By Russ De Maris
It’s a good thing the Grand Creator made my neck to readily swivel. These days, there are things that make my head spin, and if my neck didn’t keep up, well, I just don’t know where I’d end up. Like tonight, in the Dollar General Store in little old Quartzsite, Arizona. It was the final stop of a long evening, trying to get ready to pull out of the well-above 100-degree temperatures common for this time of year.
I’d already filled up the diesel tanks at one of the town’s truck stops. With dually tires, it’s hard to find a place where you can put wind in them because, of course, a dually tire requires a special double-headed tire chuck. You won’t find them at just any old gas station – no, sir – only at truck stops. Well, most truck stops.
When I pulled in to fuel, I cranked my head around to find where the air fills were. There goes that swivel. Swivel to the right, swivel to the left, and, hey, guess what? No air hoses. It makes my head hurt to think of the damage that an 80,000-pound semi-truck can do if, for want of the proper air in its tires, it crashes into some hapless RVer or other motorists. Oh, well, there are two more truck stops in town.
I know from bitter experience, Loves is NOT the place to go for air in QZ. They “pulled” the freebie air hoses and replaced them with a “Speed Lane,” where you can pull your rig in and somebody else puts pneuma in your tires – for a fat fee. Sorry, I was born back in the day when most of us did what he had to do ourselves. So I wandered over to Pilot. About four of the bays were open, so I pulled into a likely one, and sure enough – no air hose. But wait! Down on the last bay, there was a hose.
I cautiously backed up and jockeyed the old Ford into the last bay. Grabbing my carpet scrap that I can kneel on, and my tire gauge, I flipped the valve open on the air line – only to hear a hiss reminiscent of an upset rattlesnake. Never heard a rattlesnake hiss? Oh, but they do! That’s another personal experience story for another day. What that hiss meant was that one-half of the double-header chuck was leaking like mad. Put that on your tire valve and you’ll deflate it, rather than inflate. I finally did find a working air line, and after rolling around on the HOT pavement, I was looking forward to getting home to a cool drink. Just one last errand – to Dollar General.
Sometime back we’d bought some sort of Quaker Oats product that was decidedly not up to par. A quick call to their hotline brought an apology on the phone and a $3 “product(s) of your choice” coupon in the mail. Of course, items had to be from the company’s brands, but no problem. I masked up to go inside. Not only do I personally feel it’s my responsibility to look out for my neighbor by keeping any germs I may have to myself, but also the sign on the door read: “Face masks required.” It didn’t take long to see that better than half the customers somehow figured that “required” statement somehow didn’t apply to them, and I stood well back when any headed my direction.
I found myself two boxes of Rice-a-Roni and a box of pancake mix, all in the company brands printed on the coupon. I’d be “out” $1.50, but, hey, I like a bargain, so I’m willing to spend $1.50 on $4.50 worth of products. At the register, I noticed the solitary cashier was NOT wearing a mask. Happily, there was a plexiglass shield between us. But while she was starting to ring my purchases, another Dollar General employee came within about three feet of me. No mask. I couldn’t run, nor could I hide. Oh, well.
Meantime, the cashier was scrutinizing my coupon. “I just can’t believe they’d give you this stuff for free,” she says. “I mean, I’m sure you have to buy something.” I explain how and why I got the coupon, and point out the store will get their $3 back, along with a processing fee. “Well, no. I mean, I just can’t believe it. I don’t think this will work,” she says, scanning the coupon. No response. So she enters the coupon code. No soap. “Well, I’d have to have someone higher up than me make this work. So, do you still want the stuff?” No, I don’t want the stuff, but I will take my coupon back, thank you.
Was it some inner “bad guy” that made me ask the obvious question? I point in the direction of one of the “Face masks required” signs and ask, “I take it that doesn’t apply here?” The cashier looks at me like I’m some sort of desert bug that crawled in under the door. “Of course it applies here. Face masks are required. But they’re not mandatory,” she declares.
Here’s where that universal swivel in your neck comes back into play. The statement caught me so off-guard, I swear, that my eyeballs got carried around about 720 degrees, as my head spun around twice. My mouth opened and out rolled the statement, “Face masks are required – they’re just not mandatory?” “That’s right!” asserted my unmasked cashier. “Required. Mandatory. I think I’ll have to look that up in my dictionary,” I replied.
“You do that! Feel free to look that up in your dictionary!” was the last statement she made as I stumbled dizzily out of the store. I wonder if Dollar General sells dictionaries.