Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Resting Comfortably

Recently, I was asked what comforts me in life. It was a little hard to come up with something off the top of my head. I don't really think of things that way.

Food used to comfort me. I'm sure it still would, to an extent. But, I'm not going there, anymore!

The gym comforts me. That might seem strange to some. I'm amongst like minded people, yet they leave me alone. Perfect!

Coffee houses comfort me. Coffee may be bitter, but the patrons rarely are. At least not about people. They're bitterness usually resides in their politics, more than their positions on the people around them. Again, I get to be amongst people, but sort of alone (There's a theme here, eh?)

But, in my recent journey across the country, to Little Rock, Arkansas, I rediscovered a great comfort of mine. And, perhaps, the strangest of them all; the reststop.

They have these reststops all over the place. Little highway pullouts with restrooms, a lot of parking spaces, pet "walking" areas, picnic tables, and vending machines. The best have some sort of local history plaquards or perhaps a "majestic vista" to entertain you as you stretch your legs.

When I was a kid, I used to beg my parents to stop anywhere BUT these places. Stopping at a reststop meant hours of boredom, a picnic lunch instead of the preferred burger and fries, and a lot of "no" as we repeatedly asked for change for the vending machines.

But, as an adult, I realize that these were some of the best times on the trip. Those picnic lunches were good. We always got a chance to explore the outlying "wild" areas of the reststop. My dad played just the right amount of football or kickball with us. My brother and I played tag with even the youngest of siblings in the car. Over lunch, we'd talk about what we'd seen as we drove, what we were going to see in the next leg of the journey, and what we were going to do when he got to tonight's stop. I'd say we had more conversation in that hour at the rest stop than we did back in the car, when there was nothing to do but sit silently, read, or torment my younger brothers or sister.

At night when we were camping, or in the motel, or even back at home, family time was nothing like those few short hours at the rest stops. At the reststops, we talked without arguing, helped unpack and pack the car without complaint, and generally acted the part of the perfect little family. Those thoughts are comforting to me now, more than ever.

During my trip, I looked forward to each and every reststop along the highway. I even found myself pulling into one for a stretch a mere mile or two after just getting back on the road from a lunch or gas stop. At each one, I took a look around, checked out the scenery, and watched the people hanging out. Nearly everyone looked a little tired. But, they looked comfortable being there.

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