August 29, 2023
I’m on my every other month perch at ExpressLane in Pulaski, getting an oil/filter change and tire rotation. The background noise is always ESPN on the big screen TV. Two tall tables with seating, one couch, four lounge chairs. The plexiglass guard remains at the service desk, though I rarely remember anyone ever wearing a mask. Advanced Auto Parts is across the road, and a few spots down is O’Reilly. Hardee’s to the right, McDonald’s straight ahead. I’m a regular, even though Ray and Shannon can’t remember my name. I always get the 10% educator discount. Yay! The service waiting room is not unlike an airport concourse — everyone’s waiting for departure.
Last May, the last time my car was serviced, Pulaski was all atwitter. The town had made two one-way streets two-way, took out two stoplights, and made the two intersections four-way stops. Before that, the speed limit was lowered to 35mph inside the town limits. (It had been 55mph on Route 99 and 45mph on Route 11.) The town contracted with GFL for waste removal, and every household received a bar-coded 90-gallon garbage bin with specific guidelines for placement at the curb that if neglected would cause a missed collection. And pickup times were altered. On top of that, the Town Council decided to close one “convenience center” (the trash dump) on the edge of town and establish a new center behind the fire station. No longer could town residents use county centers. Folx were madder than wet hens.
Our mayor runs Poor Boys Produce and Plants on 5th Street. Townsfolk upset with the changes started dumping their refuse in front of his business, and, according to the Facebook group Pulaski Talk of the Town, his house. (I don’t follow the group; I can’t tolerate most of the posts.)
Today, the ExpressLane waiting room is quieter than usual. Ronald Acuña, Jr., of the Atlanta Braves was rushed and attacked by two fans on the field last night. ESPN covers the story, and that causes some animated discussion. Evidently Acuña is a really great guy, and his fans just wanted to hug him. One lady steps outside to smoke a cigarette while seated on the bench. Another’s phone keeps ringing, and she carries on with her conversations oblivious to everyone else in the room. Loudly. I know everything about her cousin’s recent surgery. Ray and the new service coordinator chat behind the desk. It’s overcast and rainy. I want a sausage biscuit from McD’s, but I wore my flipflops, and I don’t want to get my feet wet.
These small-town gathering places are wonderful. They’re not unlike urban gathering places. In the 2019 reboot of Tales of the City, the beloved Anna Madrigal, doyenne of 28 Barbary Lane, in an interview for her 90th birthday, is asked how San Francisco has changed over the years. She says, “We’re still people, flawed, narcissistic, and doing our best.” What a great message that speaks across generations as well as latitudes and longitudes!