I pull into a no-name truck stop north of Sacramento. I step out of the car, flick the door shut, and pause to soak up the sun’s warm rays.
I know from experience the locals see the bright sun as a harbinger of the oppressive heat that will begin stifling the Valley in a few weeks, but I don’t see it that way right now, because I’ve been in the car since northern Oregon and up there the air was cold and wet.
A few miles back was a Starbucks, but I stopped here because leaving one place to go to another is one of life’s simple pleasures, and few things kill the buzz faster than the sameness of a chain.
I push through the glass door and enter the store, a bell on a string jangling against the glass as my eyes adjust to the indoor lighting. I nod at the clerk and head over to a large bank of candy bars to the left, doing a quick systems check to determine what snack will best meet my body’s needs at the moment. The relative cravings for sugar, salt, flour, and fat will determine whether I buy chips, a candy bar, a hot dog, or a tuna sandwich.
I decide to go for a candy bar, but the large selection overwhelms me. Too much choice. Spotting the familiar brown and orange of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I instinctively grab two and head for the refrigerated beverage case.
I pull out a chilled Starbucks “gas station mocha,” partly because I like the taste, but mainly because I enjoy the friction the cap’s rubberized threads make against the smooth glass, plus of course the metallic pop the cap makes when I open the bottle for the first time.
I turn from the case and head towards the register as the refrigerator door slams shut behind me. The clerk smiles at me. I pull out my wallet and briefly wonder owner or employee? It’s an idle thought, as the next word out of my mouth will be “Hey” regardless.