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388: Rest Stop

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Act One: Act One

Ira Glass

Some kids are at a rest stop parking lot in the middle of August, waiting to get back in the car-- Logan, William, and Kieran. A reporter approaches them.

Reporter

I couldn't help but notice that there's three of you guys. So the first question that pops into my head is, who's going to have to ride in the middle?

Boy

Unfortunately, me.

Reporter

And how come you're the guy who has to ride in--

Boy

Because those two, um, basically-- I don't know. They fight when they're in the middle. He doesn't even want to sit next to him. Ow. Stop that!

Reporter

He's pinching your cheek right now.

Boy

Pressure pointing, actually.

Reporter

So do you feel like this is going to be-- this is always going to be your job? As you guys get older, you're always going to be the brother sitting in the middle, brokering the peace?

Boy

Yeah. And basically, I'm the mediator.

Reporter

How do you mean?

Boy

I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Reporter

How do you mean you're the mediator?

Boy

I'm actually not sure what mediator means. I just felt like saying it. I think it means a guy who keeps peace. Like, keeping them from killing each other.

Reporter

They can use a guy like you in the Middle East maybe.

Ira Glass

One of the little brothers signals for the microphone.

Little Brother

Get it? Middle East. Because he's in the middle, and he's out east. Get it? Middle East.

Ira Glass

There's nothing particularly notable about this rest stop. It's one of thousands all over the country, the kind of place we'd stop for 10 minutes on a holiday weekend, run inside, use the restroom, buy a burger or a coffee, head back out on the road.

But if you stayed for more than 10 minutes, you might end up talking to one of these kids or to one of the couples who are dropping off children at college, like this reporter did.

Mom

--the last kid off to school, so now we're the new empty nesters right now.

Reporter

I know. How do you feel about that?

Mom

I'm cooking things that I've never tried.

Dad

Yeah, and I'm eating things that I've never tried.

Ira Glass

There's some folks on the way back from a family reunion, might complain about the traffic.

Man

And suddenly a clown truck filled with clowns cut us off.

Ira Glass

Or there's this guy, whose entertainment on his weekly four-hour drive isn't the radio or the CD player.

Driver

Well, truthfully, so none of the police folk out there are listening, I usually read the newspaper on the way up, or a book.

Reporter

Are you kidding me?

Driver

Here and there on the way up.

Reporter

And you've been doing it for six or seven years, and you've not had an accident?

Driver

No.

Reporter

That seems to me to be pure luck.

Ira Glass

There's a family driving six hours to visit their dad in prison; a young couple looking for a place to have their wedding; two brothers on the way to compete in the rodeo; a 16-year-old standing inside the rest stop nursing a tea, taking a break from her own family. She's on an eight-hour car trip with her dad, her grandma, her sister, and a couple of brothers. She explains to a reporter.

Girl

Well, it's very noisy, you could say that. Because everybody's arguing or talking about sports. We were just having an argument on who's better, Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson? And Mike Tyson won. So my dad nearly stopped the car to argue and say, no, Mike Tyson is better. So it was just very hectic.

Ira Glass

Coincidentally, a little later, Mike Tyson's name comes up again, in conversation with the prep cook named Ozzy, who works at the rest stop.

Ozzy

Sometimes I see movie stars. I see Tyson in person.

Reporter

Mike Tyson.

Ozzy

Mike Tyson was here. He has a tiny voice. How are you doing, man? Can I get ice cream? You know? So I see Mario Cuomo. I see this old lady who got a lot of plastic surgeries.

Reporter

Joan Rivers.

Ozzy

Yes, she was here, too.

Ira Glass

Poor Joan Rivers. The two strangers can get her name across simply by saying, "the old lady who got a lot of plastic surgery."

Nine of us came to this rest stop with tape recorders on a weekend in the middle of August, all the way back in 2009. Today's show is a rerun. It was two weeks before Labor Day, the time of year when over 10,000 people pass through this rest stop each day. We thought that, for once, we would not leave after just 10 minutes.

Stick around and find out who all these people are, where they're going, what they're thinking about. We found love stories, and hardcore partiers, and inexplicably angry people, and all kinds of others. We bring you those stories in this special hour of our show for this holiday weekend when so many of us are on the road. WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act Two: Act Two

Ira Glass

The name of this particular rest stop is the Plattekill Travel Plaza. It's on the New York Thruway, I-87, about an hour and a half north of New York City on the northbound side of the highway. It's shiny and recently renovated with five restaurants in the food court-- Nathan's Hot Dog, Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips, Roy Rogers, a Canadian sandwich shop called Brioche Duree, and a Starbucks-- plus a travel mart that sells sodas, and chips and gum, and stuff like that.

All these concessions and the cleaning crews and everything else are run by a company called HMS Host, which does this kind of thing in airports and travel plazas across the country. They have 120 employees here, and a half dozen managers, and a general manager.

Robert Woodill

I think we have a very strong weekend as we get into the end of summer.

Ira Glass

This is the general manager, Robert Woodill, a friendly, upbeat guy who carries a folded piece of paper that he pulls out and unfolds and refers to constantly through the day, which has a list of sales figures for every half hour of the day.

Robert Woodill

All it simply is, is it's my half hour reports of last year on this day, so I can compare my sales the last year and see where we're at. And we do it usually at, like, 11 o'clock, and then every hour or so, we take a quick reading just to see where we're at.

Ira Glass

And explain when is the crazy time.

