Camped out in the corner booth at Sheetz

As people came and went, grabbing lunch or an afternoon jolt, there I was camped out in the corner booth.

Headphones in as others nearby talked about colleagues, family or life. As jarring alarms from the kitchen sounded each time a new order came in.

The clackity-clack of my computer keyboard. The amped up music from the store.

And there I was, camped out in the corner booth. For hours on end — usually doing some kind of work. Sometimes, watching a movie or playing a game. Other times, just watching the world pass by.

That was how I spent a large chunk of my life. At Sheetz, camped out in the corner booth. Before a pandemic brought the world to a standstill.

Some had a corner coffee shop. Others, Panera or a library. For me, it was Sheetz.

Sheetz was my third place.

Ray Oldenburg coined the term “third place” — a neutral place where people can meet, gather and interact.

When I worked for a newspaper company, I spent long, countless hours in the office. Sheetz was the place I could unwind before going home.

I’ve used Sheetz for volunteer meetings, lunch meetups, post-theater show outings, midday cold brew coffee jolts, early morning cold brew coffee jolts, evening cold brew coffee jolts, late-night cold brew coffee jolts.

You get the picture.

But that all changed with the COVID-19 pandemic.

No longer did I sit for hours camped out in the corner booth.

My Sheetz trips became blips of time — orders placed on the app and quickly picked up inside at a display kiosk.

In recent weeks, Sheetz reopened the dining areas for use during daylight hours.

I don’t intend to sit down in Sheetz for awhile.

But, soon enough, when the pandemic has ended and I feel comfortable again in public and around others, you’ll find me at Sheetz, camped out in the corner booth.