Earlier this week I stopped at one of those convenience store slash gas stations to fill up my tank and while I was standing 6 deep in line at the counter to turn over my money, I started looking around the store.
While the space itself couldn’t have been much bigger than 50 feet by 50 feet, here’s a brief overview of all the items that were within arm’s reach of me as I stood in line:
Donut holes– powdered or chocolate, celebrity magazines like Us and People, Barack Obama key chain with L.E.D light. Convenience store rotisserie hot dog, rotisserie taco, and rotisserie burrito. Lotto ticket, red vines, and Advil. Chocolate milk, band aids, and brake fluid. 98 oz soda, rubber gloves, beef jerky, pepper spray, digital picture frame, disposable cell phone, henna tattoos, Funyons, and an ad about refinancing your mortgage.
The first thought that occurred to me while looking at all this stuff was “Wow, did I accidentally walk into a flea market or something?”
My second thought was, “Wow, maybe they should name this place CRAP FOR SALE! GET YOUR CRAPPY STUFF HERE!”
And third, I had one of those strange flashbacks where I realized that the idea of a “convenience store” didn’t really exist back when I was a kid.
At least in my memory, if my parents needed groceries, they went to the grocery store.
Shoes came from the shoe store, and clothes came from a department store.
If they needed brake fluid for the car, they went to see the mechanic down the street.
Donuts came from the bakery, meat came from the butcher shop, and key chains were more about function than making a political statement.
If you wanted to refinance your house, you went to see the guy at the bank.
Soda came in 12 oz glass bottles not 98 oz refillable plastic cups, and the milk man dropped your milk off at the door twice a week so you didn’t even have to GO to a store to buy that.
Digital picture frames didn’t exist, cell phones were something you only saw on Star Trek, and pepper spray wasn’t something that you carried back then unless you were a cop or a mailman.
And at least as far as I remember, hot dogs were pretty much only for ball games and summer cook outs, not for breakfast. And no one I ever knew in my life ate ANYTHING that had been spinning endlessly on warming rollers for the last 36 hours.
I’m not knocking the convenience store industry. At least not intentionally.
I mean, I’m no economic genius, but I understand that we live in a supply and demand world. Which is to say, if people weren’t buying lotto tickets, pepper spray and donut holes at the same place, then no one would be selling them at the same place.
I also get the fact that as a society we’re much busier these days than we used to be 25 or 30 years ago.
We work more hours than we used to, we sleep fewer hours than we used to, and if there’s one idea we’re absolutely committed to, it’s trying to cram more and more and more living into roughly the same amount of time.
I suppose this is why you can go to the gym for a workout, stop off at the tanning booth for a 30 minutes of fake n’ bake, and grab a hot dog, a soda, a lotto ticket and some pepper spray before heading to work, regardless of whether it’s 3 in the afternoon, 3 in the morning, or any point in between.
I’m all for convenience and its many advantages but have you ever stopped to think about the price we’ve paid along the way?
I know I’m starting to sound like one of those old guys who’s always saying “back in my day, things were way better than they are now”, but nostalgia aside, I’m starting to think they really were.
Now where’d I leave that beef jerky?