Robert Woodill

Today, it'll be probably from, like, 12 o'clock till 7 o'clock, very solid and steady. And then tomorrow morning, it'll pick up again. And I think as we're getting to the end of summer, there's a big race in Saratoga this week. People have booked their rooms for Lake George, and it's the end of summer. People want to go and go on vacation. So I think we're going to have a good weekend.

Ira Glass

We did our taping on Friday and Saturday, two weeks before Labor Day, because those are the biggest days and the biggest month here. In August, the rest stop makes a fourth of its money for the whole year. And it's crucial that Robert makes his goals this weekend because it's built into the rest stop business that there are a couple months every year when he just breaks even or loses money.

Also, he wants to do better than his rival-- his rival, a rest stop in Maine, run by a guy named Andy Tucci.

Robert Woodill

Kennebunk North, usually, and I are neck and neck. And we never place any wagers, but you know, they're Red Sox fans, we're Yankee fans. And we go back and forth on that, as well as discussing who's going to have the record sales for the day.

Ira Glass

Who won last weekend?

Robert Woodill

Andy. Andy beat me red like a lobster, if you want. That's what I told him. He beat me both days, but I think I'm going to get it back this weekend, so. I hope this week, the Yankees sweep the Red Sox, and then he'll be really quiet.

Ira Glass

Robert was fully staffed for the rush. He had his best cashiers on. And now, he just needed the crowds, the big summer weekend crowds.

We chose this particular rest stop because, a couple years ago, I came here on the way to a wedding, and I noticed that a couple of the college students working at the Starbucks were speaking Polish. When I asked, they said, yeah, they were from Poland, here for the summer, on a special visa program called the J-1 program, where they live in the United States and work for three months at the rest stop and then get to travel for a month in America before flying home.

And it seemed like such a crazy thing to fly all the way to America and then be stuck behind a counter in the middle of nowhere for the summer. I wondered if they felt cheated. I wanted to come back and find out.

Sandy

I'm Sandy, and I'm from Taiwan. And I work at Starbucks in Plattekill Travel Plaza.

Ira Glass

There are no Polish students this summer. It's mostly Taiwanese and Ukrainians working in Plattekill. Sandy's name back home is Moche Cho. She's a college junior and English major. This is her second year doing this summer work program. Last year, she was one of hundreds of foreign students who got jobs at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.

But this year, she wanted to see a different part of the country and signed up for this location because of two magic words-- New York.

Sandy

I love New York. Last year, I went to New York City just three days. So this time, I want to stay in New York City more.

Ira Glass

And then when you got here, were you surprised how far it was from New York City?

Sandy

Yes, very surprised. Yeah. So actually, I'm a little regret about I choose this place, yeah.

Ira Glass

She knew the rest stop wasn't in New York City. She just thought it would be a little closer and easier to get to. Without a car, everything's a hassle. So she hasn't seen New York at all this summer. The only place she's gone is some outlet stores. When she's not at work, she hangs around the apartment with five other students, all women who came over from Asia this summer to work at the rest stop.

Sandy

When we have day off, we will go to a supermarket to buy grocery. Yeah.

Ira Glass

That's it?

Sandy

Maybe go to a restaurant to eat something.

Ira Glass

What's the best thing that's happened this summer on your trip?

Sandy

This summer? So far, I didn't make happiness in this trip. So far, no.

Ira Glass

Wait, you haven't had much that's been so good this trip?

Sandy

No, so far.

Ira Glass

So this seemed, frankly, a little sad. A bunch of students quietly tolerating their summers, counting the days until they could finally travel the country. Cooking food they don't eat, like hamburgers, and drinks they'd never heard of before arriving here, like frappucinos, all for people who have cars at a place that's all about cars on the side of the highway, but without cars of their own. I felt bad for them.

And then I started talking to the Ukrainian students.

Ira Glass

And how's it going?

Evgenia Trekasa

Very good. I think that I really get a very big, huge experience here because I like this place, and I want to come back here. It's really true. I'm happy that I'm here.

Ira Glass

Evgenia Trekasa goes by the name Jane or Angelina here in the States. She's 18, entering her junior year of college. It's her first time away so long from her parents, and she misses them terribly, but it's also very exciting. She says that in the first week or two in Plattekill, she and the other Ukrainians felt stranded, same as the girls from Taiwan and Hong Kong felt.

Evgenia Trekasa

Because that we don't have a car, we can't drive. We just can take a bus, so that's why. But then we find friends that, like, when we have a day off, they always can take us. Like, all the guys, it's OK. We will show you beautiful places. So when we have a day off, we always go to somewhere. We never stay at home.

Ira Glass

What happened is that the Ukrainians befriended a couple of the American teenagers who work at the rest stop, and those teenagers introduced them to other young people. And before they knew it, they had rides to the mall, to Six Flags Amusement Park, to New York City.

Adelaide Giron

My name is Adelaide Giron. I'm 19. I work at Roy Rogers.

Ira Glass

Adelaide is a big, cheerful, fun-loving guy and probably the American who's gotten closest to the Ukrainians. In two years working at the Roy Rogers at the rest stop, he's seen lots of foreign students come through.

Adelaide Giron

I think this group has definitely, by far, been my favorite.

Ira Glass

Why?

Adelaide Giron

I felt like the other groups before, I've gotten attached to them. But this group, I think it's since I'm in college and they're in college. And we drink, and I drink, and they drink. And it's a fun experience.

I just recently got my license about two years ago-- actually, a year and a half ago. Before that, I was driving illegally, so I really couldn't drive all over the place. But now that I got my license, so, like, [BLEEP] I'm driving everywhere.

