Different Sides of Pennsylvania

I've pimped Regular Cars this space before but now we have a Regular State Review.

I've been watching RCR for some time and I generally like it, although the immature bathroom humor can occasionally piss me off when it goes too far. That being said, I, too, am from Pennsylvania, and while I liked the video, I need to rant. They're from the eastern part of the state—Reading, I believe—and while that's fine, they committed the cardinal sin of Eastern Pennsylvanians: Treating the state as if it stops at Harrisburg aside from a mention that Pittsburgh exists. They get the things that apply to the whole state right, but they treat Eastern PA stuff like it does when it doesn't.

This is clearly evident in the Sheetz vs. Wawa debate. I always assumed that we had Sheetz in Western PA and they had Wawa in Eastern PA and the whole debate was stupid because preference was clearly based on what you had access to. I was only in a Wawa once, in Delaware, and have never had their food, but my cousin tells me it's virtually indistinguishable from Sheetz. I was surprised to learn from this video that there are evidently parts of the state where they coexist, which led me to look at location maps. I found out that I was misinformed when I though Wawa was an Eastern PA thing; it's more of a New Jersey/Maryland thing. The only stores in Pennsylvania are in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. This is also the only part of the state where there are no Sheetz stores. So the only people who would be intimately familiar with both are those who live within an hour or so of Philly, which is a lot of people, but it certainly isn't representative of most of the state.

Here in Western Pennsylvania, Sheetz's main competitor is GetGo, which is a subsidiary of Giant Eagle grocery stores and is only available in the PA/OH/WV tri-state. These stores are almost always preferable to Sheetz. It's not that Sheetz is bad, but a few years back they started charging extra for cheese on a sandwich. Now it seems like half their toppings cost extra, and they don't have roast beef anymore. Their advertising also panders to the kind of people who are illogically loyal to a gas station. I am assured that their trucks are all designed by "dedicated Sheetz freaks", and that "Sheetz run" should be in the dictionary. If you leave your house to go to Sheetz specifically you have a problem; places like that are for when you're on the road and need a quick snack, or you don't have time to get gas AND go to a restaurant. They're also goo when you leave the bar at 2am and there's nothing else open. Sheetz also tries to promote the most unhealthy, disgusting options on the menu. I order a burrito or something and it asks "WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD TOTZ?" as if this were something I would even consider. Mozzarella sticks on a hamburger indeed.

He alludes to fire hall weddings and the Chicken Dance but misses an opportunity to rep the western part of the state with the Hunky Wedding. These are wedding receptions that are invariably preceded by a Catholic Mass where Mr. and Mrs. Larry Deldino coridally invite you to celebrate the marriage of their daughter Lisa to Brian Schlydecki, son of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Schlydecki. Dinner is the "Three Sisters" of fried chicken, rigatoni, and pig-in-the blankets. All the aunts will make cookies and provide take-home bags (I didn't realize that this was a Pittsburgh thing until several years ago my mum asked the daughter of a family friend [who had grown up in North Carolina] if she wanted her to make cookies. The daughter was aghast at the notion). In addition to the Chicken Dance, I Hear Bells by the Del Vikings and at least one polka will be played.

Unfortunately, these have been on the decline since around 2010, with everyone now wanting one of these super-expensive storybook weddings that take place in dedicated venues with plated meals. These are less work but cost a lot more money; when my cousin got married 10 or so years ago and had a fire hall reception the venue fee included bartenders, but you provided your own booze. This is significantly cheaper as you can get whatever you want and keep or return what you don't use. The big venues charge, in my brother's case (2013) $18/per person for well liquor. We had to smuggle in a bottle of Canadian Club to toast my late grandfather (the Grandpap shot, as we call it) because actually paying for it would have broken the bank. You also have to handle your own catering at afire hall which is another complication. And you have to decorate the hall yourself, but that's part of the fun. I miss these things because they were obviously remnants from a time when people had no money and relied on help from extended family to do everything. It feels weird spending the night before the wedding at a rehearsal dinner at a nice restaurant and not having to leave early to get the hall ready or pick up the booze before the state store closes.

For some other minutia, talking about specific dairies is pointless because there's practically one in every county. In Pittsburgh we have Schneider's, Turner's and Fike's, but I'm sure there are dozens more throughout the state, and I doubt this phonomenon is limited to Pennsylvania. And he mentions Snyder of Hanover but not Utz's western version, Snyder of Berlin.

I could ramble on further about the state and everything he missed that he should've included, and maybe I will in the future, but for now I just want to expand on his comment that Pittsburgh was full of hipsters; he's not wrong, but I'm interested in how this whole phenomenon started. I should know because I was living in the city and hanging out in all the hip places right around the time the whole hipster thing got started in the mid-late 2000s, but it isn't the kind of thing that you notice while you're in the middle of it. At the very least I assumed Pittsburgh's population wasn't any different from any other city. Plus now that most places have banned smoking and most kids aren't music snobs I don't know how a hipster culture really survives the way it used to.