Sunday, December 07, 2008

International Flavor in the Middle of Nowhere

The town I actually live closest to is a flashing caution light at the middle of an intersection of a four-lane highway and a two-lane county road. This town is incorporated, but the population probably barely breaks into three digits. It's basically a gas station, a junk store, a water tower, a park, and two part time police officers who share a car.

The only part that really matters to me is the gas station. I live on the other side of the county line meaning that all those wonderful municipal services (stupid socialists) are out of my jurisdiction, including cable service and phone lines younger than me.

At one time the gas station was own by a local guy. This was the gas station where I spent many hours as a kid getting hopped up on chocolate bars and Coca-Colas while my granddaddy sat around and talked with the retired farmers who spent most of the day there. The problem with that was that after my grandfather died, it turned out that the store owner and his son were also in on the mail order illegal drug business in addition to their more accepted overpriced gasoline and grocery essentials business. They went off to prison and the shop was taken over by an Indian (of the Asian persuasion) family.

I mention this because I always wonder how the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian immigrant families find their way to my remote part of the world. The Eastern European immigrants of the first half of the 1900s couldn't even find my state. How are people from Cambodia finding my town? It's not like we're in the first rural county bordering a metropolitan area. In fact, the nearest regional airport is about a two hour's drive away and the nearest international is farther than that. We're in the middle of nowhere and we're not talking about people running chain stores here. This isn't a case of some wealthy Atlanta or Savannah family owning a big chain of gas stations and the local family just being sent here by their wealthier relatives. Do these people throw darts at a map of the US and then just show up wherever the point sticks? Did they start in Atlanta, realize all the good jobs were taken and gradually work their way out until they found a place in need of their services? Seriously, this would be like me moving to Pali, Madhya Pradesh, India.

And, no, I didn't know there was a Pali in India until I searched for some town in the middle of nowhere there.

It is kind of cool that these people do end up here, although I still have no idea what brings them. The cashier at the gas station today had Bollywood music quietly playing from her laptop. It was just loud enough that I could hear it when I concentrated while waiting for her to finish ringing up my Coke. There's something neat about hearing a bit of the other side of the world piping from tinny little speakers in a place that is quintessentially Southern and rural and it being a perfectly natural fit.

I do have to be really careful when talking to the local Indians, though. I always get the nearly overwhelming urge to ask them to start a restaurant or at least to invite me over to dinner. I do like me some Indian food. I can cook up a mean curry, but my recipe is one of the Thai varieties. It's a shame I can't just walk down to the local gas station and pick up a little tikka masala with my overpriced gas.


Julie said...

You could start by just being nice to them. I know it requires socializing, but you could try to speak more. Comment on the music. You appreciated it but did you say so?

Courtney said...

Overpriced gas? Gas is less than $1.50 here. I call that dirt cheap.

Jacob said...

Julie: Are you smoking crack? Why in the world would I want to befriend new people?

Courtney: You're not familiar with backwoods gas stations, are you? The gas at these places is always at least 5 cents a gallon more than the stores in town, and often more than that.

Gas as a commodity is actually underpriced, especially when compared to the price of gas in other economically successful countries. That's part of why alternative fuel sources haven't been developed at the pace they could have been.