pepsi or Coke products, but not both. Trucker paraphernalia lines the aisle leading to the CB corner. The magazine selection is a little more racy than the Redbook and Better Homes and Gardens one would find at the Bigfoot or BP Food Mart.

What really sets these establishments apart from the franchise sites are the locals that seem to gather inside. I expected Ted Nugent to walk out of the men's room waving his hand in front of his face while yelling "Don't go in there!" (One bumper sticker read: "Once you pull the pin, the grenade is no longer your friend") And these locals seem to all smoke. I don't know if it is the brands they use or the poor ventilation, but after 90 seconds in the store my clothes reek more than after 4 hours in a sports bar on NASCAR night. It's the kind of odor that doesn't go away. When you throw the clothes in the hamper, all of the other clothes are equally rank. By nightfall, you're naked in the front yard being hosed down with solvents by the local Haz Mat team, while the authorities burn down your house and bury the ashes to save the neighborhood.

Other than that, it was a fun weekend.

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