For all of your immediate needs, simply pull over

Note: This column appears in the 1/7 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/8 issue of the Peoria Times

I’ve always been fascinated with the opportunity to purchase something on the side of the road.

Most often, these opportunities involve food. Even back east you could occasionally spot someone selling tomatoes or something on the side of the road. This was pleasant, because it harkened back to a simpler time when, if you wanted to eat, you needed to drive your car aimlessly for miles until you spotted a makeshift sign alerting you that watermelons are available for purchase. Not that I ever stopped, but still. It was pleasant.

For me, one of the first indications that I was actually in Arizona occurred when I was afforded the opportunity to, while driving, pull over and buy some jerky. Any kind of jerky, according to the sign. Beef jerky, deer jerky, buffalo jerky -– pretty much any animal that could be transformed into an edible stick. Now, I wouldn’t eat a piece of jerky if my life depended on it, but I imagine that side-of-the-road jerky is much fresher and more –- dare I say, organic? –- than pre-packaged, store-bought jerky. So that was nice.

Less pleasing and more perplexing however is the opportunity to purchase non-food-related items off the side of the road. For example, back in like 2002, while I was leaving the Bronx and waiting in traffic on the exit ramp for the George Washington Bridge, I was presented the opportunity to buy a phone. Not a cell phone, but a phone for the house. And it was not a sign alerting me to this once-in-a-lifetime deal, but a guy who was holding a garbage bag full of phones and aggressively approaching my vehicle. Because of course, if I had been in the market for a landline at that particular time, I would have certainly purchased one right then and there.

I thought of that time last week when, while driving on 83rd Avenue northbound towards Happy Valley Road, I noticed a big sale taking place on the side of the road. The sale involved one item and one item only, and it was not something to be consumed. The sale was for: cat condos.

For those unaware (I did not know myself at the time) a cat condo is an oddly shaped, carpeted thing that your cat can like, go on, or something. It’s a condo! For cats. It seamlessly fits into any home décor. And on that day, if I read the sign correctly, you could purchase as many as ten (10) cat condos for the low price of $130.00.

When I got home, I quickly relayed what I had witnessed to my wife, and I marveled at the utter randomness of it all. Where did that person get so many cat condos? And why sell them on the side of the road? What’s wrong with eBay? And who would spontaneously purchase such an item?

Amazingly, just hours later I found myself in Petsmart because we had to drop our dog off there. As I was walking out, I noticed a guy approaching the register and holding under his arm, yes, a cat condo. Incredulous, I was tempted to tug on his sleeve, and be like, “Dude, they’re selling those things for cheap down the road.” But I was too embarrassed.

Apparently, side-of-the-road vendors are more tapped into the market than I imagined. And thus, I am the jerky.

For the cat who has everything. Except a condominium.