Darkness enveloped us as we pulled into the rest area. Our headlights revealed 3 cars – all dark, empty and parked some distance from main area.
We questioned each other as we pulled into a parking place in front of the building and turned off the car.
It was cold. The next rest area was 50 miles away and there were precious few exits containing anything we would wish to stop at between here and there. But, the only lights on in the whole rest area were within the building itself. There were no outdoor lights. None. Notta.
There was no moon. Clouds covered the stars. Trees between us and the busy interstate shut out traffic light.
It was DARK.
As we sat in the locked car and assessed the situation, we saw two flashlights click on to the side of the building. Hubby turned the headlights on. The front of the building was displayed and we saw two men dressed in orange shirts with “STAFF” printed on them. Both held flashlights.
One of the men turned his flashlight to the parking lot and a car at the far end was illumined.
“Wow…I wouldn’t mind having that kind of flashlight,” I thought. As I was wondering what kind he had and where I could get one, Hubby spoke.
“What do you think?” Hubby asked.
“About going in?” I quizzed.
“Yeah…think it’s safe?” he returned.
“Probably…and I don’t want to wait 50 miles for the next rest area. Do you?” I questioned.
Hubby was quiet and then spoke, “Not really…it bothers me that it’s dark…must have had a power issue with the outside lights…strange….”
“Come on, let’s go. It’ll be okay. We’ll be in and out and on our way,” I offered with as much courage as I could muster and all the while my mind was playing over what could happen.
We had seen three empty cars and only two men. Where was the occupant of the third car? Two had revealed their location after our arrival…if they were up to no good I doubt they would have done so. Unless, of course, they were trying to reassure us that all was well just to make us vulnerable. (I watch too much TV.)
And, vulnerable was what I felt.
One thing I was certain of was that I would not be separated from Hubby. I didn’t voice that aloud, but I had already determined it to be fact.
Hubby got out of the car and looked around cautiously as he moved to my door. He opened it and offered his hand, which I took (clung to) as we walked up the dark sidewalk into the lit shelter that housed a hallway with an office, and three restrooms.
YES! Three restrooms!
As we approached the Men’s / Women’s restrooms (across from each other), Hubby slowed and looked at me with concern. I gently tugged his hand and indicated we would continue to walk. He questioned me and I pointed to a sign on a door: “Family Restroom.”
I opened the door. He looked around behind us. We both slipped in and Hubby slammed the door shut and locked it.
It was cold in there…as cold within as it was without, but it was lit. And, the door locked us in and everything else out.
Us – we were together, not separate. There is strength in numbers – yes, even in the number two.
We attended to the business at hand and exited hand in hand, aware of our surroundings and as ready for trouble as we could be. One of the orange shirted men stood looking at the candy machine outside the women’s restroom, the black letters on the back of his shirt plainly spelled out STAFF. (I looked for the flashlight as I passed him but didn’t see it.)
As we passed him, he turned his head to look over his shoulder at us…at me. I gripped Hubby’s hand tighter as I took a good long look at his face and wondered where the other guy was.
As we exited the shelter and headed for the car, quick step, Hubby pressed that precious little button on the key fob that turns on the headlights. Our way was lit and the area was illumined. The other guy was no where to be seen.
Hubby opened my door and locked me in, then quickly went to his side and got in.
As we were preparing to leave a car drove up and parked beside us. It was a man, alone. (Had there been a woman with him I would have rolled my window down and suggested the Family Restroom.)
We watched the man and wondered if he would venture out into the dark. After assessing things, he did open his door and head toward the building. I wondered what thoughts were going through his mind. The thoughts that had coursed through my own mind had been enough to turn my hair gray.
As we left the darkness and joined the traffic on I-20, Hubby turned to me and said, “I was worried about you going into the women’s restroom alone.”
I assured him it was a concern of my own, as well. And, that I had no intention of going into the women’s restroom.
He looked at me in surprise and I continued, “Nope, there was no way I was going to be alone and away from you! You wouldn’t have been comfortable going into the women’s restroom with me so I was going into the men’s with you! (Laughter.) I’ve always wanted to see what a men’s restroom was like and I was going to get my opportunity IF there wasn’t a family restroom.”
“But, there was one and it was a lot cleaner than the men’s room would have been!” Hubby said.
Hubby and I laughed – at ourselves – to relieve stress – at the absurdity of stopping at a dark rest area – because everything went fine – over our experience and things we learned.
Would we occupy the Family Restroom again? In a heartbeat if the situation called for it! And, you should, too.
Family Restrooms exist for a reason. And, that reason is to keep people together and to provide privacy, safety, security for all family members regardless of age or sex. The door is wide and the facilities are handicapped equipped. The room is large enough for a wheelchair…a large stroller…several people…. And, it has a lock on it – to keep kids in and others out.