Travel guide job is a study in human nature

By Steve Moseley
(exclusively for

This new travel guide gig is evolving into, among other things, a fascinating peek into the wide variety of characteristics and values – or the lack of both – we humans exhibit.
I’ve been working the westbound I-80 rest area’s travel information kiosk a couple days a week since mid-May and will continue helping to keep it open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week until the other three staffers and I lock it down for the season on September 10.
Folks wander in from all over planet earth: Jerusalem, Sri Lanka, several countries of South America, Australia, Canada, Poland, India and too many more than a 73-year-old (74 next month) memory has capacity to retain. Folks who do not speak like us, worship like us, dress like us, are the same color and us or think like us. In short it has been a wonderful experience.
I enjoy engaging with them and hearing their stories immensely.
I have found, by and large, people are good, honest, friendly and respectful. Except when they’re not.
I arrived at work early one Monday morning to discover this discouraging mess near where I park my pickup in the shade. Obviously, several folks stopped at this picnic shelter dotting the rest area’s grassy park, ate, drank, threw crap all over the place and departed, leaving these four plastic bottles, wrappers and miscellaneous other debris lying where you see it in the photo.
It would be sad enough if this was a rare example of sleazy human visits, but it is not. The wonderful couple who tends the building and grounds told me this shady oasis, maintained entirely to offer comfort to the traveling public, is home to 23 (yes, 23) outdoor trash containers. Despite the fact there is one only steps away from wherever you are, every day I see the discarded litter of careless, disrespectful (and not very bright) human beings.
Another negative is folks for whom the designated dog exercise area rules do not, apparently, apply. There are constantly dogs all over the place. Thankfully, most are on leashes with owners who pick up after them, but still. The building’s windows and doors are plastered with ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs which are also ignored, though rarely thank goodness.
I take comfort in the knowledge this behavior, though discouraging, is vastly outweighed by good folks flying anonymously past us out there at 80 per.
The gentleman who crossed several states to bury his adult son. The son was teaching his own teenage daughter to drive when she made a terrible mistake, pulling directly into the path of a semi. Impact directly on the passenger door killed the father instantly. The daughter, though injured, survived. Such a heavy burden to follow all the days of her life. What did I say to this man? Best I could do was, “I’m so sorry this happened to you and your family.” Woefully inadequate? Sure, but also the best I could do.
The tiny and elderly, classy Hispanic lady who paused on her way from deep in Texas hundreds of miles to another state. Her son brought her … to return, together, the ashes of her husband and his father to where he grew up.
The seven young men and three advisors I spoke to who were on their way to the Buffalo Bill Boy Scout Camp in the mountains along the highway to the east gate of Yellowstone; also an intimately familiar former stomping grounds for me. None of them had ever been to Yellowstone, however I know that exact location like the back of my hand. I talked a long while, answering questions and sharing my local knowledge. Did they hang on every word? Oh my, yes. Soaked it up like a sponge, accepted my gift of maps with thanks, had lunch in in the shade and continued on their western adventure.
The shaken woman returning to Oregon to whom I gave a much-needed hug after calling 911 to get help for her husband. I felt so bad for her, marooned and in crisis amid only strangers in a strange land. I thought her husband might die on us, such was his distress. Thank goodness by the time the crew from York arrived she had begun to bring him back with the help of a frozen ice pack from their cooler. I drove the hospital parking lots that evening to look in on them if he was admitted. Apparently not. Their car was nowhere to be found.
The stories are piling up, like the day Nebraska’s own Buffalo Bill popped in for a bit of relief. He’s the guy you see as Buffalo Bill in parades, at rodeos and other public appearances. Looks just Ole’ Bill, too; big hat, flowing white hair and goatee accessorized with a manicured handlebar mustache. The look was spot on.
There are 10 more stories, minimum, for each one I shared here. Incredible volume is easily achieved when a couple hundred folks from anywhere and everywhere come to visit each day.
Some have suggested I keep a journal. Perhaps I should. What do you think? (contact the writer at

Thanks for reading this article. content is free and never behind a paywall.
We believe in trustworthy, local journalism that is accessible to everyone.