George & Wendy Show

Wendy Parker

Strange people at the travel plaza

| August 07, 2012

I was talking to a manager at the T/A in Oklahoma City the other day. No, I was not complaining, I was praising the showers and thanking her for making sure road-weary people have a clean, comfortable place to bathe when they’re far from home and missing their ponies and unicorns. (It’s a well known fact that all trucker households have a shadowbox full of ceramic unicorns and miniature horses. It’s a CDL rule. I am currently breaking it.) She thanked me for thanking her (say that three times fast) and we started talking about the weirdos and mean people she has to deal with on a regular basis. She told me she was writing a book, and I got a warm fuzzy — because I love the thought of a manager at a T/A having a best seller.

You see a lot of weird stuff in travel plazas, especially when you have to spend about sixteen hours parked at one. People watching is the only real diversion for me. I’m not a movie person, and when I’m not writing I’m reading, but I also have the attention span of a hummingbird, so I need other stimulation. I’ve tried to watch television in the trucker’s lounge, but they have the channel welded to TCM or SPEEDvision and I’m totally not interested in either. My husband is really good about walking around with me, but he also has to rest and be ready to drive, it’s really not his job to entertain me.

I’ve seen a lot of huge, tattooed truckers with tiny, girl dogs. I watched a big fella unfold himself out of an old Kenworth (painted up with skulls and mean stuff) and gently sit two tiny teacup Chihuahuas with studded pink collars and itty chain leashes on the ground. It looked like a GEICO commercial.

We saw a cowboy wearing orange boots with his jeans tucked in, and a humongous hat with orange piping. His ensemble was completed by a sleeveless plaid shirt, because what else can you wear with orange boots? I imagined him to be the brother of the guy in the ‘Curious George’ books.

And who can forget the winner (who apparently believes his windshield makes him invisible) who stuck his hand under his armpit, smelled it, and made a ‘gagging’ face? He was alone. He wasn’t trying to impart his impressive stinkiness to another person, he really gagged. This man haunts the primordial ooze of my nightmares. If your own body odor makes you reflexively gag, you should probably bathe. With kryptonite. Every time I smelled something foul for the next three days, I was sure he was following me. It was awful.

We’ve met some super-nice people. We’ve also met people who made me feel like I needed to bathe with chlorine. I truly believe there are more good people than bad out here, and all of them are weird in their own way. Yay for weirdos.

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