So I hang out with them. I take them shopping. At night, we go, like, swimming at this lake, trespassing. Who cares, though? Just having a good time. We're young. The cops showed up one time. We had alcohol on us. It was a pretty bad story.

Ira Glass

For a while, he says he was going over to their apartment three times a week-- Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays for parties-- parties he taught them how to throw. Here's one of his students in this matter, Peter Molov, one of the Ukrainians.

Ira Glass

What's your favorite thing that you've done so far since you've been here?

Peter Molov

Favorite thing? Probably the parties. Parties. They're a lot different than in our country. If we want to have parties, we just go to the club in our country, in Ukraine. Go to the club, loud music and stuff, you know.

But since we came here, we get to know other Americans, and they said, let's have a party. Well, OK, let's go to the club. Why to the club? Let's do it at home. OK. We go to home. They showed us games they play.

Adelaide Giron

Beer pong. Introduced them to my beer funnel-- they'd never seen that before. We showed them flip cup. We showed them how to play flip cup, and--

Ira Glass

I don't even know what that is.

Adelaide Giron

Really? It's a good buzz-getter.

Peter Molov

It is fun. A lot of people play, so it's really fun.

Ira Glass

And you didn't have beer pong back in Ukraine?

Peter Molov

No. I never knew.

Ira Glass

Will you be taking that back to show your friends back home?

Peter Molov

Oh, yeah. We even want to buy a beer pong table, you know? Special for it.

Ira Glass

I'm not sure they call it a beer pong table.

Adelaide Giron

They're pretty good for not knowing what beer pong is. Like, we just introduced them to beer pong two months ago, and yet, they're better than me. So yeah, we actually have, like, tournaments going on sometimes, and the Ukrainians end up on top most of the time. So yeah.

Dasha

It's impossible to drink so much as Americans do. Americans really drink very much.

Ira Glass

This is Dasha, another 19-year-old from Ukraine. She said most of the parties here in America in their apartment or out by the lake went until dawn.

Dasha

At 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM. And then the most fun is then when you work from 9:00 AM and you don't sleep at all. Like, one day, I just slept 30 minutes. I woke up and went to work.

Ira Glass

That was the most fun?

Dasha

Yeah. As for me, I was dying at work.

Ira Glass

Fortunately, she works at a Starbucks. The Plattekill Rest Stop has employed foreign students for nearly a decade. They're hard workers and easier to schedule into shifts than American teenagers, who are always needing time off for family vacations, and sports practice, and other activities. There's a group in the summer and then smaller groups in the winter and spring.

And the Plattekill Rest Stop is a close knit enough place that people cry when they leave. One of the managers told me how she still emails kids from Brazil and Peru who worked here years ago. At least one marriage has come out of this, between an American worker and a Bulgarian girl.

Though all the managers of the rest stop agreed that they like the Ukrainians, they're good kids, but the Ukrainians are the rowdiest group with the most issues they have ever had, hands down. Probably because the Ukrainians are the first group that were friends back in their home country. They came to Plattekill for a summer adventure.

They're having too much fun, one manager told me. Fireworks after 2:00 AM, complaints from neighbors. The police have come out a few times, because of the noise. Robert, the general manager, has no idea where he's going to find them housing if their landlord evicts them.

Robert Woodill

It's been a little bit of a rough summer with them. They're enjoying it. They're college kids. And I think the thing is they forget that they're not living in the dorms. They live in an apartment complex, where there's families, and kids, and little kids. So they just have to be more respectful at times.

It's not like we don't want them have a good time. You got to make sure you draw the line someplace and say, OK, maybe 1 o'clock is late enough. Or the people are going to work because it's a Tuesday, and you just got to kind of be good neighbors.

Ira Glass

As it turned out, everything came to a head the night before we arrived to record with an all-night party that Adelaide says was their craziest ever-- a party that was not thrown by the Ukrainians. It was the very first party thrown by the girls from Taiwan, total turnaround for them. Adelaide says before this, he and the Ukrainians had only invited them to one party.

Adelaide Giron

And they really don't drink, so they got drunk off a couple of beers. And we just-- they couldn't hang, so we just didn't invite them anymore.

Ira Glass

But now they threw this party, a goodbye party for one of the girls who was leaving early, and they partied with the best of them, everybody dancing and making noise. After the second beer run, there was a late night beer fight with people pouring their drinks on each other. As usual, all this bothering the neighbors.

Ira Glass

Then what was it, they complained to the landlord?

Adelaide Giron

Yeah. The landlord doesn't like me or my other friends hanging around there. He actually refers to me as a big crazy Mexican that walks around, but. So I don't know. I don't think I'm a big crazy Mexican at all. I'm a gentle giant, really.

Ira Glass

And so then Robert had a talk with everybody?

Adelaide Giron

Yeah. He had a talk with everybody.

Robert Woodill

And it was kind of time to play the heavy-handed dad and just to make sure that they get the full message that this can't go on.

Dasha

That we shouldn't have any more parties here. We should be quiet because if there will be one more party, they will send us home. They will, like, break our contract with Plaza, and then there will be no more students in Plaza the next year.

Ira Glass

And what do you think of that?

Dasha

I don't know. Just, I don't really care they will have any other students next summer. Because I won't be there.

Ira Glass

The American kids also got a warning from their boss. Again, here's Adelaide.

Adelaide Giron

You know, just to stop going over there. The landlord doesn't want me on his property. He sees me or my car, it's getting towed at my expense. I'm going to get charged for trespassing.

Ira Glass

And so what are you going to do?

