Author Topic: What Have They Done to the C-Store?  (Read 1390 times)

tyrannosaurus vex

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What Have They Done to the C-Store?
« on: January 23, 2020, 02:19:10 pm »
In many ways and for many reasons, the town where I grew up was like The Land that Time Forgot. In the first place, it was a mining town, so it never had a very compelling reason to exist at all, except for strictly utilitarian reasons. The small population (tiny, really, never breaking 1,500 the whole time I lived there) didn't produce many thinkers or dreamers. It wasn't located anywhere geographically, strategically, or economically interesting (except for the mine, of course). It didn't exist at any crossroads that attracted travelers; in fact it was the terminal end of a two-lane, badly maintained county highway that entered the place at one end, became Main Street for about three or four blocks, and then emptied itself directly in the open pit copper mine that was so big its gravity well anchored the town somewhere in the 1960s and permeated everything in a 5 mile radius with a slightly rancid whimsy.

Of course, I despised the place. It was too small, too remote, too boring. I knew everyone, everyone knew me, and I hated everyone, even my friends. It was the last place to get anything from a real grocery store to fast food to high speed internet. I would celebrate any minor encroachment of what I imagined The Real World to be into this insular little community of the incurably incurious. And I wanted out, for good. I swore I'd leave and never look back, like everyone does in a place like that before they realize just what it is that keeps people there. Eventually, I did, but that isn't the point of this story.

There were only a couple of places a high school kid could hang out. There was no mall, no movie theater (there had been but the imagination levels in this town were so low it couldn't even support its single-screen cinema), no nothing. So in the tender years between starting middle school and finding out about the miracle of drugs and alcohol, my friends and I spent a lot of time at the Shell gas station across the street from the football field. It sounds ridiculous, it was just an average convenience mart, but it did have the useful addition of a couple of bench tables from the 70s (you could tell by the color) next to the soda fountain. We were there before school, during lunch, after school, on weekends, and pretty much any other time we could be. We knew the place like the backs of our hands, we knew everyone who worked there and what their shifts were, we knew who would let us buy cigarettes, and everything was fine. We hated it, we hated the town, we hated existence itself, but the C-Store was some kind of refuge at least.

We got a lot of our calories from the donuts they brought over to the C-Store from the grocery store across the parking lot every morning. They were usually stale and there wasn't much variety, so they fit right into the whole scene. Pepsi and donuts. Donuts and Pepsi. The craving for sugar should have warned us about other white crystal-based fixations that would come later, but nobody said anything. We were young and full of shit. And full of donuts.

Anyway, like I said, eventually I did manage to escape. I was away for years and never went back for anything more important than Christmas or a funeral. On the few occasions I did swing back by, I usually never noticed much had changed. It was to be expected, the place really was stuck in a temporal anomaly. A new surface on a road here or there, a new coat of paint on some dumpy old company-sponsored building, that's about it. They never installed any traffic lights or built anything new. It was a place out of time, always the same awful, oppressive, stagnant pile of trash. And driving into it always filled me with the same angst and claustrophobia I'd had the day I left. Until it didn't.

On one trip, the last one I'll probably ever make, I stopped in to the old C-Store for some smokes and looked around. Same beige and orange stripes as always, same two scratched and pitted bench tables where I'd spend literally years of my life. And the same donut cabinet, except inside that cabinet weren't the misshapen, stale old garbage confections of my youth, oh no. There were just some boxes that said Krispy Kreme on them. What the fuck. There was no Krispy Kreme in this town, where did those come from? If I had been 14 I would have been amazed and delighted, but for some reason the emotion that struck me now was anger. And a slight twinge of panic, as if someone had just pulled the chair I was about to sit in a foot to the left. What, pray tell, was happening to this place? It was inconceivable. No word for it but unnatural. The donuts in that case were very likely far superior to anything I'd ever had, but it wasn't right. This was not the order of things.

Depending on the type of person I was, I might have grumbled and moved on, I might have complained to the clerk, I might have just asked someone where they were getting the premium donuts, or just backed out of the place slowly, whispering gibberish to myself. But really, I was too dumbfounded by my own reaction to do any of that. Why should this -- a clear improvement in things -- make me angry? And to whom was this anger directed? The clerk probably had nothing to do with it. The manager was just making life better for whatever band of miscreants were now doing the job of holding down those tables over there. The donuts themselves were just inanimate objects, doomed to be eaten. No, I wasn't angry at any of them, I was angry at... the whole world.

I was angry at the world for failing to deliver what I felt sure had been a promise of at least one eternal, unchanging foundation. One place that truly never died. Something in this miserable realm of death and uncertainty that I could always go back to, if the need arose, to remind myself that though I myself will pass away, some things never would. I was sure that was in the fine print somewhere, but no, these donuts had stolen that all away. If they could change, anything could change. There was no safe harbor in the world. No rock on which to build an identity. These were just donuts, but what if something bigger had changed? What if, god forbid, I had driven into town to find a Holiday Inn or something? It had always seemed impossible, but the second hand on the stopped clock of this backwoods hellscape of a town had crept forward a notch, and now nothing was sure.

