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The grit, grime, and not so dazzling lights of gas stations - Curt Yeomans

Picture it.

It's morning, around 10 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007.

I was at a gas station, pumping gas in my truck and it finally filled up.

The total was $34.73, so I squeezed the handle a little more, so I could round off to the nearest dollar. I got it up to $34.95.

Then I squeezed it just a little bit at a time. Every time I squeezed it, the total went up by one cent.

Finally I got to $34.99, just one cent away from my goal. I squeezed the handle gently, and then the pump decided to pull a fast one on me -- $35.01.

With me being on vacation this week, and likely hitting a casino or two, I made a realization that morning.

Gas pumps are like quarter slots in a gambling hall. You squeeze a handle, make the images in little boxes change rapidly, and where it lands is anyone's guess.

Watching the numbers in the price screens are like watching the pictures of fruit on a slot machine.

The two "0"s in the cents area are the cherries, and the dollar part is the "Bonus."

Watching the cents screen is a matter of saying to yourself banana, orange, pineapple.

Sometimes you're lucky and you get a double cherry.

JACKPOT!

Unfortunately, gas pumps are also like slot machines in the aspect that being able to get an even dollar is very rare.

In some ways, gas station culture is similar to the scene you'd find in a casino. While I was pumping gas on Oct. 4, I read a sign that was hanging over my pump. It showed a picture of the nozzle from a pump, and included the words "It's like drinking wine, only nastier."

Well that almost describes a meal that I once had at a gourmet restaurant at a casino in Biloxi, Miss. It was like eating real food, only nastier.

Since when is the buffet line supposed to have better food than the white tablecloth-waiters in a tuxedo-shirt-restaurant? Come to think of it, the food at that restaurant kinda tasted like Spam.

But you also have to consider the fact that some gas stations have what could be considered mini-buffets next to the cash register. You can get hot dogs, burritos, enchiladas, pepperoni-and-cheese-filled breadsticks at the gas station. Some even sell eggs, sausage and pancake sandwiches in the morning. All of these items are even kept under a hot light to keep them warm for you.

And they still taste better than the food I had at that restaurant.

There are other ways in which a gas station and a casino are similar. I've seen video poker machines in some convenience stores/ gas stations.

'Nuff said.

These are all signs that everything you can do at a casino, you can also do at a gas station. Well, except the showgirls and Wayne Newton performances.

On the other hand, there are some things I can do at a gas station that I can't do at a casino. I can't get a plastic cup filled with donut holes, or a neon green cowboy hat, or Ramen noodles, at a casino. They can be obtained at the local gas station, though.

So, in closing, here is my suggestion. We should start building casinos that have Kwik-E-Marts attached to the side. I'm going to write a letter to the owners of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, when I get back, and pitch the idea to them.

Seeing as how they are both similar, and different, at the same time, it should be a natural progression of America's gambling culture.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.