Adelaide Giron

Well, I'll probably still go over. [BLEEP] it. There's really nothing-- I mean, if they say anything, I'll just be like, oh, OK. It won't happen again, officer. And of course it'll happen again, but.

Ira Glass

And do you worry that you could get the Ukrainians in trouble in a way that they'd get sent back early?

Adelaide Giron

I hope not, but if they do, it's all a good time. And I told them if anything happens, I'm deeply sorry, but whatever happens happens. There's nothing we can do.

Ira Glass

And that, everybody says, was the last big party of the year. But no matter. It was still a great summer. I asked Evgenia if she ever felt jealous of all the travelers she saw pass through the rest stop, people on the way to vacations while she was stuck working. And she said never. She'd come so far to get here.

Evgenia Trekasa

They should be jealous of me, because I'm here.

Lisa Pollak

Inside the rest stop, right when you enter the lobby, between the bathroom and the food court, is this room full of racks of brochures.

Ira Glass

Lisa Pollak is one of the gang of nine reporters that we had at Plattekill.

Lisa Pollak

You know those brochures you'll see in the lobby of a discount hotel, the ones advertising local attractions that inevitably, no matter where in the country you are, include a water park and an underground cavern tour? It's that, floor to ceiling.

This is the New York State Information Center. It confusingly is run not by New York State, but by a private company that charges businesses to display their pamphlets here. The manager of the center is a guy named Lenny Wheat. He also stands behind a counter offering travel advice to the lost.

When I talk to Lenny, he gets this look on his face, almost like he feels a little sorry for me. Because I think I'm in the middle of nowhere, and he thinks I have no idea what I'm missing.

Lenny Wheat

Right here, the next exit alone, you have best rock climbing in the country here.

Lisa Pollak

Oh, seriously?

Lenny Wheat

Yeah. It's the Napa Valley of the east around here. We have the oldest vineyards, the oldest winery, one of the best wineries. You have the best hotel resort spa in the United States in the area here, too.

Lisa Pollak

Wait, how do you know it's the best in the--

Lenny Wheat

That's according to Mobil Travel Guide and Day Spa Magazine. I got one of the best dude ranches in the country up here by New Paltz, too.

Lisa Pollak

No, you don't.

Lenny Wheat

Yes, Rocking Horse Ranch Resort. Yeah, great place to take a family.

Lisa Pollak

By the time Lenny tells me about something called the Catamount Adventure Park-- largest adventure park in North America, according to the brochure--

Lenny Wheat

There's 120 things to do there.

Lisa Pollak

--I am so overwhelmed by superlatives that I just take his word for it. Lenny knows this area. He's a local, lives eight minutes away. And he used to drive for a messenger service so he's an expert at getting directions. I found it especially impressive when he told travelers the exact number of miles between highway exits by memory.

But Lenny actually ended up in this job by accident. His neighbor used to work here, and Lenny would visit him from time to time to help out.

Lenny Wheat

And he was feeling ill one day, and I was like-- he says, you think you can stay here and do this? And I'm like, sure, why not? I mean, I know my way around. I know the roads, so. And he had some issues and stuff, diabetes and stuff, and wound up taking time out and stuff. He recently passed away and stuff.

Lisa Pollak

I'm so sorry.

Lenny Wheat

So but kind of like sometimes you feel like what you've done in your life is-- and it comes together, that it's like you were meant to do something, you know?

Lisa Pollak

So you're saying it kind of seemed like it was meant to be?

Lenny Wheat

Sometimes it feels that way.

Lisa Pollak

I hung out with Lenny for a couple hours. I saw him cheerfully field dozens of information requests, everything from where to buy beer-- nowhere at the rest stop, but try New Paltz, there's a lot of college kids there-- to how to get to Maryland. A crucial first step-- turn around. Maryland is south of here. You are headed north.

When anyone wanders in to browse, Lenny pounces.

Lenny Wheat

What's your destination of today?

Lisa Pollak

Lake George, the guy says.

Lenny Wheat

OK. Can I get you anything for Lake George? We just got in the fall events guide, too.

Tourist

Sure, if you want to.

Lenny Wheat

Anything for Washington County on the other side of the lake? Anything on hiking?

Tourist

No.

Lenny Wheat

Waterways? Whitewater rafting?

Tourist

Waterways.

Lenny Wheat

Waterways, OK.

Lisa Pollak

Even though all these places are paying to advertise here, Lenny gets genuinely excited when he's pitching them. If he doesn't believe the Plattekill Rest Stop is the gateway to vacation gold, he sure fooled me.

Lenny Wheat

And if he didn't know it, in Karo, there's bear statues all around the village, and there's a treasure hunt going on with that, OK?

Lisa Pollak

Here's another one.

Lenny Wheat

And that is also the best concert facility in the world. Loggins and Messina's playing tonight.

Man

Who?

Lenny Wheat

Loggins and Messina.

Man

Oh. Messina, the comedian?

Lenny Wheat

No. No.

Lisa Pollak

And one more.

Lenny Wheat

And the world's largest kaleidoscope there, too.

Man

Oh, beautiful.

Lenny Wheat

Yes.

Lisa Pollak

At a time when people plan their trips on computers and drive to them using GPS, it's a little surprising that a place like this even exists. I actually watched Lenny pull out a magnifying glass for a guy having trouble seeing a map. By the time I left, Lenny had me almost convinced that what he has to offer is better than the internet.

Lenny Wheat

You can sit here in 10, 15 minutes, flip through the pages, and seen most everything every county might have to offer you. You know how long it would take you to find all that on the internet? You turn the page, you got shopping. You turn the page, you got your fishing, your antiquing.