Luckily, I managed to get my cigarettes without making too much of a scene and made my way back to the car. The whole episode seemed as ridiculous to me as it sounds now to you, I'm sure. But for one split second, the whole world had lost its cohesion. I found myself adrift in a tumultuous sea of unstoppable change and I was desperate -- at least for a moment -- to find something to replace the solidity and reliability of my expectations. I even had the thought that there ought to be a law -- against what, who knows? Against all change of any sort anywhere, I suppose. So for the shortest moment, I was basically a Republican. Over some donuts.

And if that can happen to me over some confections I wasn't even going to eat anyway, I can only imagine what goes through the minds of people whose whole identities are based on the supposed unchanging nature of civil society and culture. Many of those people are, I venture to guess, having the same sort of "oh god what have they done to my donuts" reaction every time they turn on the news. And without the benefit of years of self-doubt and heavy psychedelic use, maybe they're comfortable to swing their anger and blame around at anything that moves. Literally spitting into the winds of change. Unaware that they don't actually hate The Gays or The Liberals or The Poors, but that they're just stuck in an endlessly repeating cycle of assigning landmark status to social and cultural trends that are as prone to change and death as they are themselves. Sinking -- thrashing, but sinking -- in that sea of change when they should be swimming.

« Last Edit: January 23, 2020, 03:11:09 pm by tyrannosaurus vex »
Evil and Unfeeling Arse-Flenser From The City of the Damned.

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Re: What Have They Done to the C-Store?
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2020, 02:55:23 pm »
This is fucking good. As always.

I grew up in a place that was near identical in description to this one, except the copper mine was in the woods in the other direction and technically belonged to a different town (Evans City can blow me to this day, by the by).

While I’ll never return there to have the same experience you’ve had here... I have this experience regularly with other things. Irrational anger and all. I can say with certainty that what you describe is perilously close to my personal life state at all times: it is real, I live this. Every day an unwelcome surprise, like a rancid, foamy dog heap swirling out of your expensive boot. Just the left boot. So you have to wear dog doo boots or throw out half a unit of perfectly good footwear. Everyday.

I don’t know what has prevented me from becoming a hateful little goblin. It’s weird in that I have been just barely dodging that bullet by accident my whole life. I don’t know if I want to dissect it, necessarily, either. Not being shitty is kind of a “good enough” thing, why ruin it?

Also, it might have something to do with not feeling like other people being happy somehow devalues the struggle my life has been. But that’s just a suspicion, and I’m not even sure it’s entirely relevant to this, because when I get irrational it’s hard to trace the thought processes leading into and out of that state.
“I am that worst of all type of criminal...I cannot bring myself to do what you tell me, because you told me.”

“Ever watch that famous war movie? That’s how it’ll be.”
“Which one?”
“The one where everybody dies.”
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Cramulus

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Re: What Have They Done to the C-Store?
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2020, 03:12:34 pm »
It's always disturbing to have those realizations
The other day, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror looking very 40
and some young part of me didn't know what to do with it


Was also thinking about how, 20 years ago, the conservatives were all about a "return to family values" -- they didn't like foul language, they were uncomfortable with sexuality, they wanted to put fences around everything fun. And today, we on the left have different battles, but they generally fall on the protective side of language, sexuality, and public safety. It's not called conservatism, but there are shared notes. The parent who wants to shield their children from homosexuals and the parent who wants to shield their child from homophobia are using similar tools, tones, arguments - even though they come from radically different places.
 
Wilson wrote: "It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea. In an evolving universe, who stands still moves backwards."



tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: What Have They Done to the C-Store?
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2020, 03:29:33 pm »
I think some of the most formative moments in a hypothetical person's transition form "liberal" to "conservative" are the ones where they finally feel like they've nailed down some part of their universe just the way they like it. We all struggle to affect the world around us in ways that make it more livable, more comfortable. Piece by piece, we either succeed or come to terms with it and eventually we feel like we have "arrived". From that moment on, whether it's the whole world or just the parts we've adopted, our strategy changes from "make the world better" to "there, now don't fuck this up, it's just how I like it." Without even realizing it, we go from fighting for change to fighting for stasis, and the next generation gets confused because they don't understand why we'd stop just because we got comfortable. But we were never really on the side of change itself, we just used the existing entropy in the system because it happened to be going our way.

That's why I'm drawn to Discordianism, or at least my version of it. Nothing is quite as dangerous as the illusion of arriving in a post-historical setting where everything is finally okay. The Discordian knows this, and it is their job to make sure there's always a fly in the ointment. Always something that doesn't add up, something that spoils the utopia. Not because utopia is bad, necessarily, but because when it transforms from a goal to a reality, it loses the spark that inspires us to achieve it. You can't have creation without destruction; you can't have life without death. Because life isn't the absence of death, it's the continual obsolescence of death.
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