To be honest I’d hoped the roads on Christmas Day would be empty of all vehicles. I wanted to imagine myself the last human being on earth. Alas, although few and far between, there were still travelers heading to Christmas dinner somewhere.
Almost every retail store is closed on Christmas, except the two I needed, a gas station, and I filled up a block from my parents’ house the morning I left, and Starbucks. You see, I’d checked the day before while running errands for my mother.
I popped my head in the door. “Hey, ya’ll open tomorrow?”
Many Piercings Barista. “Yeah. All the Starbucks are open tomorrow.”
“Yes.” Oh happy days!
Of course I didn’t see a Starbucks until I was thirty minutes from home. By that time I was ready to kill for a cup of coffee. I’d challenged myself to make it home as quickly as possible and on one tank of gas.
Is that a rest area?
How many miles to the next rest area?
I finally stopped at one rest area only to find the women’s restroom closed and a sign posted on the door – Restroom Closed. Please Use Other Restroom. Hmmm. The only other restroom was the men’s room. No way in hell was I using the men’s room even though the rest area was empty except for myself and… a guy
I pulled up just as two women drove off in a van. I saw no other vehicles, yet as I approached the women’s restroom, I noticed a man off by himself. He sort of wandered back and forth between the picnic table and the information sign in front of the restrooms.
He was dressed in black jeans, a black jacket, dark shirt and he wore a dark colored stocking cap, which made sense since it was pretty cold outside. Nevertheless, something in the way he moved and the fact that he never lifted his head and caught my eye made my spidey senses tingle. I realized that by walking up to the restroom to read the sign on the door, I’d let him get between me and the safety of my car.
Stupid woman. I know better than that. Just when you’re hoping you’re the only person in the world… be careful what you wish for.
I did what my self-defense teacher told me to do many years ago, stared right at him, unblinking, as I returned to my car. Climbed in, locked the door and sped away.
The exact same thing happened at the next rest stop. Not the closed restroom, but two women – a different pair of women – leaving just as I arrived, and a man, almost the spitting image of the other man, loitering around the front of the building. Eyes downcast just like the other man, he performed the same aimless shuffle between picnic table and information kiosk. I looked around for a vehicle and saw a van parked in the spaces reserved for semi-trucks.
Damn! By then I really had to pee. Twenty-four miles to the next Rest Area. But I didn’t want to take a chance.
I spent the twenty-four miles brain-writing a new mystery story. Stories everywhere.
Oh yeah, made it home with just over one-eighth of a tank of gas remaining. Hey, when you head south from Oregon, once you get through Siskiyou Pass it’s downhill all the way.