How're you doing, guys? Where are you going to?

Ira Glass

You know, you don't really go on a long car trip with strangers. Usually you're with people who you know really, really well. And being confined in the car together in a tiny space, staring ahead at the road, that's one of the nicest places to talk, have a long, long talk.

One woman told us that she actually plans things to discuss with her husband and her kids when she knows that they're going to be in the car for hours. Another woman, this mom named Elizabeth McMann, was driving from DC to Albany with her 9-year-old. It's a long drive. And the son decided that he was going to use the time to get to the bottom of some things.

Elizabeth Mcmann

He's been on this whole Q&A thing, where, Mom, who do you like better, your sister or your brother? Uncle Jenny or Uncle Chad? Or how long would you cry if I died? Or would you rather be married to your old boyfriend or to Daddy, who's-- we're divorced. He's been kind of weird. So that stimulates some conversation. He just asked, for example, Mom, are you really Santa Claus?

Ira Glass

The reporter who talked to that woman was Jonathan Goldstein. He mostly stationed himself outside the rest stop in the parking lot by the picnic benches. Somehow, everybody Jonathan talked to seemed to be enjoying their time on the road to the max.

Jonathan Goldstein

Stan is sitting on the bench in front of the parking lot. Unlike everyone else you see-- people looking to eat, looking to get to a washroom-- Stan looks perfectly at home, smoking a cigar like he's got the world on a string. Like hanging out at a rest stop is the best part of any vacation. He's waiting for his girlfriend, who he likes to call--

Stan

The War Department.

Jonathan Goldstein

And by which you mean?

Stan

It's my girlfriend. The War Department, or the wife, is the War Department. Get with it, baby. Let's go, baby. It's always sort of the sky is very clear and blue today. That's not blue. That's not blue. That's not clear.

Jonathan Goldstein

Have you guys been arguing a lot in the car?

Stan

No, we never argue. She told me to say that. This is me. See this, under the thumb? Yes, dear. Yes, dear. That's me, right there. Yes, dear.

Jonathan Goldstein

And yet, in spite of Stan's take on couplehood-- one perhaps modeled on Warner Brothers cartoons of the '50s-- it looks like there's still a never ending line of people all too eager to sign up. Case in point-- a group of four women come striding across the parking lot in the midst of a bachelorette party.

Bachelorette

Oh.

Woman

It's a surprise because it's a bachelorette party. We're taking her away somewhere she's never been before.

Jonathan Goldstein

And how do you feel about that?

Bachelorette

I feel like I need to know where I'm going pretty soon.

Jonathan Goldstein

Do you even know in what direction you're heading?

Bachelorette

North.

Jonathan Goldstein

And that's it? That's all you know?

Bachelorette

Well, the only thing I know is that I need flip-flops, a whistle, and something else. Yeah, flip-flops and a whistle.

Jonathan Goldstein

Now does that really come into play, or are you just messing with her mind at this point?

Woman

It's very important. It's very important to the whole evening.

Jonathan Goldstein

Flip-flops and a whistle, I'm thinking some--

Woman

And comfortable clothes.

Jonathan Goldstein

All right, now I'm going to ask you guys-- I'll ask you to step over there. I'm going to ask these guys what they've got planned. And I won't tell anything, and by the time this airs, it won't make a difference. So you're just going to go stand over there, I'm sorry. Because now I'm going to get this scoop. All right, just crowd in here.

All right, so flip-flops and a whistle, what's that all about?

Woman

It's all crap. It's complete crap. We're making the whole thing up.

Jack

My name's Jack, man.

Jonathan Goldstein

And where are you coming from?

Jack

I'm coming from mother [BLEEP] Boston, heading to West Virginia.

Jonathan Goldstein

What's your last name?

Jack

I ain't getting into that right now. No last names on this. I've been drinking.

Jonathan Goldstein

As it turns out, Jack is not the one driving. He's traveling with a couple friends back from mother [BLEEP] Boston, where he's dropped off his four-year-old, who he spent the summer with in West Virginia. Jack has four kids in three different states. Each of their names are tattooed across his upper torso. Jack is on his way home.

Bachelorette

Got lost a couple times, so it took us, like, 12 hours.

Jonathan Goldstein

So how long was he with you?

Jack

Probably, like, three, four months.

Jonathan Goldstein

And you only get to see him during the summer?

Jack

Nah, I get him for Christmas. You know how the women are. They don't want to pay for all the Christmas presents and stuff. You know what I mean? They all make sure the kids are with me for Christmas.

Jonathan Goldstein

And you saw his mom, too, when you pick him up and drop him off?

Jack

Oh, yeah. I still got the big red marks on my back where she tried to beat me up.

Jonathan Goldstein

Are you kidding?

Jack

Nah, man. I'm for real. Hey, don't bring your new girlfriend to your ex-wife's house. That's all I got to say. That baby's mama drama stuff, you know. Seeing how she's on crutches, and she broke her leg a few weeks ago, she tried to beat me up with her crutches.

Jonathan Goldstein

Your new girlfriend's in the car with you now?

Jack

Yeah, man, yes. That's the pretty blonde over there in that black car. You walk over there, you'd be surprised, though. Her and my buddy driving, we call him Hot Wheels. He's a handicapped kid in a wheelchair, so you know what I mean? We nicknamed his ass Hot Wheels.

Jonathan Goldstein

I walk across the parking lot to a big black rusty car.

Jonathan Goldstein

Jack told me they call you Hot Wheels.

Hot Wheels

Yeah, 'cause I'm always in a wheelchair. Tore my foot off.

