An interstate gas station. Christmas music is playing overhead. The place is busy. There is a ten-minute wait for the men’s room.
I am here to buy some crummy boiled peanuts and fill up my truck. I have another hour left on the road.
I can’t believe it’s already Christmas season. The holidays come quicker each year. It feels like only yesterday we were shooting fireworks and waving little American flags.
The line at the cash register is long. I am standing behind a young man who looks exhausted. He is covered in sweat and dust. He is wearing work boots and a neon reflective work vest.
There is only one cashier. She is old, she wears a Santa hat and calls everyone “sweetie.”
She is a cheery woman, with white hair and blue eyes. She sends every customer away with kind words and a smile. She says things like:
“Take care, now,” or, “God bless,” or “Have a good day, sweetie.”
The young man ahead of me
carries a Gatorade and a bag of potato chips. When it’s his turn to pay, he digs into his pocket and places a handful of dollars on the counter.
He says, “Can I have four dollars of gas on pump two, please?”
“Four dollars?” the woman says.
She doesn’t answer. Instead, she glances out the window. She sees what we all see. There is a red truck near the window, a young family inside it.
“You drivin’ that red Dodge, sweetie?” she asks.
Her face breaks into a toothy smile. “Well, you’re in luck, some guy overpaid earlier on that pump. You can go ahead and have thirty bucks of gas if you want.”
“Really?” the kid says.
She gives him a receipt. He heads for the door. Before he exits, she…