The gas station/convenience store nearest my home went under new management early in the year, for maybe the third time since we moved here 15 years back. I still swing by there occasionally, and the family that runs it treats me nicely, but the store’s attitude and atmosphere have changed this time in a way that they hadn’t under previous regimes.
A couple of months ago, I noticed a hand-lettered sign on the door — “NO HOODS OR MASKS.” A couple of weeks back, I noticed an equivalent sign adjacent to the first one, with the offending garments behind a “DO NOT” slashed circle, presumably for the less literate locals. I understand that — there’s a reason C-stores are called “Stop ‘n’ Shoots”, after all — but the store had done OK in the past without such warnings.
Some of the merchandise selection has changed as well. The store has always sold beer, but now there’s a fortified wine display near the register as well. What’s interesting about this display (to me, anyway) is that the beverages aren’t the T-birds and Mad Dog bum wines that I associate with high schoolers barfing at a party in the burbs. These are apparently meant to recall other (better?) beverages, with bottles shaped like those that usually contain bourbons or vodkas, and contents dyed (or in the case of the ersatz vodkas, clarified) accordingly. But a closer look at the labels indicates that these are in fact wines with some extra kick added. There’s also a new display of bootleg and independent mix CDs at the counter, and a case of folding knives of the flea market persuasion — I was particularly struck by the one with the “Stars and Stripes” decoration on the handle. The blades all looked to be about four inches long.
(For what it’s worth, South Carolina is what aficionados call a “knife-friendly” jurisdiction — not surprising, given our sizable hunting and fishing population. Switchblades, butterfly knives, dirks, daggers, stiletti, and knives disguised as belt buckles or lipstick cases are all perfectly kosher here. By those standards, the hardware I saw today seemed pretty tame. All the same, it was new, and I noticed them right after I walked past the locked plexiglass cabinet of stroke mags.)
Oh, right — I hadn’t mentioned those, and that cabinet is new too. There appeared to be two or three different ones in there, but the one that stuck in my mind was sold with an accompanying DVD and a headline that informed me that someone named Connie “Craves” something equally alliterative, but the rest was covered up by a belly band. In a way, I found it almost quaint that there are still folks who are 1) willing to pay for their smut, and 2) wanting it in print form, even with a bonus DVD. Takes all kinds, I guess.
No one is required to shop at this particular store, and as I mentioned earlier, the new managers have been polite and efficient when I’ve gone in. All the same it’s the closest one to my home and to the campus in general, and I wonder a little whether or not I just heard a canary chirp in the coal mine of this neighborhood in Mondoville.