Jonathan Goldstein

How did that happen?

Hot Wheels

A car crash back in 2006. Hit a wall at about 100. What do you expect? You don't expect to walk away from something like that.

Jonathan Goldstein

And you are-- you're in the back seat here.

Krissy

Krissy.

Jonathan Goldstein

You're also from West Virginia?

Krissy

Yes.

Jonathan Goldstein

And how old are you guys?

Hot Wheels

I'm 21.

Jonathan Goldstein

And Krissy?

Krissy

24.

Jonathan Goldstein

Do you do much traveling?

Krissy

No, not at all. I'm a stay-at-home mom, so.

Jonathan Goldstein

How old are your kids?

Krissy

I have one. He's nine.

Jonathan Goldstein

So you don't get a chance to travel very much.

Krissy

Right. It's been a long trip.

Jonathan Goldstein

Is this the furthest you've been?

Krissy

Yes. I went to New Jersey once before, but other than that, this is definitely the farthest and longest.

Jonathan Goldstein

And have you been in a lot of, like, parking lots like this, a lot of rest stops?

Krissy

Actually, no. I think this is probably the first, like, rest stop I've ever come to.

Jonathan Goldstein

Not in your life?

Krissy

Yes.

Jonathan Goldstein

Really?

Krissy

Yes. I don't just live in West Virginia. I live in West Virginia, and I don't ever go anywhere.

Ira Glass

Coming up, love in the middle of the night, and much more. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

Act 2

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our show, of course, we choose a theme, bring you different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's show, Rest Stop. Nine of us stayed for two days in the middle of August at the Plattekill Travel Plaza on the northbound side of I-87 in New York State. This was back in 2009 that we did this. Today's show is a rerun. We were talking with the people passing through, most of them on vacation, and of course, with the people who stay at the rest stop, working.

Robert Woodill

I'm still waiting for Andy's report back. Let me see if he sent anything back.

Ira Glass

3 o'clock, Friday. Robert, the general manager at the rest stop, checks his BlackBerry for an email from his rival in Maine, Andy Tucci. Noon to 3:00 was supposed to be some of the busiest hours of the year for Robert, but he does not look happy. He's not hitting the half hourly goals on that piece of paper that he carries around with him.

Robert Woodill

I am down a bunch from last year, about $3,300 behind last year and $600 behind last week, which is not a normal thing. And so it's a little cause for concern right now. So right now, we're not sure why. There doesn't seem to be a lot of traffic problems. We can make it up. In an hour and a half, we can make it all back and be right where we're supposed to be, so.

Ira Glass

Every couple hours when I check with Robert, this is what he says. We can still make it up. The rush still can come. Robert is optimistic, mostly.

Ira Glass

I wonder how it's going in Maine.

Robert Woodill

I haven't emailed Andy yet, but I'm afraid to email Andy right now. I'm sure it's going very well. But maybe that's a good thing I haven't heard back from Andy.

Ira Glass

Now it's starting to get a little overcast outside.

Robert Woodill

So what, are you wishing for rain here?

Ira Glass

Actually, he tells me, rain isn't always bad.

Robert Woodill

If it rains at the right time, people get backed up in traffic, then they gotta stop. 'Cause now they've been in traffic a little longer, so perfect timed rainstorms will be nice, and maybe not too hard. I think that'll be good because people will get out of their car and walk in a light rain, but they don't want to walk in a downpour. If it's a downpour, they don't come out of the car. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Still got a lot of night to go, so.

Ira Glass

Fingers crossed.

Robert Woodill

You're killing me, man.

Ira Glass

Within 25 minutes, the skies literally blacken.

[THUNDER]

And it is the wrong kind of rain, the kind that includes tornado warnings one county over, the kind where you do not run from your car across the parking lot to buy a nice sandwich or a hot coffee from Robert. The kind that I figured would just please one person on this earth, and that person was in Maine.

Andy Tucci

I would say probably by his last email, we're probably right in the same boat, right in the same area.

Ira Glass

Ladies and gentlemen, Andy Tucci, Roberts' rival, general manager of the Kennebunkport Travel Plazas. And his day actually wasn't going great either yet.

Andy Tucci

Yeah, I just shot him an email, letting him know that we'd be busy later on after the Red Sox game.

Ira Glass

Oh, I see. Oh, you think you can make it up later.

Andy Tucci

I think so. There'll be a lot of people on the road later on celebrating. Well, these Boston fans will be.

Ira Glass

Celebrating, huh?

Andy Tucci

Celebrating, absolutely.

Ira Glass

Now later on, does he have anything going on?

Andy Tucci

I don't really believe he has a whole lot going on down here tonight, you know, the Yankees being on the road.

Ira Glass

So it's looking pretty bad for him.

Andy Tucci

I would say so.

Ira Glass

At one point, finally, one of the concession stands, Nathan's Hot Dog, does get a real rush with a line that extends to the middle of the food court. This is where speed becomes crucial. Robert says that if people walk into the rest stop and see a line, if the line doesn't seem like it's moving, they'll walk out without buying. So his staff has to pour it on during the rush if they're going to make their goals and, of course, beat Maine. Sean Cole went behind the Nathan's counter to watch the action.

Sean Cole

Every now and then during the rush, Nathan's runs out of food.

Heather Rafertee

Wow, there's only one corn dog.

Sean Cole

Heather Rafertee's working one of three cash registers. One corn dog is a problem since a customer has been waiting a long time for two. They prepare as well as they can here, but there's only so much food you can cook in advance. Heather has to grab parts of other people's orders just to keep the flow going.

