Thursday, June 17, 2010

Road Trip

Please enjoy our restrooms whether you buy anything here or not. We want you to enjoy your drive through our beautiful scenery.
- A sign outside a small gas station near Poncha Springs, CO.

I just returned from a week long road trip with my 83-year-old mother and 50+ sister. We went first to Durango, CO where I was born in 1953, then went on to Santa Fe and Taos, NM.

Bathrooms are very important on road trips, particularly when we are trying to stay hydrated in the dry air. Of course everyone uses the bathroom when we fill up the gas tank, but the tank lasts longer than any of our bladders. I saw this sign and I thought, “What a wonderful commons approach to an asset this gas station owns.” So different from the much more common, “Bathrooms are for customers only.” I don’t generally think positively about gas stations, so the thought stayed with me.

Our trip included lots of national parks and forests, land trusts, historic hotels, trains, churches and monuments, all of which have interesting stories of individuals and communities coming together to protect and preserve, and sometimes, restore them, and then make them available to the general public as national treasures. Anyone who has spent time in the Southwest has to be aware of the role of the commons in protecting large areas of it, and the role of privatization in the colonial and imperial history of Spanish, then American conquest.

But of all the history, culture and beauty we experienced, my thoughts linger most fondly with this gas station. I am struck by the idea that a commons frame or a commons way of living is about hospitality and sharing. I want to spend some time thinking about how I might bring this spirit of commons to all that I own. A gas station is an odd place to find a commons and proof that commons can be anywhere.

1 comment:

Frances said...

So different than the one I once used on my way to Vermont where the sign told me I basically had to make a contribution if I wasn't going to buy anything. I felt sympathetic because I know it is hard on small businesses to stay afloat. But I never stopped there again.