by John W. Herbert
Interstate 90 winds eastward from Seattle like a snake through scrub grass. It winds, it twists, it turns, and it never seems to get anywhere.
Through Montana, I-90 passes through some of the most desolate land in the Excited States. It seems that you can go for hours without seeing anything denoting "civilization," save for the road ahead of you, and the cars of your fellow travellers.
It was a hot, muggy day in the Montana desert, and my wife, Monica, and I were both very thirsty. We pulled into a roadside Rest Area. (Always pull into the Rest Areas in Montana; you may die of thirst before the next one.) We hoped for nothing more than a water fountain; instead we discovered Nirvana: two pop machines, each filled with ice, cold pop.
As I got out of the car and fished in my pocket for change, I noticed the crowd formed around one of the machines. One fellow at the machine already had a dozen cans or so, and seemed intent on adding to his total. Then I noticed something a mite peculiar; he wasn't putting any money in the machine. All he did was press his selection; his pop would come out, and the machine would spit some coins for change, too.
I dutifly awaited my turn and the machine gave me two cans and forty-five cents. Meanwhile, someone was shouting to all the weary travellers in the Rest Area, "FREE SODAS!"
I returned to Monica, gave her a pop, and explained the situation. "They sure know how to treat visitors down here," she said, "free pop and free money."
"Sure do," I said, raising my free can of Coke for a toast. "God bless America."
Originally published in Under the Ozone Hole Number One – August, 1992