There is a town in California called Weed, and it’s everything you would expect a town called Weed to be. If you happen to be driving from the Bay Area to Everett, it’s a place you might stop for gas. If it’s the first time you’re making the drive and you’re not super familiar with the area, you might even be tempted to stay the night there.
Do not stay the night there.
My dad and stepmom, the first time they made the drive up to visit us in Washington, booked a room online at a place called something like the Village Inn. They rolled into town on fumes and pulled into the first gas station. At this point they’d been driving for a while and they were super cranky and argumentative. Nobody bickers like these two on a road trip, so I imagine tensions were already high.
Despite my dad’s assurance that he can find any place with nothing more than the north star, his trusty hounds, and an address, my stepmom opts to go into the gas station to ask where they might find the quaint, dog-friendly sleeping establishment(gas stations – and the old men sitting outside of them – used to be the real life equivalent to google maps).
She grabs a diet Coke and makes her way to the lady behind the counter. In classic small town summer fashion, the lady is wearing what could only be her daughter’s shorts and halter-top, as they are neither her size nor her age.
“What’d you say it was called?” the lady asks.
“Man…that sure sounds familiar.” She furrows her brow and thinks real hard about it, tapping a long red nail on the counter.
“Do you think it’s close?” Stepmom asks, scanning the place for a map.
Gas Lady shakes her head. “I really couldn’t say. It sure does sound familiar, though. Maybe it’s over by the…no, that’s not it. You sure that’s what it’s called?”
My step-mom pulls her printed reservation out of her purse and hands it over. The lady shakes her head. “Yeah, that’s on this street alright. Wow, I couldn’t tell ya. Gotta be close though.”
Stepmom tucks the paper back away and pulls out her wallet. “Thanks. You got any Virginia Slims back there?”
Lady leans way back and looks behind the counter. “Nope. Sorry.”
“Capris?” Lady leans way back again to check out her stash.
“Nope. All out.” Stepmom sighs. “Just a pack of regular Camels, then.”
Lady leans way back again. Shakes her head. “Sorry, out of those too.”
“Seriously? What do you have?”
Lady leans back, one more time. “Marlboro, Marlboro Lights.”
My stepmother’s polite small falters. “That’s it?”
The lady double checks. “Yup.”
My stepmom, through gritted teeth at this point, orders, “Lights, please.”
She pays for the cigarettes and the gas and walks outside to where dad is waiting impatiently in the car wondering aloud what the hell took so long. Across the street, practically blotting out the setting sun, is a huge, red Village Inn sign. The lady must have seen that sign every day for however long she’d been selling two kinds of cigarettes at that gas station.
Don’t go to Weed, is what I’m saying. If you have to go to Weed, don’t go sober.
(Actually, rereading this, I can’t help but think my parents wandered into a Quentin Tarantino film and that lady was standing on the bleeding gas station attendant who was probably signalling for help under the counter.)