I'll bet most of you from outside the midwest have never been to a real travel plaza. Not a rest stop, not a gas station, CERTAINLY not a convenient store, a travel plaza is a place designed to attract truckers, families traveling cross-country, and aliens. Yes, aliens.
I wasn't feeling too hot as we pulled into the Grand Island Bosselman's travel plaza. Or should I say, the I-80 Grand Island Bosselman's Travel Plaza because evidently there are two such businesses operating in this small town. But the thought of Little Caesar's or Subway and water inspired me to enter. To the left, a miniature virtual Wal-Mart offering everything from pornography (which, I agree, should be readily available at any truck stop) to engraved samurai swords to blue cards saying "Happy Chanukah" on the front. I still can't really figure out which of these three things is the most necessary item in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Say, for instance, you're flying from Grand Island airport to Singapore. Both the porn and the samurai sword could conceivably come in handy in this situation (or shall I say "THE SITUATION") either on the airplane or afterwards in the dirty streets. But say you're headed eastbound to Skokie, IL. It's a Jewish hotbed of the midwest, thus the Chanukah card could come up big. And the porn's probably good for the ride. The sword... maybe seppuku. In other words, you have everything you need just on the left of the travel plaza.
On the right are (as advertised) the Little Caesar's and Subway. Subway offers $5 subs and Caesar's offers pizzas for five dollars hot and ready, 4 words which I rarely like to see together in sentence. And it turns out they're not really hot and ready because of a run on sausage pizza and I'm awful disappointed about this. I chastise the customer service manager (read: pizza maker) taking my order but it doesn't speed up the process of getting the pizza hot and ready ASAP, B.
So I take some time to explore. The bathrooms are lit in a sultry manner and involve large stalls and comfortable-width passages, and I can't tell whether this is a good or bad thing. I like the personal space but it is disturbing to think about what some people may do with so much personal space at a truck stop. Toilet paper is amply stocked but there are stange noises coming from the stall next to mine.
So I leave the bathroom and skip the water fountain. To the arcade I go, and on the way I see an encased model of the alien from Independence Day.... there is also an encased shrunken head that I don't recognize immediately. The arcade is well-stocked with stuffed animal grabs, virtual horse racing, and Skee-Ball. There is nothing funny at all about this dark arcade so I leave.
There is also an entire upstairs the size of a football field. I am not sure what's up there but it stretches my imagination to think what else a weary traveler might need that's not available downstairs.
I went for a comment card, and I found the greatest thing of all. It's going to take some explaining because I still can't make heads or tails of it. It was, at its essence, a small advertisement, a veritable mobile/diorama (haven't used that word since 3rd grade) comprised of several index cards and pamphlets advertising three things: a do-it-yourself eyeglass repair kit (not displayed), improved fuel economy (method undescribed), and total consciousness, which obviously comes via the Dalai Lama (twelfth son of the lama). All of these products refer back to the same 800 number. And I'll be damned if I didn't write down the number. So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
Finally, the pizza was hot and ready, which evidently requires the stars to align and them to pronounce your name correctly (J.....K....?) So we sat and ate and people-watched (which could be a completely seperate blog in its own right) and I wrote my comment card. It went something like this:
"I am a grown man and I have never been so scared in my life. There are aliens here. Really. They are in glass cases. And my pizza was NEITHER hot NOR ready (thus coordinating my conjunctions in CAPITALS for EFFECT). There were suspicious sounds going on in the bathroom. Refills should be free. Sincerely yours."
I went back to sleep in the Mazda afterwards as we neared Denver. But just regular sleep, not sleep in the Sylvia Plath sense of the word.