Eric D. Snider

The Circle K of Life

Snide Remarks #650

"The Circle K of Life"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on November 29, 2011

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We Sniders love Christmas because we Sniders love tradition. We love gift-giving and gift-receiving and "Away in a Manger," too, but it's the season's traditions that capture our hearts the most. If we Sniders do something a certain way one time, we prefer to do it the same way again the next time. We Sniders are probably mildly autistic.

One year when we were children, my three brothers and I wanted to stay up all night on Christmas Eve, presumably so we could prove or disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Our parents wouldn't have allowed this, of course, so we schemed in secret, planning how we would occupy our time and keep ourselves awake. The only specific detail I remember is that we knew we would need snacks. So on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the four of us walked to the Circle K a half-mile from our house to buy junk food, the centerpiece of which was a box of Hostess donuts. Not the little "donettes," either, but the big ones. We were serious.

This was the early 1980s, and we lived in a fairly small town with no more than the average number of child predators, so we were allowed to roam freely and were thus able to execute the Circle K mission without detection. When we returned, we kept the donuts hidden, lest our parents see them, put two and two together, and realize we were planning to stay up all night. Why else would you have Hostess donuts -- and not the little ones but the big ones -- on Christmas Eve?? Our parents were no dummies.

That night we went to our room to "go to bed" (wink wink), retrieved the donuts from their hiding place, ate them, and promptly fell asleep. I doubt we were awake any later than we usually were.

Now, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. Many years later, when we were all in our twenties, my brothers and I recalled this incident and decided that since we'd done it that one time, that meant it was a tradition. We hadn't observed the custom for many years, but now we would reintroduce it by walking to Circle K on Christmas Eve, buying donuts, eating them, and going to sleep at more or less the regular time. Our parents still lived in our childhood home, the Circle K was still there, and they still sold Hostess donuts -- indeed, some of the same boxes were probably still on the shelf -- so there was nothing stopping us from celebrating our newly revived holiday tradition. The only significant modification we made was that we didn't have to keep it a secret from our parents anymore, because we were grown men.

We skipped merrily to Circle K that Christmas Eve, as grown men do: reminiscing about childhood; pointing out the house where So-and-So used to live or where Such-and-Such happened; fondly recalling events from our youth and making fun of the individuals involved -- our customary activities. We bought snacks and ate them as we walked back home. And a merry Christmas was had by all!

A couple years later, in 2001, our parents sold our childhood home and moved to the other side of town, the side with fewer meth labs. It was much too far to walk to Circle K from this new house. Mom pointed out that there was a Circle K down the street from the new house, and suggested we walk to that one. We responded to this heretical notion with derision and scorn. Sure, Mom, we'll walk to A DIFFERENT Circle K for Christmas Eve! And then we'll hang our pantyhose by the thermostat and wait for Gandalf to come fill them with pudding! COME ON, MOM.

No, the obvious solution was to drive to the old house, park the car, walk to Circle K, walk back, and return to the new house. I'm pretty sure we all thought of that immediately and didn't consider anything else. We were lucky our parents had moved only a few miles away, making it an easy trip, as it was unclear how far we'd have been willing to drive for the sake of tradition.

So for the last ten years, we've driven to the old neighborhood to make the Circle K trip. Those of us who live out of state make sure we're in town by noon on Christmas Eve at the latest. If someone isn't coming home for Christmas at all, as has happened a few times, we go without that person and say the things that he would normally say. Our two sisters, who were not yet born on that fateful Christmas Eve so long ago, are not allowed to join us. They claim they don't want to go with us on our stupid Circle K trip anyway, but we know that they are jealous.

When my brother Jeff got married in 2003, there was briefly some talk of his wife joining us on these excursions. Looking back, I don't know why we even entertained the idea. Probably out of consideration for Jeff's feelings, I guess, although that doesn't sound like us either. The four of us finally put it to a vote, but we wanted it to be a secret ballot so no one would feel bad for voting against our new sister-in-law, so we stood in a circle and closed our eyes and gave a thumbs-up or thumbs-down -- but with our eyes closed we didn't know what the vote was, and it wouldn't be fair for only one person to know who voted yea or nay, so we agreed we could all open our eyes for a split-second and then close them again. I don't remember the final score, but the result was that the Circle K trip is officially ONLY for Eric, Chris, Jeff, and Lane Snider, always, forever, no additions. The only way we would revisit the issue is if we discovered a long-lost biological brother, and our parents have assured us that no such person exists.


