“Hey fella, not to tell you your businesses but it’s almost closing time,” the cashier called to the man.
Roger jumped, brought out of his zone. He might have just fallen asleep standing up, he couldn’t be sure. Realizing he was standing in front of the energy drink cooler with the door wide open he grabbed one at random. Making his way down the candy isle he randomly grabbed a couple bars and a bag of chips. He didn’t care what they were, he just needed something to do in the car. Finally he made it to the cashier. Groggily he finally replied, “I thought this was a 24 hour station.
“Oh it is,” the clerk confirmed. “However the bars are closing soon. If you don’t want to get held up by a bunch of drunks crossing the road wherever they please I’d get out of here soon. It usually takes the sophomores a good forty to fully vacate the area. They have further to go, having to return to the dorms, so they sometimes wait around seeing if they can bum rides. Every week it’s like that. Every week they’re surprised when it doesn’t work. With the gas it will be 41.82.”
“Thanks for the warn-”
“My man Oscar!” A guy, who was clearly drunk , yelled to the cashier. With his boat shoes, khaki shorts and stripped tank he had to be a student. This idea was confirmed in Roger’s mind when a dozen or so other guys, similarly dressed, all followed him in. There seemed to be three subsets of the group. One set splintered off and headed to the slushie machine. Another went to see what was left on the grill. The third meandered down the candy aisle not really interested in anything in particular.
“Tough break,” Oscar said to Roger, “I don’t think you’re going to beat the rush.”
As more people came in Roger cursed the fact he had stayed late at work. If he would have left when he intended to, he would be at his parents’ house by now. Oh well, spilled milk. To his delight the annoyance of dealing with people had woken him up a bit. He could make it another hour, of course he could.
Leaning in he asked, “Hey, are there any side streets or routes you could suggest to get me back to the highway.”
Oscar smiled and tapped his head, “Smart thinking asking me. Actually if you take the alley behind the station, go left, and take it for about five blocks, that will dump you on Lawrence Avenue. Once there turn right and that will take you back to the 101. If you head out now there still shouldn’t be that many kids on that route. I’ll give this to them, they tend to stay on the main roads because of the street lights. Not too many take the dark alleys.”
“Sure thing. Drive safe.”
Roger almost felt bad leaving the cashier behind as even more kids filled the station. Each student wanting something to munch on or, more likely, just not ready to call it a night. But then he remembered it was Oscar’s job. As a girl with clear tear tracks on her face got in line behind Roger he decided to make tracks. Waving to the cashier he was thankful when the brisk October air hit his face. Yet another gentle energy boost. He started up his car, carefully dodged the students and made his way down the alley.