I’m back on the New York State Thruway, sitting in the rest area that’s nearest Buffalo. This is one of those rest areas where they put the fast food joints and the toilets in a big complex in the median between the eastbound and westbound roads, so you cross a pedestrian bridge to get from the parking area to the toilets. A few days ago, I was sitting just a few tables away from where I am now. This place is pretty depressing — vaguely dirty, crowded, ugly, two lonely picnic tables on this little grassy area next to a huge parking area — a sad contrast to the lovely rest areas in Ohio and Indiana.
When I was last here, I finished my lousy coffee and greasy French fries, closed up my laptop, and walked back to my car. I got in the car, rolled down the window, and was about to start up the engine when a man walked up.
“Did you lock your car?” he said. He was about my age, accompanied by two kids who were about ten or twelve.
“I think so,” I said.
“Because there was this gang of kids stealing stuff from cars,” he said.
I looked at the seat beside me. Everything was just as I had left it. “It looks like everything is here,” I said.
“They stole a purse out of our car,” he said. “Guess they went from car to car trying doors. A bunch of other people got hit, too. Someone saw them taking off in a black Mercedes.”
“Wow,” I said. “Business must be good if they can afford a Mercedes.”
“Yeah,” he said. “All we have is an old minivan.”
“All I got is this old Toyota,” I said. “Geez, rest areas can be pretty rough places, but you don’t expect something like that.”
“Well, we called the state troopers. And here they come,” he said, looking down the ramp from the interstate, where a brown state trooper’s car was pulling in to the rest area.
“I’m really sorry this happened to you,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, starting to walk away. “Thanks…” His kids followed him, silent, just following their dad.