Last week we received shocking news: Our Circle K has closed. We were prepared for the possibility that it might change names at some point (this would have been acceptable), but not that it might shut down completely. We're not sure what to do now. We can still drive to the old house and walk to the old Circle K, but we won't be able to buy snacks there, and snacks are a crucial component of the tradition. One option is to walk to Circle K, then keep walking another couple blocks to another convenience store and buy snacks there. This means a little more walking, but it's only once a year.

Another option -- the one I favor -- is to have one of our sisters buy snacks somewhere else and meet us at the boarded-up Circle K so we can buy them from her. This transaction would have to be conducted in the parking lot, of course. We wouldn't break into the building and have our sister stand behind the counter and pretend to sell us junk food, just for the sake of tradition. That would be childish.


A Year of Snide Remarks was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. This week's column was sponsored by Laremy Legel and his dog Bugsy (pictured). Sponsor had no editorial control over the column, and the author alone is responsible for its content.


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There is some debate over whether our youngest brother, Lane, actually accompanied us that first time. He says he remembers going, but some of us think he'd have been too young. We don't remember exactly what year it was, and Mom, who remembers everything, can't help because she didn't know about it at the time. That's why you should always tell your mom what's going on, if only for purposes of record-keeping.

Anyway, now everyone in the family is going to post comments telling you which details they think I got wrong.

Chris, the only one of us who still lives in the area, gets credit for the photo of the boarded-up Circle K, and for breaking the story in the first place. He will win a Pulitzer.

This item has 34 comments

  1. Jacob Hall says:

    The real Christmas miracle are these columns.

  2. Momma Snider says:

    Ha ha! I love reading about us. I love us!

  3. corned_beef says:

    pantyhose/Gandalf XD

  4. Jeff J. Snider says:

    The vote was unanimous. We all voted that Beth couldn't come. And from the other room, Beth was yelling, "Please vote NO, because I'm not coming anyway!"

    The only detail I quibble on is the eating of the donuts on that first occasion. The way I remember it, we each separately secretly raided the donut stash (hidden behind the garden hose in the front yard), so that by the time nightfall came, there were no donuts left.

    And I also question the no additions thing, because my four-year-old son is already looking forward to when he is old enough to come with us. Maybe Chris will be dead by then, which would loosen up a lot of our traditional strictness.

  5. Sean says:

    I've been thinking that the "sponsored" SRs have tended to not be as funny, perhaps because they are less spontaneous. But this one has carried the others on its back, making the corpus opus of sponnsored Snide Remarks excellent in the whole.

  6. Sean says:


  7. Andrew says:

    The columns about your family are always my favorite. Thanks, as always, for the laughs.

  8. Aaron Johnston says:

    The titles to your columns are as brilliant as the columns themselves. Circle K of Life. Genius.

  9. Charles Norris says:

    Your description of how you like to observe traditions dovetails precisely with how my mildly autistic son likes to do things. Therefore, you are probably correct. ;-) Side note: Eric, you have been writing reviews and columns for over ten years. I would say that you probably have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

    Love hearing about your family. It reminds me of Bill Cosby style humor. It's funny, not just because it's true, but because we all do roughly the same things and we remember people are not so very different.

  10. Eric's Brother Chris says:

    I remember hiding the donuts behind the hose, but I don't remember us all raiding them in secret. I thought we busted them out when the time came, ate them, then fell asleep.

    On the bright side, it looks like they are turning Circle K into something else already, so maybe next year we can still buy something from inside the same building.

    I'm in favor of passing down the tradition to Logan or any other sons (no chicks allowed), but he has to go without pants the whole way.

  11. Dave says:

    What a cool peek into the lives of the Sniders!

    My wife is going to love this article, her family always has fun weird traditions like this.

  12. FHL says:

    I had a summer tradition that involved walking to the local convenience store (Majic Mart) and stocking up on candy from my allowance money. It seems like I would always get Big League Chew (Grape) - the stringy bubble gum that was supposed to mimic a pouch of chewing tobacco. Ah, fun times.

  13. Euphrasie says:

    If I were your sister, I would agree to buy the snacks and meet you in the parking lot...where I would charge you at least four times what I paid for them. Which would be in keeping with the spirit of Circle K. Merry Christmas!

