We were in the middle of west Texas, about 150 miles east of El Paso, when I began to get concerned about the gas situation. We had gassed up hours earlier, but in the vast, empty stretches of arid west Texas, where the speed limit on I-10 is 80 mph, the exits are few and far between–and most of the exits don’t have a gas station. I had been looking carefully for one for miles, but to no avail. In the meantime, the gas tank bars kept shrinking, we got the chime and the notice that we were almost out of gas, and there was no station in sight.
But then, in the shimmering haze of the bright sunshine reflecting on the dry and dusty landscape, we saw what appeared to be a sign in the distance. At first we thought it might be a mirage, but as we drew closer we realized it was, in fact, a sign. This, by itself, provided no real comfort, because we had seen signs at earlier exits, but the gas stations they were advertising were abandoned. Finally, we saw the Exxon logo above, and the functioning neon, and realized that we were saved from the ignominy of running out of gas on one of the loneliest stretches of the American Road. It was a West Texas Miracle.
When we pulled up to the pump, we saw that the price for gas was higher than it had been at our earlier stops in Texas. But beggars can’t be choosers, and at that point we would have paid far more for gas. The law of supply and demand, and the invisible hand that guides pricing decisions, demanded that the scarcity of available gas in that remote corner of the world factor into the pricing. In reality, I was so grateful that I would have left a tip if the machine had permitted me to do so, because we were in the middle of nowhere and would have been completely out of luck if that little gas station had not been there.
And speaking of the middle of nowhere, the photo below gives you an idea of just how desolate this area was. There was absolutely nothing around this little gas station. This part of west Texas defined “vast” and “empty.”
Presumably because it was the only commercial business to be seen for miles and miles, the gas station offered an interesting assortment of items for sale–including a collection of paintings, shown below, that were leaning against the wall next to the entrance to the restrooms. So, in addition to filling your tank and emptying your bladder, you could buy a painting of a woman in creepy makeup holding a skull. What’s more, there was a discount price if you bought two of the larger paintings, with one painting selling for $59.99 and two for $80. It was admittedly tempting, but I managed to resist.
After we had gassed up, we hopped in the car and pulled away from the station with a sigh of full-tank relief. We were thankful for the station’s existence, but also for learning an important lesson: in west Texas, you can never have too much gas in the tank.