Opinion: 40 Trips Around the Sun

40th birthday cupcake

It seems I’m turning ‑ this month.

Boy, that went by fast.

I still remember how it felt riding my bike to the Kwik Trip with my friend to pick up a bag of milk for my mom, or an Urge pizza to throw in the oven for lunch.

I remember the Sinclair station where we took our big yellow Pacer for regular tuneups. There was an old-fashioned, glass-bottle Coca-Cola machine—the kind with the bottle opener in the door. I still remember the way that soda pop tasted. It was the coldest Coke. It was the bubbliest.

I remember the store in Janesville, Wis., off I-94. We would stop on our way to Ohio to visit Grandma and Grandpa. I remember that one because there was a toy-claw machine in there. And if there was change to spare, we’d each get a chance to try for a treasure.

I remember stopping at a Casey’s for the first time on my way to college in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. I cried in the bathroom. I remember that. The earth was just so flat. The corn was turning brown. I was already homesick.

I remember using the pay phone in the Marathon down the street from my first apartment in Chicago. Our landline hadn’t been hooked up yet and making a call on my new cellphone was more expensive than the quarter I spent to call in my pizza order. I’m sure I picked up a six-pack of something before I walked back home again. We were celebrating, after all.

I remember pulling into a Family Express in Indiana on our last family vacation as a party of four—No. 5 was only four months from making her debut. We pulled into the parking lot like the car was on fire so my oldest, who is prone to carsickness, could run to the bathroom. I walked in behind him, stopping for a decaf cappuccino (for me) and a vial of Dramamine (for him).

And just after I celebrate my birthday, I will walk into the ultimate convenience store: the NACS Show in Atlanta, where many of you are likely seeing this issue for the first time. We put this magazine together for you, as you begin this year’s new-product journey, to help guide you in your hunt for the next big thing.

Keep your eyes on the prize, but if you happen to look up and see me wandering down the aisles, wish me luck on my 40th journey around the sun.