I had this job interview where I was asked about the things that I do when I am stressed. Like, you know, how I unwind.
I don’t know if I sold myself with this answer but here it goes:
It depends where stress gets me. I live in three places: Naga City, Olongapo City and Manila. If I’m in Naga City, I wakeboard. An hour of wakeboarding is enough to recharge me. If I’m in Olongapo, I usually volunteer to drive. Driving long distances clear my mind. In Iloilo, where I used to live, I drive at night when everybody else is asleep and park under a clear sky and stare at stars. But driving, it soothes my nerves somewhat. If I’m in Manila, in Makati specifically, I run around the village for at least an hour. Running, like wakeboarding, releases endorphins. Also like wakeboarding, you get to do it with hot people (especially when you know that the Azkals office is your neighbor).
But I never told the interviewer my favorite places, lest the conversation would get too far. I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me, when things get a little strained, I retreat to some of my favorite spots on Earth. There are five so far, but two of them happen to be gas stations.
Gas stations, why do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
One: because gas stations are basically terminals. There is no permanence. Everyone goes and there is a feeling of being rushed, like an airport. You can basically sense a trace of adrenaline in the air. On the other hand, when you’re not the one being rushed, you can relax in a gas station, watching it all happen. I know I do. Which brings us to…
Two: Stories. Stories happen in gas stations. I get a kick watching people and making stories in my head. You know what, the best conversations happen in my mind and they take place between strangers that I get to watch in public places. I sit in a very open place, but discreet at the same time. You can see everything and stories just unravel in front of you.
The Caltex station in Molo, Iloilo City was my favorite gas station in the said city. I know the baristas there. I like watching posers pretend that the gas station café was something like Starbucks (or some fancy-shmancy overpriced café). The gas station café is better, at least it’s not pretentious. I remember watching two Greek men fighting in that place. Of course, I don’t understand them (but I know they’re Greek) but I’d like to think that I witnessed a screwed drug deal for dramatic effect.
In Manila, the Shell Station in Magallanes takes the cake. Not only it’s big, but it’s really near my aunt’s place so that makes it very convenient. Famous people buy their newspapers there too (I don’t understand that part either), like Dingdong and Marian. The routine is this: I run around, and then eat dinner/people-watch at the gas station. What makes the place cooler is that no one cares about you. I can totally vanish.
What’s remarkable is that, whenever I’m stressed, I don’t tend to look for others’ direct presence. Watching others is good for me. And it’s free.