Thursday, March 13, 2014

A tale of breakfast sandwiches, clean bathrooms, and maybe beach trips.

Many years ago my friend Mike was staying with me in Baltimore for a few weeks.  One Sunday afternoon that spring, we were terribly bored, because of course nothing is open on Sunday and we'd seen all the movies that interested us in the least, and it was too indecently early to start drinking.  As you know, this is not something that usually bothers me, but it bothers Mike, who is much more respectable than I am.  So, instead of just beelining for the pub, we snagged our friend Steve and went to Harrisburg.

Because, of course, all normal people go to Harrisburg.

The capital city of Das Pennsilvanienreich is an anomaly indeed.  It is a product of that weird movement in the early days of the nation that decreed state capitals must be centrally located.  It amazes me how far off they usually ended up being.  I think half the point was to shrug off colonial remnants by relegating the colonial capital cities to the back burner, but often what happened was that the state would end up with a small capital city in the middle of nowhere and the colonial capital wouldn't be the capital but would go right on being the most important city in the state.  This is precisely what happened in Pennsylvania.  As far as I can tell, Harrisburg pretty much exists purely to be the capital.

While it doesn't boast much in the way of amenities--except for an absolutely stunning, monumental State Capitol building that only the Teddy Roosevelt era could have produced--it does have a beautiful site along the Susquehanna.  (On another note I have a copy of sheet music for "On the Dreamy Susquehanna" which always just makes me think of traffic crossing the bridges at Harrisburg.)  It was there that I horrified Mike and Steve by, while walking along the riverbank, gesticulating wildly and shrieking "Wawa!!!!

To most people, "Wawa" means "convenience store." It meant this only in Pennsylvania until fairly recently, when the Wawa chain extended into Maryland and Virginia and, I'm assuming, other places that I find insignificant.  When they first expanded into Maryland their first major store was on the road to the Bay Bridge.

If you live in Baltimore or Washington, the Bay Bridge means "vacation," so anything you associate with the Bay Bridge is usually a good thing.  The Wawa on Route 50 is one of those things.  It was the first establishment of any kind on that stretch of road with anything resembling clean bathrooms.  It has a vast array of delicious and totally addictive snack food and, naturally, cigarettes.  In other words, beside a bar, it has everything I could possibly need.

It became a tradition with people in my group: head to the beach, stop at the Sacred Wawa of Route 50.  One time my friend Amy and I walked out of that place (having peed, which is always nominally the reason to stop) with six donuts, a pack of smokes, two milkshakes, a thing full of cubed cheese and pepperoni, four different breakfast sandwiches and a Twix bar.

The small problem, in my mind, was the ridiculous name.  I mean, Wawa?  Here I'd been picking on New Jersey for having town names like "Ho-Ho-Kus" (well, it IS pretty damn dumb-sounding) but I was happily buying my Twix from Wawa.  This was in the pre-wikipedia days and it took me a bit of research, but the net paid off and I learned what Wawa is.

It's a damn goose.

Now, you'd think I'd have known this for a couple of different reasons.  First, there is a goose on the sign.  Put two and two together, Gibbs.  Wawa means goose.

Also remember how I'm an English teacher?  That is why I should know Wawa, take two--because it's in the introduction of Song of Hiawatha. Admittedly I hadn't read that for some time but one of my students was looking it over today.  Here it is:

 "All the wild-fowl sang them to him,
In the moorlands and the fen-lands,
In the melancholy marshes;
Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,
Mahng, the loon, the wild-goose, Wawa,
The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
And the grouse, the Mushkodasa!"


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks! Now, go get a drink, sit down and enjoy the show.