So did you know that at our local gas station –

You have to write something that begins with “So did you know that at our local gas station. . .”

Do you want to? Not really. But write it you will,  because this is what you signed up for, here on this write what I tell you, like it or not day.

Off you go to the search engine, to find a photo of your favorite local gas station, so that everyone can see how charming it is, if indeed a gas station can be charming.

Here are the words you type into the image searching engine: winner gas pump munch nicollet.

That photo to the right up there is what comes back to you. It is from a woman named Shea’s blog, which appears to be a food blog. Does Shea’s blog have anything at all to do with the Pump ‘n Munch on 44th and Nicollet, here in the frozen hell you call home?

In an alternate world, perhaps, but not in yours, at least not today, this early morning when your frozen hell city has been declared the nation’s coldest by all the weather stations in the country. But you shall keep that photo up there, because looking at that woman’s smiling face –Shea, is that you?– gives you hope that one day you, too, will feel like smiling again, here in the frozen hell in which you live. Look at her there, in what appears to be a greengrocer’s, surrounded by healthy green vegetables. You would like to live Shea’s life for just a few moments, perhaps the next five, to be exact.


Not really. But you suddenly had an intense craving for a large spoonful of Plantation Unsulphured Blackstrap Molasses, and who are you to deny intense cravings? You also have an intense craving to be in Shea’s greengrocer shop (is that how you phrase it? or should you say Shea’s greengrocer’s – is just the word alone sufficient? You are not British, so you cannot speak with authority on the subject of greengrocering), but since that craving cannot be immediately satisfied, the blackstrap molasses will have to do.

What is it about molasses, anyway? Do any of the rest of you get an intense craving for a large spoonful of it every now and then? Does it indicate an insufficiency of something in the body? Certainly there is a lack, or maybe it’s an overabundance, of synapse firing in your own body, but can a large spoonful of molasses help with that?


Which happens to be the Winner Gas Pump ‘n Munch at 44th and Nicollet, here in the frozen hell otherwise known as Minneapolis. You have written about Winner Gas previously, in terms of its being your preferred place to purchase lottery tickets, but you love the Pump ‘n Munch and you do not love the BP, the SA, or the Holiday, so back to Pump ‘n Munch you go.

There appears to be nothing that can’t be bought at the Pump ‘n Munch. For a store that’s roughly the size of half the first floor of your house (meaning, tiny), these, off the top of your head, are a few of the things you can stock up on:

Assorted candy, milk, cream, sodas (both brand and off-brand), beer (you think, anyway – you are not a beer drinker, but many of the Pump ‘n Munch customers seem to walk out with tall cans of beer-ish looking beverages), tiny bottles of weird-looking energy and/or aphrodisiacal drinks, cigars, chewing tobacco, condoms, pain relievers of all sorts, hot coffee, pre-made sandwiches, a virtuosic assortment of snacks, household supplies such as garbage bags and toilet paper, fishing supplies, birthday cards, “Busted: a magazine of Mug Shots, Sex Offenders, and Criminals in Your Neighborhood,” and, of course, all manner of lottery tickets.

But the best thing about the Pump ‘n Munch is the man behind the counter. He is there literally all the time. One of your friends, a man who also favors the Pump ‘n Munch above all other gas-dispensing establishments, asked him recently how much he works per week.

“70-80 hours!”

“Why so much?”

“Bills, Charlie! Bills!”

Your friend’s name is not Charlie, but the man behind the counter calls everyone –everyone male, that is– Charlie. Does the man behind the counter have a family? Interesting that you should ask that question, because your friend posed the exact same question to him.

“No! You find me a woman, ok, Charlie? Find me a good one!”

It’s surprising that the man behind the counter doesn’t have a good woman, because he is so endearing, so cheerful, so energetic and kind. Many is the time you have been waiting patiently in line at the Pump ‘n Munch –as patiently as you can do anything, that is– while the people ahead of you, people who, by all appearances, live hard and difficult lives, fumble in their pockets for change to buy their candy, their Mountain Dew, their lottery tickets and/or their tall cans of beerish-looking beverages.

“I got you!” the man behind the counter will say, fishing a dollar out of his own pocket. “See you tomorrow!”

