Interesting anecdotes too numerous to recount … but here are a couple

I’ve mentioned it on Melanie’s website before, so at least some of you know of my new mini-job this summer as a card-carrying State of Nebraska employee. My duty is to welcome travelers who stop at the westbound I-80 rest area a couple miles east of the York interchange to offer my learned experience and counsel (sprinkled with BS as required) and send them on their way. I do this a couple days a week from 8-4.

To tell you I meet a slew of unique and fascinating folks while chatting with more than 200 of them a day is a gross understatement. I thought perhaps it might be interesting to share a few of those interactions.

For instance, I have never seen so many tattoos in wildly diverse anatomical regions as has been the case at the visitor center. Hang around with me and you will see tatts on folks from head to toe. Tatts that disappear beneath scanty clothing. Tatts from great hideous monsters to the most delicate Cupids. Here’s something I have noticed: If you comment on their body art and express genuine interest, most of them will eagerly explain what they are and what they mean to them personally. I’ve not (yet…) had a single person react any other way when I say, “Neat tatts, tell me about ‘em.”

Another thing I did not appreciate is how many people suffer from diminished ability to simply get themselves from one place to the other. The challenges I see some people, mostly elderly as you might expect, struggle with just to negotiate the sidewalk to the restroom and back to their cars is heartbreaking. Bless every single one of these unfortunate, but courageous souls for getting out there anyway, in defiance of their disability.

Do I speak with every single person who stops in search of bladder relief, perhaps a picnic lunch and to stretch the kinks after hours jackknifed into a vehicle? No. That would be impractical for me and intrusive to them. So, I employ my considerable people-reading skills and then either proceed … or pull back.

Visitors to my little kiosk fall into two oversimplified categories: approachable or unapproachable. Approachable people are completely obvious, at least to me. Once in a while I get fooled, though, when an apparent grump turns out not to be a sourpuss after all … which is nice.

A couple recent examples include the fellow in the photo who pulled his old truck up just a few parking stalls from the building’s west entrance and proceeded to cook up a hot breakfast, then stretch out and leisurely eat it, smack-dab in the middle of the only sidewalk available to everyone else … able-bodied or otherwise. Had his faithful mutt with him too, of course. You need not even slow down; anyone who drives by that rest area can see at a glance how the whole property is loaded with picnic shelters. But this sketchy-looking stranger couldn’t be troubled to walk perhaps 10 or 20 yards to use one. Incredibly, he hung around clogging things up for a couple hours. Strange? Yes, I certainly think he was.

Finally, there’s the elderly (my age in other words) lady who came in the door and rushed straight up to me.

“I don’t want to offend you, sir,” she said, “but would you pull my dress down enough to check my neck; I think something bit me.”

She was wearing a long, loose summer dress of light fabric much like I, too, would have worn for traveling on a hot day were I female. I did as she asked and, sure enough, there was a tiny bite mark surrounded by an area of angry, red skin perhaps the size of a coffee cup. I took a close-up photo so she could see for herself. It looked like spider bites I have seen in the past and I told her so.

“Well, at least it’s over” she said. “If I was going to have a reaction it would have happened by now.”

Should I have mentioned the possibility, however remote, that the demon spider might still be clinging somewhere within the fabric of her clothing? Looking back on it, perhaps not.

“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed, arms windmilling in the air. “I’m getting out of these clothes RIGHT NOW!”

As she whirled to make a full-speed charge to the ladies’ room, I suggested the family restroom might be more appropriate for a full disrobing and body search. Individual privacy behind a locked door, lots of open space, no stall walls to batter knees and elbows.

The lady, though panic-stricken, immediately grasped the merit of my suggestion. A few minutes later she re-emerged (fully clothed, thank goodness) and sounded the all-clear. All’s well that ends well.

I tell ya’, you couldn’t make this stuff up. And they even pay me if you can believe that.






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