The Geography Lesson

I spent a good chunk of my twenties traveling, for reasons better explained some other time. One day—oh, winter 1985—I walked into a west Texas fast food place looking for cheap Mexican eats.

I’ve got to digress and talk about Texas towns and food, or what they were then. Pretty much any Texas town big enough to have a gas station has a Diary Queen. Rule goes: Every town in the Longhorn state has a Dairy Queen (It’s not true, I found one in southern Texas near the New Mexico border without a DQ. Of course, my last visit was years ago, and there might be one now). Restaurants are a good measure of just how many people live in a Texas town. First there’s the DQ (about 25 to 3,000-4,000 people) and next up is the Sonic (4,000-5,000 range or so). Pizza place means more people, etc. etc. 

Texans are great folks, by the way. I’ve traveled across every state, except Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Texans easily rank as the friendliest people. I can’t count the number of times people stopped and offered rides, if I, a stranger, was on the edge of town walking to the strip or shopping mall on the outskirts.

You’d feel pretty cocky, too, with a rifle and/or pistol in reach inside the cab of you pickup truck. I’d live in Texas, if I could fit in. I’m too ornery is the problem and ruined from living in the Washington, D.C. area for too long.

So…about this Mexican fast food place: I walked up to the counter, looked over the menu and placed my order. Before I could say to hold the sour cream from my burritos, the young woman stopped me. “You talk funny. You’re not from around here, are you?” I agreed and said that I was from Maine. She cocked her head, “Where’s that country?”

A full five seconds passed before I could respond. “How old are you?” She was 16. “You, ah, do go to school?” Bless her heart, a cheerleader. “Did you take geography in school?” She finally caught on and just nodded. Then I explained that Maine is part of the great old US of A. Several tense minutes passed, while we both waited on my order.

Then I left with two burritos in a bag. With sour cream! Damn it.

Photo Credit: Toni Blay