Rest area on the Texas/New Mexico border, I'm tempted because after several hours on the road, I need to stretch limbs and mind, clear the cobwebs. I pull in, park and walk about aimlessly for a while. Notice in passing that the vending machine that will sell you M&M chocolates or a bag of chips can also dispense toothpaste and shaving gear.
Makes some cosmic sense, actually.
Inside the building, they have wi-fi. Who's the idiot, I ask myself, who would pull off the highway at this particular spot and check email?
An idiot, I answer myself, like me.
I also check the tennis scores. Federer marching along, just the usual.
Half an hour and I'm ready to drive on. Before moving off, I pull out my map and chalk out my route for the next few hours. As I'm doing so, there's a knock on my window. It's a slender man about 30, backpack and a sleeveless jacket.
"I need to get to LA," he says. "Don't know how. Can you help me?"
Well, what do you need, I ask, though I suspect I know the answer.
"Just a map," he says. "D'you have a map I can use?"
Actually, I do have a map of the southwestern US, and that should meet his needs. I dig it out from my bag and give it to him.
"Thanks," he says. "Gotta take a bus, but I don't got no money. And they don't let me in the motels, account of my dog." He points down, to a small dog on a leash.
I look at him. I knew this was coming. I feel just slightly annoyed. Then I think, what the hell. Here's five bucks, I say, yanking a note from my shirt pocket. I hope it helps.
"It sure will, pal. Thanks and god bless. Where you from?"
Bombay, I say. India.
"Drive safe, OK?"
I put the car in reverse and pull out. As I drive off, I catch a last glimpse of the man. He's walked over to the water fountain. He's holding his dog so it can drink from the stream.