  14. Momma Snider says:

    I keep trying to think of something fun that the girls (myself and two daughters and two daughters-in-law)can do while the boys make their trek, but since there will also be four small children involved, I suspect our "together time" will have less to do with donuts and more to do with rice cereal and Captain Crunch. And that's okay, as long as we're together!

  15. Unnamed Source says:

    In lieu of Circle K, you could walk down the street to the Latino market where the Alamo used to be and get Mexican-style donuts.

  16. Rob D. says:

    This has the sound of a good plot for Paranormal Activity 4. Toby Snider is the long-lost brother. He feels neglected and horrible he has not been a part of this tradition. You better give him a thumbs up but I would make sure you keep your eyes open..........

  17. Momma Snider says:

    Unnamed Source is eerily aware of your thought processes.

  18. Auntie Beth says:

    I used to stop at Circle K on my way to jr. high. I'd buy candy and share it with Lance Kerwin and Denny Martinez in the back row of Spanish class. I had to bribe people to be my friends...

  19. Brian O. says:

    I'm just glad that Circle K's are still around. There were some nasty rumors a few years ago about them being bought out by that "new" upstart 7-11. Sacrilege!

  20. Briana Dix Johnson says:

    Love the Snider family! Can just picture all of you, Lane of course in his white t-shirt and jeans, walking to the Circle K, {which I drive by twice a week on the way to my son's preschool btw.} Thanks for sharing this Eric! I'm voting for the buying from your sisters option. I'm sure they'd cut you a deal:)

  21. Andy says:

    Appropriately enough, as I was reading this, my 2-year old was nearby watching Cars, and it was the scene with the James Taylor song where we see flashbacks of the town in its former days. Made this column feel a lot more melancholy.

    It also reminded me of when I was 11 and my brother and I stole some of my mom's bicentennial quarters and snuck to the Circle K and bought Bazooka gum with them. I feel bad; I bet those quarters are worth 25 cents each by now...

  22. JeremyB says:

    One Christmas Eve when I was ten my brothers wrapped me in a refrigerator box and pushed me out under the tree so I could spy on Santa. Unfortunately, we didn't put any holes in the box so I had to jump out before I passed out and never saw Santa. I'm 36 now. Maybe I'll try it again...

  23. Eric's Sister Joy says:

    I like columns about the family, but I like them even more when I'm mentioned by name. Just for that, I'm bringing you crumb donuts.

  24. hkgrobinson says:

    Pantyhose/Gandalf/Pudding--Genius! Oh, how I long for a family tradition involving a Circle K, but I have four sons who have probably already invented some silly, secret tradition that I will first hear about in 2021.

  25. hulagirl says:

    love the column and the comments. especially #2

  26. Lisa Clark says:

    I love your history with the chocolate donut. I love that WE have a history with specific chocolate donuts. "Circle K of Life?!" Genius. More posts about your family!!!

  27. Danae says:

    My parents used to make an "obstacle course" (pans tied to doorknobs, rope zig-zagged across the staris, etc.) to keep us from the tree during the night on Christmas Eve, so I remember one year hoarding supplies to bust through them-- candles (why not flashlights? I don't know.) and pocket knives and whatnot. No way THAT could have gone wrong...

  28. richrich says:

    Your town sounds like "hobo with a shotgun ville" what with meth labs and lurking perverts-so logically the donuts would taste extra yummy. merry xmas!

  29. jamie says:

    This was a great column. I used to live near Lake Elsinore so the meth lab comment was pretty funny to me.

  30. SDR says:

    Andy: Are you Momma Snider's Andy? If so, when did you learn to type?

    Regardless, I doubt those quarters are worth 25 cents by now. As a dog, you might not be aware, but this economy stinks!

  31. Momma Snider says:

    Scotty, dear, you know my Andy doesn't have a two-year-old.

  32. Becky B says:

    Hooray for this posts and hooray for the Snider crew. Oh, and hooray for donuts. Hooray for Hollywood.

  33. Andy says:

    SDR, I was once human, but found a ring that said "In canis corpore transmuto" on it. When I read it aloud, I turned into a dog; ever since then, I've been switching from one form to the other, usually at really inconvenient times, like when I'm at the dance at the country club.

    Seriously, I think the closest I come to being related to the Snider family is that Eric and I share a birthday (but one year apart), and that I love Hostess snacks.

  34. urban jealousy says:

    This story reminds me of something Ron Swanson would not only do, but also highly approve of.

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