Thursday, 13 December 2012 continued
About two hours later, with the sprawling edges of Denizli visible in the distance, I stopped off at a gas station for a bottle of water and a snack. This was a well-equipped gas station, with an attached cafeteria and a covered outdoor seating area filled with wooden picnic tables, so I decided to eat more than the gas station convenience store junk I had originally intended. I called out a hello to the man behind the counter, and ordered some toast and cay. The man said he would bring them out to me in a moment, and he motioned to the picnic tables, inviting me to take a seat at one of them for the wait.
I took a seat at the picnic tables and struck up a conversation with a couple men sitting at the table next to me. One of them said he was the owner of the station. He noticed my pack.
“Are you traveling by yourself?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Do you have a place to stay this evening?”
Wait a minute, I thought to myself, no way, is it really going to be this easy? For two weeks now I had been trying to figure out the secret handshake that was going to get me “in” at a gas station like the Polish guys, and it seemed like my first invitation might be more cavalierly offered than I had been expecting all along.
I held my breath as I answered. “No, I don’t have a place to stay yet.”
“Well you should stay here.”
Oh my god, I thought, it’s true, there is no secret handshake! Apparently it was not only expected, but assumed, that I would stay overnight.
“I would be very happy to stay here!” I said. I tried to contain my excitement, thinking that if I looked too amazed the guy might get freaked out and rethink the invitation.
He pointed to a shady, quiet grassy area to the side of the station. I hadn’t noticed it when I first walked up.
“Set up your tent there. You’re my guest, feel free to clean up in the restrooms and have a nice dinner at the cafeteria here. I need to leave soon, but we’re open all night, the staff will take good care of you.”
I thanked him profusely, but tried not to seem TOO eager. Oh yeah, this happens every day. Inside though, I felt like pennies were raining down from heaven.
So I went off to the grassy strip at the side of the station and set up my tent and laid out my sleeping bag. It was still a little light outside, too early for me to turn in for bed. I took out my iPhone and snapped a screenshot of the map that showed where I was that night and posted it to Facebook. I had gotten into the habit of doing this at the end of every day. I called it my daily “hey Mom I’m not dead” blog post.
Within moments I got a Facebook message from Hakan Guris, a Turk from Istanbul whom I had never met. He had been actively following my walk, but I hadn’t been aware of that. Hakan had messaged me to say hello. He attached a screenshot of that same gas station where I was now camping. He had seen my “hey Mom I’m not dead” blog post, quickly found my location on Google Maps, and as quickly found a photo of the gas station and sent it.
I felt momentarily disconcerted that someone I didn’t know could track my location so quickly and easily, but then I remembered that that was the main point of posting my progress, and instead of freaking out at my lack of privacy I should seize the opportunity to make a new friend. So I messaged Hakan back that yes, he had found a photo of the correct station, and I was camped just to the right of the edge of the photo.
Then I laid back and nestled into my bag, satisfied with myself for having solved the gas station handshake question and graduating to a new level of hobo skills. As[ Suggest removing these last sentences.] I drifted off to sleep I thought to myself that maybe it wasn’t such a big deal, being invited to camp at a gas station. Maybe there was no secret handshake, no mysterious cult of hobo-ness, maybe the difficulty of it had all been in my head.