And so, it begins … season 2 at York Westbound

My three colleagues and I are back on duty keeping the westbound rest area located a mile east of York on I-80 serving the motoring public.

We’ve only just begun – John, Marge, Doris and I – but already we’re getting back in the flow. And ‘flow’ it is. Kind of like trying to guzzle human beings from a fire hose. I was out there from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the day this is written, during which I recorded something like 259 groups and spoke directly with at least one from each. This is nowhere near how many folks went through the bathrooms, just the ones I greeted and chatted up enough to note where they call home.

I greeted a man at the water fountain mixing a white substance in a tiny bottle. He did not have the look of a drug fiend, so I chatted him up. Seems he was mixing formula for three tiny rabbits, their eyes not yet fully open. His wife was wife was tending them in the car. They were from Iowa, I believe, heading to a family soiree in Colorado.

Had to go. Couldn’t leave the furry babies. Dutifully took them along. Seems they found them scattered all over a gravel road with mother nowhere to be found. Two of the kits did not survive whatever trauma befell the nest, but these good people were moving heaven and earth to save the surviving three.

I told them of a dear friend in York who is a guru at rescuing and rehabbing critters; fin or feather or fur, wild or domestic. I offered to call her. He took me up on my idea in a heartbeat. Kathy Johnson, of course, is the friend and critter whisperer whose number I dialed.
She answered right away. I explained where I was and the predicament, then handed the phone to Mike. They spoke for a long time, mostly he listened while writing her information and advice furiously on a piece of paper. Now greatly relieved, Mike was effusive in his praise to both Kathy and me for lending a hand. That one left me feeling great and I bet it was the same for Kathy.

The one I don’t feel so warm and fuzzy about also came today. First a bit of background. We have expansive men’s and women’s restrooms, one on either side of the brick structure. In between, its door right in the entrance lobby, is one clearly marked for handicap use with signs impossible not to see. There is history of truckers diving straight into that room, tying it up for as much as a half-hour and leaving wheelchair bound folks out of luck. Our faithful custodians will tell you this too-often results in inexplicable messes for them to clean up.

In fact, on Tuesday of this week, a trucker did exactly that. Suspicious, I went in to check. Sure enough, the man clearly stood next to the toilet, but instead of peeing there he turned the other direction to the floor drain. A pool of yellow liquid encircled the grate with splatter over most of the floor. It matters not to me what language you speak, how you dress, your chosen religion or what color you are; you ought not pee on the floor or exhibit similarly despicable behavior in a public restroom.

With this still much on my mind, the same thing appeared to happen Thursday when a sturdy looking fellow goes in and locks the door. In less than five minutes two ladies come in, one barely ambulatory, relying heavily on a walker to remain upright. The other her attendant. They have no choice but to wait, shut out of the assistive restroom.

Annoyed, I thump my knuckles on the door. The man answers. I tell him we have a woman out here who really needs the handicap facility. He said he would be out shortly. The unfortunate ladies waited and waited. So, I tapped on the door a second time.

Soon after that he emerged and graciously held the door as the ladies went in. I suggested in future maybe he should avoid using the handicap facility, instead going into the regular men’s room. He answered, “I am handicapped.”

Turns out he did two years in the Marines, then joined the Navy for six more years and became a pilot. Along the way he lost a leg below the knee along with a whole slew of lesser injuries in Iraq (scars all over hands and arms). Adding (my) insult to (his) injury, he’d had rotator cuff surgery on not one but both shoulders only a couple days before.

And yes, he is a card-carrying Purple Heart recipient.

The man was gracious about the whole thing, admitting he should support his arms in a sling when walking, but was loathe to have people know he is disabled.

They say, “Pride goeth before a fall.” His pride. My fall. Bet I never do that again.

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