The Adventures of a Mystery Shopper: Gunfight at the Travel Center

A herd of foreign tourists milled around at an increasingly frantic pace, all straining to look out the windows of the travel center. It wasn’t like that only a few minutes before when I wandered to the back of the gift shop area.

A sound very much like firecrackers going off came from somewhere out in the parking lot and dozens of faces strained once more for a better look. Flashbulbs started to go off, the tourists thinking this was some American novelty for their entertainment while the employees shouted in their attempts to get them away from the windows.

This was back in the day before cell phones and a manager tried to put barriers across the doorway of the room where the pay telephones were located. The owner had just arrived and didn’t want the police involved because it would look bad for his business.

The activities in the parking lot, looking very much like the scene of an old western movie, was supposed to be GOOD for business?? I thought to myself. No one was allowed out of the building but we can’t call the cops either??

There was no way I was going to be cooped up for the day while the gunfight at the Ok-Corral was going on outside.

Taking advantage of the distractions, a lone female customer slipped off un-noticed to the phone room and soon several state police cars with lights flashing came tearing into the parking lot, reminiscent of John Wayne leading the cavalry.

When the dust settled, and we were allowed to leave the real story came to light. A couple of truck drivers had gotten into a shouting match over something and it had escalated from there. Fortunately no one got shot and the only casualty was a large truck riddled with bullet holes.

As I drove home I thought to myself “if this shop report gets rejected maybe I can sell the story to Hollywood.”

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