OK, so it was pretty awesome at the Speedy Stop in Houston. Four years ago, when I was living in that part of town, there was nothing there but a very large field of grass and wildflowers. Now the stucco-and-stone Speedy Mart stands with its red, white, and blue plastic flags and a concrete parking lot so new there are no oil stains.
I was a little wary getting out of my car, as a middle-aged woman with leathery, tan skin, a badly dyed mullet (sort of halfway between auburn and magenta), floral lavender tank top, and white hot pants glowered at me, a cigarette dangling from her unsmiling lips. But the Speedy Stop was much more inviting. The inside of the store was done in bright shades of blue, with exposed steel beams and tan terrazo tiles. One section of the store was done in a sort of redneck roadhouse style, all corrugated steel and rustic wood panels. That was the barbecue, where steaming trays of brisket and pulled pork shared a heat lamp with egg rolls and batter-fried steak fingers. The air was warm and heavy with hickory smoke and slow-cooking meat.
But I was here for the main attraction: the awesome bathrooms. I had made a point of not using the rest room before leaving work, as I wanted the full experience of what these amazing toilets had to offer. They weren’t half bad. The same tile covered both floor and walls, with a smaller mosaic strip just above my head on the walls. It had all the touchless wonders: toilets, sinks, towel dispensers: all of it was automatic. And they were smart enough to use concrete dividers instead of doors, so it truly was touchless. Awesome? No, not really, but it was definitely sanitary.
What was awesome was the soda machine. 36 buttons representing 25 flavors of soda, and 5 different available flavor shots. Presumably, you could put a shot of blue raspberry flavor in your diet Big Red, but then why? I stuck with the tried and true: Diet Dr. Pepper. I took the cup to the cashier, where I was greeted with a display of foods that could clog your arteries if you even looked at them. Two large racks at the counter held “Flakey Crust Fried Pies” in wax-paper pouches, pecan pralines, compact pecan pies, several flavors of kettle corn, and those peanut patties in their sickly pink shrink wrap that you only see in the south.
Then it was back out into the sunshine (it has been a spectacular day: sunny and in the low 90s), where the mulleted woman was clearing trash from her battered old Dodge. A huge Ford SUV sat perpendicular to the back of my little car, about 2 inches from my rear bumper; a teenaged girl sat chatting on a cell phone and sipping iced tea until I approached and asked her if she could move her car. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t see you.”
So now I’m feeling old, but at least my hands are clean and I can check one item off my list of things to do before I die.