The chattiest gas station in America

Super heavy

I always marvel at people who make spontaneous conversation with strangers. A woman in the soup aisle of the grocery store once started talking to me about the price of minestrone or something. I went along with the conversation, nodding and responding when appropriate, but inside all I could think was, “Wow, how weird is it that I’m talking to some stranger in the soup aisle?” My social anxiety about talking to strangers far outweighs my desire to talk about barley.

This is why I have deemed the Hess gas station as the chattiest gas station in America. Why?

The number of impromptu conversations I have had with patrons of Hess: 2
Number of impromptu conversations I’ve had at any other gas station ever: 0

I don’t know if this is a Southern thing, or if someone stuck a sign on my back that says “Please chat with me as I pump petrol!” All I know is that I’ve had two hit and run conversations with patrons of the Hess gas station this year. I pay at the pump too, so it’s not like they’re chatting me up in a long line while we’re waiting.

The first time happened a few months ago when a woman was complaining about having to go inside to get her receipt. We then managed to talk for over a minute, more than 60 whole seconds, about this problem, and how awful it was that they didn’t always print it at the pump, and why was that? I figured it was because the pump had run out of paper for receipts, but decided that telling her this might encourage her, so I just nodded and agreed as appropriate.

Then yesterday I had just finished pumping gas when a woman bounded out of the gas station and asked me, “Did you used to be heavy?” I was like, used to be heavy? I’m heavy right now! Do you think I took a trip to Jupiter? (On Jupiter you weigh 2.3 times what you weigh on Earth. Science!) I used to be much heavier on Earth than I am now, but my attitude toward my current weight is subject to the half-glass-full/half-glass-empty perception vortex.

So I wondered how she could know I used to be fatter than I am now. Maybe she’s read my book. Two people recognized me during the first year I lived in Chapel Hill, so she easily could have been the third. But no, she didn’t mention my book or ask me if I was Jennette Fulda or ask me to spin around in circles to compare me to my spinning progress photos.

So, again, how the hell did she know? Do I have loose skin flapping around under my chin? My jeans were a bit baggy, but that’s because I’d worn them earlier in the week and they were stretched out. I should have asked her how she knew, but she’d already moved on to ask me what I had done to lose weight. What had I eaten? How much had I exercised? So I found myself giving my general one-minute spiel on weight loss that I perfected over the course of multiple media interviews. Exercise more! Eat fruits and vegetables! Avoid white flour! Eat lean meat and skim milk! It’s hard but it’s worth it!

At this point she lifted up her shirt to show me that she had saran wrapped her belly. “I’ve lost 3-5 inches this week!” And I just nodded and went along with the conversation, observing the scene outside of myself, wondering what was happening and if I really was on Jupiter after all. Then her friend called to her and they got in their car to leave. I checked my front seat to be sure this hadn’t been an elaborate ruse to steal my laptop and purse as I talked about the importance of drinking water. Thankfully all my valuables were all still there. My confusion remained.

Then I drove home. I am undecided as to whether I will stop at this gas station again. I’ve had some weird experiences here, but it’s made for good blogging material. And having someone ask if I used to be heavy is more of a compliment than an insult, right? Maybe?

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Shannon • November 4, 2011 at 11:16 am

She saran wrapped her belly?? And then went out and got gas??? Am I missing something or is that just totally bizzare?

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Kim • November 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I would have died if someone showed me their saran wrapped belly. I think you should hang out there more and plan Book 3.

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JenFul • November 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm

@Shannon – No, it was just totally bizarre. Her car was kind of falling apart too, so perhaps she couldn’t afford Spanx.

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Jill • November 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm

She was probably just dying to tell someone (anyone/everyone) about her quick weight loss plan (aka saran wrap on the belly). Chances are she isn’t doing anything different lifestyle wise other than sweating around her mid-section. I like your philosophy of just smile and nod instead of engaging in conversation with random strangers about diets/dietary gimmicks. I think I will adopt that philosophy too. So many people want to give me (unsolicited) advice, I think I will smile, nod and say thank you and move on from now on.

Hi Jennete, I’m new to your blog. I just finished your first book. Loved it! I can’t wait to read your second book.

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JenFul • November 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

@Jill – It’s a technique I learned after I got my chronic headache. When people give advice I just nod and smile and thank them for their concern.

I’m glad you enjoyed my book! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the second one too.

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Debbi Does Dinner Healthy • November 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Oh my, this had me chuckling. I do the same thing when someone starts talking to me, I’ll respond appropriately but thinking the same thing as you. Too funny!

Odd on the saran wrap chick. You’re totally going to be scared to go there again!! :-)

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Natalie • November 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I hate being accosted by strangers like that. I give half-smile responses (one side of the mouth quirks up a tiny bit) and avoid eye contact – or even looking at them. I guess I am just unfriendly.

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Pam • November 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm

That is plenty weird–saran wrapped her belly—and showed you? In public???
I know what you mean about trying not to encourage those talkers. We have a janitor in our building, and she likes to talk A LOT! She is not the brightest tack in the box, and she prattles on and on, with very little encouragement. She always comments on my weight loss, which is nice, then she asks me questions about it. Once she saw me outside walking while on my break, so everyday now she asks me about my walking. The other day, she said, “So did you walk yesterday.” Like a fool, I answered, “No I went to Zumba.” So then lots and lots of questions about Zumba, and she wanted to know where it was and if anybody could come, etc. OMG, now I’m worried she will show up at Zumba class.

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Miss E • November 7, 2011 at 5:01 am

Loool, this is too funny, especially Pam’s janitor!
But guess what, I TALK TO STRANGERS, all the time, everywhere…it’s very natural here in Botswana and completely socially acceptable. Actually, not responding to someone talking to you would be brow-raising. So, I suppose you guys wouldn’t survive here at all or would have to stay cooped up in your houses all the time!

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Miss E • November 7, 2011 at 5:02 am

Ha ha ha, she will show up at your Zumba class – that would be me!

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YA • November 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm

It’s a Southern thing. And, apparently, a Botswana thing, too. Occasionally you will run into cons who will try to chat you up and take advantage of you, but most people (in my experience) just like to talk. Conversations about supermarket goods and sports teams, cringe-inducing monologues about health and family problems, and completely unsolicited advice about my education and career from people who can’t see the value of anything beyond an associate’s degree from the local tech school. Good stuff. Nodding and smiling is a good start. I had more fun with this sort of exchange once I was willing to become an active participant in them, but I’ve still got to be careful when religion and politics come up, as so many people do.

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Colleen Kelly Mellor • November 10, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Ah, the Hess stations…German, no doubt. And of course, in their officious manner, they force one to pump in her zip code before she can pump the petrol into her car (I love alliteration). It’s a real bother if said person has a couple of residences or is presently sleeping on others’ couches, for then person can’t remember which zip code–“Is it the one when I lived in ….and took out the Visa card?” “Is it the second spot I live in periodically?” Geez–I avoid Hess every chance I get and you’d think their marketers would have figured this would be a colossal problem for some who just elect to ditch them…Anyway, just checked out your pasta blog and now I’m checking you out here. I am Biddy Bytes at http://www.biddybytes.com, only been blogging for little over a year, am far older than you but we may have more in common that would seem at first blush…Glad to meet you. Now come and visit me.

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

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