Fuel For Thought
Georgiana Soo, Division 2, 10th grade #ws16e-s2d2

Los Angeles is smog. New York City is vibrant. Seattle is breezy. Taipei is crowded. My hometown is lethargic. And then, there is the one place you can view it all. The gas station is consistent. I never have a specific gas station in mind; I pick and choose my stations depending on how cheap the gas is. But the gas station, universal to cities all over the world, is where people of all classes and races must somehow, sometime find themselves. I turn one way and watch the truck driver puffing at his cigarette, filling his tank up with diesel. I turn the other and watch the businessman wait by his shiny Lexus, chatting incessantly into his phone. I look in front of me and see my dad fishing for his credit card to pay for his fill. The gas station. Constantly overlooked but frequented by all walks of life, it brings people together – if only for a few minutes – and though it is unlikely I will ever meet any of these people again, I find comfort in my favorite place in the world.

My fifteen years of life have brought me all over the world – up the coast of golden California on a road trip, past the border and into cultural Mexico, across the ocean and immersed in bustling Taiwan, and many other places. It would be futile to choose a favorite from my sea of expeditions, and so I opt to choose their similarity. The gas stations in southern California teem with people of all races, wearing all sorts of clothing, speaking an unprecedented number of dialects. The gas stations in Mexico are convenient yet a select few are dangerous scams. The gas stations in Taiwan are ever so helpful, with attendants handling your gas for you as you wait. These pit stops, so numerous as they are, are where I store my memories. I can picture cruising down a beautiful road in a Dodge Charger with the expanse that is Enumclaw on my left and right because I remember the stop my family made for fuel. Lightly snowing Washington D.C. comes to mind because the tour bus stopped for gas and we saw rapper Snoop Dogg’s car directly in front of ours. I am reminded of the smell of falafel and pizza in downtown New York City mingled with the scent of gasoline at the service station. The gas station, though generic and an almost inconsequential landmark, is the book that holds all the pictures I have gathered from across the world. And so how could I choose a favorite place when the seams that bind it all together come in the form of your average everyday pit stop?

But the gas station is not just a reminder to me of my past adventures. Chevron, Pemex, Esso, CPC, all these names mark my future travels as well. The gas station is my constant reminder of all the places I have yet to go and all the experiences I have yet to own. I look at the gum covered floors and envision the numerous pairs of feet that have trekked across this dirty ground. I look at the gum covered floors and wonder who has yet to cover the same floors I have covered. I see not the loud and funny smelling island of fuel when I glance upon a gas station; instead, I see what has been and could be. The gas station stands through day and night, welcoming all weary travelers and frequent folk into its wings, and it serves them without fail. This very concept, in itself, is what draws me to the smog filled center and what amazes me every time.

Singer Lionel Richie once said, “I just like people. I’ll hold a conversation at a gas station. It’s not about the fame and the fortune, I just like people.” And people indeed, is what the gas station has to offer. For often, if one looks beneath the surface of things and thinks about staples of life just a little more, certain hidden life treasures might be found. In my eyes, the gas station is one such hidden life treasure. It takes on the facade of a grungy commonplace part of our day we frequent. It steals a few minutes out of our lives as we wait impatiently for our tanks to fill up. It exists purely for our efficiency and has ingrained itself into our routine. And yet, the gas station’s other side is one of unparalleled experiences. It hides the lives of the many who have stopped for fuel. It is one of the few places in the world where a millionaire entrepreneur might rub shoulders with a grocery store clerk. Most importantly, it holds my past, present, and future in its grease covered floors. For just like my five year old self, my fifteen year old self still finds delight in visiting the gas station and observing all the walks of life around me. And just like my fifteen year old self, my twenty five year old self will undoubtedly continue to do the same. For I know that wherever the rest of my life takes me and whatever journey I decide to walk, whether it remain in the United States or across oceans in some distant land, my favorite place in the world, my safe haven of observation, will always be waiting there for me. I will always be able to find the gas station.
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