Love it or hate it — there is no gray area — holiday Buc-ee’s is like if regular Buc-ee’s was injected with large doses of animal steroids: It’s louder, more pulsating and a little confused. It sees exponentially more out-of-staters than usual, who, after driving all day, are neither sure they get the joke nor whether they care to keep trying. We spent a few hours at the Fort Worth location playing fly-on-the-wall. These are the real humans of Buc-ee’s.
The Interior Decorators
Is this a gas station or is this HomeGoods? It might as well be the latter for this highly efficient duo, likely sisters, who, while tickled pink at the sheer number of inspirational wooden signs and giant mosaic wall elves they’re about to score, are all business with their methodical selection process. If one points out an item and the other doesn’t express immediate approval, it’s discarded and they move on. A neon painting of a cow is carted, and then they make an abrupt detour over to ornaments. Controversy briefly arises over a ceramic frog cloaked in Christmas lights, but eventually they agree that it just isn’t them.
The Kolache Connoisseurs
Frank and Patsy are retired teachers who live in a small town 50 miles outside San Antonio. Each of their parents was born to Czech immigrants, so they grew up eating a lot of kolaches, lucky them. As such, they take their kolaches seriously. “They’re just so easy to mess up,” Patsy says. “So easy,” Frank echoes, completing her sentence. Today, they’re sampling some of the dozen or so offerings at Buc-ee’s because their daughter told them theirs are almost as good as the kolaches in Fredericksburg. When they get around to the jalapeño cheddar, there’s a pause. They look at each other but say nothing, and Patsy orders a half dozen to go.
The Child Who’s Crying Because She Thought There Would Be Rides
“But you said it was like Disneyland. Yes, I took that to mean literally, like Disneyland. No, a beaver backpack would not make me feel better. Actually, I kind of hate you.”
The Out-of-Towner Who Just Doesn’t Get It
The 30-something’s facial expression gives him away immediately. It’s a hybrid of bemusement, incredulity and out-of-state residency. He picks up a jar of five-alarm peach molasses salsa and guffaws. “God, what type of backwoods savages buy this low-rent kitsch?” he appears to ask himself internally. What was cynicism escalates into outright contempt when, in the T-shirt section, he sees the one with the beaver proclaiming “My Overbite Is Sexy!” Deciding he can no longer even, the tolerant, college-educated man leaves and walks out to his rental car, which is probably a Prius.
The Excited First-Timer
Like the out-of-towner, this guy’s facial expression also gives him away, but he’s in a much more heightened emotional state. He cavorts around the store like Fred Rogers, clutching a basket that runneth over with sausage, coffee mugs, bumper stickers and miscellaneous beaver paraphernalia. His selfies are plentiful and feature unconventional backdrops: the giant wall of soda dispensers; the sign for the men’s restroom. His joviality is contagious and lasts precisely until your ascent back onto Interstate 35W.
The canine population is split equally between elderly golden retrievers posing reluctantly for pictures next to the bronze beaver statue outside, and Yorkies that are wearing Christmas sweaters and riding in strollers.
The Adult Buying Six Tie-Dyed Beaver T-Shirts
On one hand, you never know when you’re going to need one. On the other hand, that’s a lot of tie-dyed beaver T-shirts.
Two middle-aged nuns stand in line at the register clutching industrial-sized containers of beef jerky and potato salad. One is easily 6 feet tall and throws her head back when she laughs, which is nearly constantly. They say they’re on their way back to Oklahoma City but have been in Fort Worth visiting a friend who used to be a nun. One of them, the shorter one, says she’s never been inside a Buc-ee’s before but has always heard their beef jerky is delicious. Smirking, the tall one says, “Hope it’s not habit forming.”