When you buy your lottery ticket, he hands it to you and says, “Good lu-uck!” If he forgets, you remind him.

“You have to say good luck,” you say, and he laughs and says, “Good lu-uck!”

Yes, this is your local gas station. Everyone should be so lu-ucky to have one.


  1. alicia · January 21, 2011

    several years ago, and briefly, i worked at the Marathon at 28th and Lyndale, which is my personal favorite gas station. the owners were (still are) these two Pakistani brothers who let us smoke pot in the back room and play loud music, and paid us in cash and frozen pizzas. they got extremely cranky during Ramadan, though. i couldn’t mop the floor without hearing “FASTER! CLEAN FASTER! You are such a slow girl.”


  2. alison · January 21, 2011

    I cannot tell you how much this comment pleases me, the idea of you smoking pot and playing loud music in the back room, and taking your frozen pizzas home with you. Why the Ramadan crankiness, do you think? Daytime fasting = irritability?


  3. alicia · January 21, 2011

    yeah, not eating all day for a month would make me pretty crabby, too. i’m sure watching their customers buy cheese danishes and Doritos and greasy microwave cheeseburgers didn’t help, either.

    i quit after, i don’t know, two months, but the way in which i did it was spectacular. i don’t remember this, of course, but i am told i staggered into the store one night, completely plastered, and told them to go to hell and that i was going dancing (?!) instead of working my shift.

    they still won’t let me live that one down, which is maybe why i don’t go there quite as often as i used to…


  4. oreo · January 21, 2011

    no, i do not in fact get an intense craving for a large spoonful of blackstrap molasses. i do believe it has iron and other good stuff within, but cannot fathom putting such a vile concoction into my innocent mouth. i would doubt your sanity were i not aware of a number of people who are avid molasses consumers, if not placing it directly in their mouths, then defiling a number of otherwise normal food items with it.

    case in point: many a morning of my childhood, my father used to boil up the healthiest pot of nastiness you could imagine. there were various whole grains in there (oats? bulgar? wheat? who knows.), as well as yeast, some other healthy brown powder of unrecalled name, and a monstrous helping of molasses. perhaps this is where i acquired my aversion?

    the roots may be debatable, the end result is conversations like this one:
    -how do you like the cookies i made?
    -they’re okay, except for the molasses.
    -but they’re molasses cookies. they’re supposed to have a hint of molasses.
    -well, that would explain the problem. like i said, they’re okay except for the molasses.
    -exasperated sigh on the baker’s part.


  5. Gabrielle McGhee · January 21, 2011

    I love a big spoonful of molasses.


  6. alison · January 22, 2011

    Seeing as you also love a big spoonful of mayonnaise and a big spoonful of butter, I don’t know if you count in the molasses study, though, Gabrielle.


  7. herhimnbryn · January 27, 2011

    At our local petrol station……
    She must be in her sixties, possibley older. She has the face of a woman who worshipped the sun in her youth. It does not have wrinkles, it has canyons. Her nails are false and always painted with bright colours. On Australia Day , she had little Australian flags painted onto each nail. She calls everyone ‘Doll’, is about 5ft tall and has the voice of a committed smoker. She is the life and soul of the place.


  8. Gabrielle McGhee · February 2, 2011

    So did you know that at our local gas station they sell the best water rolls slathered with cold butter? 89 cents and worth every penny. They also pick on your father by accusing him of stealing antifreeze; you will have to talk to him on the phone to get the full effect of that one.

    Now that I think of Stewart’s, I desperately need a 1/2 gallon – and it is indeed a full 1/2 gallon – of coffee ice cream. It goes with the weather outside.


  9. alison · February 5, 2011

    Oreo, guess what I just made? MOLASSES COOKIES. Bwahaha!

    My dear herhimnbryn, my car needs filling and how I wish I could pull in to your petrol station (which sounds so much better than gas station). I am ashamed to admit that I had to look up an image of the Australian flag since I couldn’t recall what it looked like. How shamefully American of me.

    Gabrielle, you and I will forever differ in our ice cream tastes. You and your Stewart’s, me and my Haagen-Dazs. So be it.


  10. alison · February 5, 2011

    P.S. Gabrielle, I love water rolls, especially slathered with butter, but why are they called water rolls? I don’t get it.


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