Our theme for the month of March is “cities.”

My best friend in middle school used to call herself “Klim.” It’s “milk” backwards, and the reasons became slightly more obvious once you watched her one-shot a pint of the stuff from one of those neon plastic glasses that seem to spontaneously germinate in Midwest cabinets. She lived about a mile from Speedway 5500, on the corner of James and Butternut. We’d ride our bikes there every time I slept over and trade pocket money (mine from my allowance, hers her paper route) for single Little Debbie cakes andthis is the important partforty-four ounce styrofoam jugs of frozen chemical slurry.

Klim mixed and matched flavors depending on her moods, which played merrily across the full gamut of pre-pubescent hedonism. I, proving repeatedly to be the lame member of the duo, always got the same thing: a plain Coke slushie, unless the machine was broken, which it often was, in which case we walked to Speedway 3559, an embarrassing sort of redundancy located only two blocks further down Butternut.

On one such occasion, the sagging woman behind the counter (who either cared too much for our financial wellbeing or too little for our health) talked us into joining their rewards program, and so I was the proud owner of a Speedy Rewards keychain tag four years before being allowed to touch a set of car keys.

There was not a Speedway within a mile of my parents’ house, and this is one of the reasons why I always stayed over at Klim’s place instead of the other way around. Also, I liked her dog and I was embarrassed that my house was so much bigger than hers.

By 2014, I was an upperclassmen at the local Christian high school and reasonably sure the fact that I sang along to all of “Little Lion Man,” including the lyric about how “I really fucked it up this time,” made me pretty cool. My friendship with Klim had faded naturally and unremarkably in that void between middle and high school. When we saw each other now, it was in the scene shop next to the auditorium, where she and her team painted the sets that I and the rest of the set crew screwed together after school.

By this point, I had a set of keys to go with my rewards keychain and the set crew had, in a remarkable display of teenage efficiency, decided it was best if I went on our weekly slushie run by myself. So I didmemorizing a dozen people’s slushie orders and unselfconsciously loading up three drink carriers with whatever cups are called once they hit the thirty-two ounce mark. It took two trips to get them out to my car and two more to bring them into the school building. Introducing slushies to the two Chinese exchange students who were on set was either the best or worst thing I’ve ever done for Sino-American diplomatic relations.

I moved to Calvin that fall and choose my route back to my hometown based partially on the fact that it passed Speedway 8887, which at the time had the best slushies of any Speedway before or since (by which I mean that the machine was calibrated incorrectly and could be depended on to always dispense frozen drinks that were thicker than any other location). I stopped at Speedway 2285 on the way home from my job at the museum. When I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior years working nights at a furniture factory, my coworkers and I would poke holes in cleaning clothes and drape them over the clear dome lids to stop rubber shavings and sawdust from drifting into the slushies we’d bought at Speedway 1810 during the last fifteen minutes of our lunch breaks. The first time I went into a non-grocery store in the middle months of COVID-19 was to get a slushie from store 8707.

I’ve never lived in a city with fewer than five Speedways, depending on how you count. I’m sure there’s some comment there about commercialization and local brand dominance and corporate mergers, maybe even something about how weird it is that Speedway thinks I want to watch an inane YouTube video on a gas station pump or the absolute Americanness of the fact that my most effective comfort food is 240 calories worth of high fructose corn syrup that can only be found in the stickiest section of the world’s stickiest retail environment.

Practically speaking, those hundreds of slushies have translated into 24,548 Speedy Rewards points. That’s enough to get a $20 gift card to the Nintendo eStore or 19.6 bags of “tube nuts,” which, being both charitable and honest, seems about right for fifteen years of loyalty.


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Daniel Case (CC BY-SA 3.0 PL)

1 Comment

  1. Laura Sheppard Song

    You are such a master at this rich and thoughtful humor writing. I love this piece 🙂


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