Heather Rafertee

I'm taking one of your large fries. You're waiting on nuggets anyway.

Sean Cole

It's like putting together a puzzle where a lot of the pieces are exactly the same shape. And it'd be easy if it wasn't so hard. People are fanatical about Nathan's, and workers joke about it. They feel like saying, you know, Roy Rogers has food, too. Luckily, Heather's break is imminent.

Heather Rafertee

I've got four minutes. Four long minutes.

Sean Cole

Four long minutes later, she clocks out and sneaks through the maze-y hallway in the back. On her way out the back door for a smoke, she walks up to another worker--

Heather Rafertee

Alex.

Sean Cole

--and gives him a quick passing smooch, which made me feel like I was really behind the scenes. Alex is Heather's boyfriend. About four months ago, they had a kid, a little boy. I ask what it's like to live and work together, but Heather says they don't. She lives with her parents right now and the baby.

Heather Rafertee

And Alex lives with his family. We're still together, definitely, but we plan on moving in together at some point. It's just that right now, money's tight, and this was kind of-- as much as I love my son, he was kind of like a surprise, so. Yeah, so. But eventually down the road, me and Alex will move in with each other.

Sean Cole

And you're thinking of getting married and--

Heather Rafertee

I'm hoping so. We've been together for two years now, so I'm definitely considering it. But he's 20 years old. He just turned 20 in June, so he's kind of still young, so.

Sean Cole

And how old are you?

Heather Rafertee

I'm 21.

Sean Cole

Heather and Alex are a mixed couple. She works at Nathan's, he works at Brioche Duree, the pastry and sandwich shop at the rest stop. This has led to a little inter-restaurant tension in the relationship.

Heather Rafertee

He's like, well, I worked this shift. I'm like, well, I worked this shift, and it was busy like this. And he's like, well, it was like this. And you know, we get into debates.

Sean Cole

Over who is more busy.

Heather Rafertee

Yeah. And which one's more crazier and which one's more harder, so.

Sean Cole

I've not been privy to these debates, and I don't work at the rest stop, but no one's fanatical about Brioche Duree. Nathan's is way harder.

Ira Glass

Across the lobby, all the way across on the other side from Nathan's, over in the travel mart, another one of our reporting team, Gregory Warner, was there when cashier Clara Dragon started her shift.

Gregory Warner

First thing Clara does on her shift, before she rings up a sale or even opens her register, she picks up a three-foot cardboard display of Purell hand sanitizer and sets it down on one side of the cashier's counter. It's a simple maneuver that blocks and redirects the flow of customers. Without it, she'd get bombarded from both sides.

Clara Dragon

Because they'll come over here ahead of the other people, and it causes an argument. So I barricade it so that they know they gotta go over there.

Gregory Warner

This stack of two-ounce Purell--

Clara Dragon

Keeps them from standing here and cutting the people off. Everyone says I'm crazy, but I do it immediately when I come in. Plus, it saves arguments. You don't want to rile them up more than they already are.

Gregory Warner

Clara grew up in a rough part of Astoria, Queens and spent her youth staying out of the way of trouble. At Plattekill, she's worked nine years as waitress and then cashier.

Clara Dragon

I was a waitress in Bob's Big Boy. And when they shut that down, they opened this, and I jumped in here.

Gregory Warner

So, um--

Man

Ask her if she voted for Barack Obama and if she thinks he's a good president or is he a [BLEEP]?

Gregory Warner

A tall guy with a sunburn and a pink polo shirt wags a Butterfinger bar.

Man

Ask her. She'll tell you. Do you think Obama's going to give you free health care, and do you think you deserve it?

Gregory Warner

Clara looks up at the angry man. She wears bifocals and shimmery eyeshadow. She doesn't say anything. She just smiles. It's a smile so genuine that the man can't help himself. He smiles back.

Man

Well, I don't like the Democrats in general.

Gregory Warner

The guy continues talking politics, but less belligerently. Clara still doesn't say a word. And by the time he collects his change, he's halfway apologizing. Clara hasn't spoken.

Man

You know what? We were stuck in New York, man. Bad traffic. You have a good day. Excuse my language.

Clara Dragon

That's an example of what we deal with, and you've got to smile.

Gregory Warner

That's an example of what you deal with?

Clara Dragon

Yeah. Not all the time, but sometimes. They're battling the roads or this heat or traffic, especially. They're coming in fuming. They're even rough with their families. So you just say, oh, I'm sorry. I rush to get them out so that they don't have to be on you longer than possible.

I only had one run-in with someone a while back who got on my goat, and I yelled back at him, which we're not supposed to do, but he just got me. I was doing a fax for a truck driver.

Gregory Warner

There's a fax machine under the cash register.

Clara Dragon

And my head is down. And all of a sudden, I hear, you're very rude. I pick my head up, and he says, you're very rude. He says, you're doing whatever you're doing down there. He says, you're not paying attention to me. I said, I'm doing a fax for someone. It's important. No, it's not, he says. I don't give a heck what you're doing down there. I'm going to report you, he says, and it's going to make my day. I couldn't take it. I said, you do that if it makes you happy.

Gregory Warner

That's it. That's the one time she yelled at a customer.

Clara Dragon

You have a good night.

Ira Glass

After midnight, only a few businesses are still left open in the rest stop. There's a gate blocking that room with all the New York State pamphlets, but a promotional video plays inside, in the room, behind the gate, all night long.

Tv

New York welcomes you to the Catskills.

Ira Glass

Two people from our team of reporters, Jay Allison and Nancy Updike, stayed up for the midnight to 8:00 AM shift. Here's Nancy first.

