It was 9 or 10 at night…

October 15, 2010

It was 9 or 10 at night, and I had just pulled into a shell station off 544. It was dark and quiet and calm — ya know: night time. I was leaning against my car thinking about how cold the nights were getting when she pulled in. She didn’t pull in extra fast or slow. She didn’t screech her tires or honk. She pulled in like a normal person except, of course, her windows were down and she was blasting country music at what I assumed the maximum volume possible. She got out and flipped her ignition to accessory mode. The music skipped briefly before returning to full volume Then she danced around her car to the gas pump.

The music was loud. Really loud. I looked around the gas station and tried to make eye contact with someone so we could form a little team or something, or at least roll our eyes in one of those “you believe this?” kinda ways. But no one was looking at me; they were too busy watching her.

Her gas pump mostly blocked her from my view, but I could see she was middle aged, blond, and, for the most part, friendly looking. She swayed a little while she squeegee’d her back window.

This woman and I could not be more different. I even take my headphones out from time to time to make sure they’re not bothering people around me. If I feel my car vibrating from the music I’m playing, I turn it down. I don’t know, I’m just self conscious I guess. So while I was at first irritated with this woman, I soon became intrigued, curious, about the type of person who does this kind of thing. And considering this woman was not a man wearing a bandana, cut off jeans, and leaning against a crappy old Camero, she seemed like a good person to ask.

I walked up slowly, and smiled really big when she saw me. She was still squeegeeing her back window.

“Excuse me,” I said, and she paused. “I’m not mad, or angry or whatever. I’m just…curious. What are you thinking when you play your music this loud in public? Like, what’s going through your mind” (I hadn’t really planned out the interview ahead of time)

The woman looked at me for a second, her squeegee dripping onto the cement. She cocked her head sideways and said, “I don’t know,”

“Do you do this often? I mean. At a lot of gas stations, I mean?”

“Oh yes,” She smiled. (we were getting along), “I do it everywhere. All the time,”

I told her how I was the opposite. I told her about the headphones and the car vibrating. She laughed.

“I used to be like that,” she said, “but a few years ago, I started just not caring anymore. Just going for it,”

The talk was going pretty well, so I decided to ask the only question I’d thought of before I came over.

“Is there maybe a small part of you that’s hoping that we’ll all start dancing or something? Like we’ll really enjoy the music or something and start dancing?”

She paused and thought for a second.

“Ya know,” She said, “I never really thought about what everyone else might be thinking.”

This was not a surprise.

“Do you want me to turn it down?” she asked.

“No, it’s fine. I was really just curious.”

“Okay,” she said. She started to clean her window again, but then turned to me and added, “It’s really my favorite thing,”

“Playing the music really loud like this?” I asked.

She nodded. “yeah,”

When I got back to my car, the pump had shut itself off. I set it back in it’s holster and drove off, still hearing the woman’s radio when I pulled onto the main road.

I drove home thinking about her. I thought it was weird that playing music so loud like that could be her favorite thing — or anyone’s favorite thing. Maybe she just said that because I put her on the spot. Or maybe it actually was true, and I had just caught a woman in the middle of her favorite thing in life. It made me sort of happy to think that.

I could see people taking her answer about not thinking about other people as selfish. And maybe it is, but I didn’t take it that way. Maybe it was just the way she said it, or how nice she was, or my wanting to think the best about her, but I took it as this sort of beautiful oblivion, and I thought that was sort of nice, if only for that one night, if only at that one shell station, if only for that one woman.

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