Ode to QuikTrip No. 240

Reflecting on the life lessons my favorite convenience store taught me.



 

   Change never comes easy. It’s hard abandoning a routine or readjusting your life due to something ending. Change can also feel like a loss leaving you with an unpleasant, unfettered sensation.

   I’ve been battling change for several weeks. I know I shouldn’t fight it. The change I’m warring with is, after all, a done deal. But I’m still a bit angry, and I feel adrift. You can’t take something that has been a part of your life for years and then when it’s yanked from you all of the sudden just get over it or shake it off.

   This is why I’m asking everyone to keep me in their thoughts for the next four months as I go through a painful period of adjusting to a profound transition in my life. A door has closed, and although I know, for sure, another one is going to reopen this summer, I’m still in mourning because my all-time favorite QuikTrip has been gutted.

   It’s not like I hadn’t heard the rumors for months. I had even noticed that a mini strip mall was being vacated, and one day a muffler shop that was nestled next to the QT just vanished. But I had hoped, and on an altar of 100 Big Q cups, I prayed my QT would be spared.

   Mournfully, those prayers were not answered, and now my QuikTrip is a hole in the ground. It will most certainly rise like a phoenix into what I’m told will be a “next-generation” store, but until then I will remain bereft.

    This QT has been a part of my life for seven years because for seven years I’ve had at least one child in high school and every single afternoon I would cruise the QuikTrip store No. 240, adjacent to Blue Valley North, for a Diet Coke with the slightest splash of cherry as my pre-kid pickup picker-upper. 

   I’m getting emotional, veering into seriously overwrought, just thinking about all the times that QT was there for me. It’s a challenge being a mother to adolescents. On some days I feel like chum in shark-infested waters. You’re always bracing for the worst, and after-school pickup is primetime for what I call the “mood-swing spectacular.” You never know what child will be getting in your car. Will it be the “super happy I just got an A on a test” sweetie? Or the “I hate the world” child? Or worse, the “I’m going to blame my crappy day on my mom” kid?

 

   I don’t think I could have made it through these seven years without my 42-ounce Big Q. When things would really go off the rails, I would take repeated sips on my Diet Coke and practice the Zen meditations of Buddhist monks or my interpretation of Zen meditations, which is to use my Diet Coke drinking as a break between extreme eye rolling.

   My son, who is now almost finished with college, credits the QT with saving my sanity. I agree because — cough, cough — unlike my children, it was always there for me. My daughter even knows that if I pick her up from school and there’s not a QT drink in my cup holder, then she better not even think about dumping her bad mojo on me.

   It’s almost like that QuikTrip store was my Yoda providing me with strength to fight the dark side. Believe me, the force was strong at QT No. 240.

   It’s not just that the QT aided me in my parenting. It also taught me so much about patience and assertiveness. The store only had eight gas pumps and a parade of cars always trying to fill up. The pumps were literally a window squeegee away from the road, which jammed up cars like Legos in a toy box.

    Getting gas required a hat trick of superior car maneuvering, stalking skills that would put a serial killer on Criminal Minds to shame and a killer instinct when it comes to playing the QT version of musical chairs.

    I’ve been to Vegas, and it has nothing on the combination of talent and luck required to get gas at this QuikTrip. In fact, I’m going to declare that you haven’t really lived until you’ve outsmarted a landscape truck (with a trailer) to tag in on the next available pump. The thrill of victory was so very, very sweet.

    On that amazing afternoon, I had exactly 10 minutes to spare before I had to get my kids from school, and the gas situation was out of control. Before I had even pulled into the QuikTrip, I saw that it was madness by the pumps and that there looked to be at least a dozen cars waiting or circling for the next empty bay. I started profiling the cars gassing up in an attempt to predict who would be done first. You always want to pick a guy who seems to be in a hurry.

   This means you’re usually looking for either a young dude who has probably $5 in change and just wants to get his tank off empty or a man in really nice shoes. Mr. Nice Shoes always seems ticked off that he even has to stop for gas, like it’s beneath him to do time at a QT while inhaling the off-gassing of Rooster Booster fumes. His main goal is to get out of there as fast as he can.

 

   What you never want is to wait for a bay to open up for anyone with children because say hello to that person taking four kids inside the store for Icees and disappearing for at least 15 minutes. Bottom line: Anyone who leaves their car while it’s filling up should be considered MIA and assumed lost in the beverage section flummoxed by all the iced tea choices. (Psst! Go with the peach. You won’t be sorry.)

    While I was profiling, I hit a bull’s eye. I saw a man in what I’m guessing were Brooks Brother’ shoes not sold at DSW, and he was holding the pump with what looked like a Windex wipe. Perfect. OCD issues and expensive footwear equal he’s in a hurry to flee the confines of the QT. I started stalking him.

   At first, I circled and then right when I saw him reach into his pocket for what I assumed was a fresh wipe I knew he was done and pulled up alongside his car ready to initiate a backup move that should be included into the driver’s ed hall of fame for its sheer finesse and beauty. I thought my claim to the pump was pretty clear, but then a landscape truck dared to challenge me.

   “Oh no you don’t, big rig. This girl’s got this. Don’t mistake my KU Mom bumper sticker for weakness. The pump is mine!” I muttered to myself.

   The landscape truck then attempted to intimidate me with its sheer size. When that didn’t work, the driver begin backing the truck up toward my car. So, that’s how he wanted to play this — a game of chicken.

   Lucky for me, that day I had nerves of steel. In the last 24 hours, I had experienced a dog with projectile vomiting, a teenager with a lost phone, attended two events where I had to sit on gym bleachers, outran a gaggle of women attempting to mom-shame me into volunteering for yet another school fundraiser, and I survived a three-hour HOA meeting. Nothing that truck was going to do would scare me.

   The driver kept on backing up. When our vehicles were about to kiss, he stopped, gave me the angry bird and pulled away. I’m not going to lie: It felt good — like eating a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies good — getting that gas pump. To me, it was QT-style validation that I can handle what life throws at me.

   Oh, QuikTrip No. 240, this is why I’ll miss you so. You were always there for me. I felt like that perhaps we were even soul mates. You, my friend, were the unleaded, $2.04 gas beneath my wings.