Nancy Updike

Between midnight and 8:00 AM, the first question isn't where are you going, but why? Why are you awake at a rest stop when it's--

Woman

2:00 AM.

Nancy Updike

Or even--

Man

What, 4:00 AM, I believe? Yeah, 4:00 AM in the morning, so.

Nancy Updike

Notice they're both laughing. It's funny, but seriously.

Nancy Updike

Is this where you intended to be at 2:00 AM?

Woman

We had no idea what time we would be here, actually.

Man

We didn't make any plans, actually.

Woman

We figured we would drive until we got tired and then hopefully find a place.

Nancy Updike

We'll call those people the non-planners. And then there are the planners.

Woman

That's the way my son liked to drive, with no lot of traffic on the road. So that's why we're on the road this time in the morning.

Nancy Updike

And then there are the people Jay's talking to, the bad planners.

Jay Allison

Over at one of the tables, Sebastian and John are getting their last hot meal before they switch to granola. They're headed into the Adirondacks to start hiking at dawn. And they're in a good mood, laughing a lot and talking, maybe a little nervously, about bears.

John

Bear bell? I'm all right.

Sebastian

Dinner bell.

John

Yeah, dinner bell for them.

Sebastian

I'm here.

John

Yeah.

Sebastian

I'm here, come by.

Jay Allison

Are you worried about bears?

John

Well, they say they're pretty active up there, so.

Sebastian

You see them all over, especially when you have food around you. They come visiting, definitely.

John

Yeah. You gotta watch out for that. Can't keep no food. That reminds me, I forgot the bear canister at home.

Jay Allison

Wait, so you forgot to bring the thing that you put the food in--

John

Yeah. It's a bear canister. You put all your food in, anything with odors. You seal it up, and you stick it, like, about 100 yards from your tent.

Jay Allison

That's a good idea. Where is that, in your apartment?

John

Yeah.

[LAUGHTER]

Jay Allison

Out in the parking lot, Tony and Debbie Longo are lost, and it's Tony's fault. The thing about Tony is he's not supposed to get lost. He's a New York City homicide detective.

Tony Longo

I don't know how I missed that exit. I don't know how I missed it. Big sign, Tappan Zee Bridge. There it was.

Jay Allison

When you're a cop, you're not supposed to make mistakes.

Tony Longo

Yeah, not the direction. The direction thing has to be down pat. I lost control.

Debbie Longo

I really hate my whole family right now. They didn't want to leave in the morning. God forbid we leave in the morning.

Jay Allison

Next time you'll leave in the morning.

Tony Longo

Oh, we'll leave in the morning next time.

Debbie Longo

Next time, I'm not coming.

Jay Allison

It's after 3:00 in the morning, and they've been lost for hours. And Debbie Longo says she's not a happy camper. But you can tell she is.

Debbie Longo

There's no soft serve, and it's not taking my money. I don't care anymore. I don't care. I'm going to get fat, and I don't care. I'm going to blow up like a balloon. And you're going to have a big fat wife.

Tony Longo

That's OK.

Debbie Longo

OK.

Tony Longo

But we stay happy.

Nancy Updike

Isn't there some truism about if you want to test your relationship, go on a long drive together? What I'm saying is, I'm expecting a lot of grouchiness here at the rest stop during the graveyard shift-- scowls, sniping, mutual recrimination.

Instead, I keep seeing couple after couple walk up to the glass doors of the rest stop and reach for each other's hands right before they walk through. Instinctively, like, here we go, you and me. Couples of every age-- 20s, 40s, 60s.

Nancy Updike

What are your names?

Edetta

Edetta.

Peter

And I'm Peter.

Nancy Updike

Edetta and Peter are on a five-hour drive to pick up their kids from summer camp, their first time at camp. In other words, a Parenting 101 trip-- unexciting, long, and happening at an inconvenient time. But listen to them laughing.

Nancy Updike

Did the kids want to go, or did you say, "You're going?"

Peter

We kind of made them go.

[LAUGHTER]

Edetta

And our oldest left for college exactly for the same time, so it works well.

Peter

Free time for ourselves, and they have free time for themselves.

[LAUGHTER]

Nancy Updike

It's at this point that I blurt out the most obvious and inappropriate question.

Nancy Updike

What did you do with your free time?

Which they handle admirably.

Edetta

We really had time to connect.

Peter

Had some romantic dinners and spend time together.

Nancy Updike

When was the last time you had time to do that before this?

Peter

Oh, 20 years ago.

[LAUGHTER]

Edetta

Oh, I remember back then.

Nancy Updike

And there's more giddiness inside the rest stop. Another couple, Lisa and Marcus.

Lisa

Did you see me giving him little kisses and telling him how cute he was when he walked in?

Nancy Updike

Lisa and Marcus, as you can tell, are in deep. They're looking at a map on the wall of this half-closed rest stop on their way up to Lake Champlain to go camping. It's the middle of the night. They've gotten lost already, not sure where they're going to sleep. But the two of them cannot stop smiling. I can feel endorphins radiating from them in waves. They met salsa dancing less than a year ago, and love is making them ambitious.

Lisa

We're planning on maybe moving to Argentina.

Marcus

And we started already dancing tango here in Philadelphia. So we want to become professional tango dancers. No, that's a joke.

Lisa

No, it's not.

Nancy Updike

Outside the rest stop, Katarina and Johnny are sitting next to each other on a bench. Not a bench in a beautiful park, a bench looking out on a highway and a parking lot. Of course they don't care. In fact, they seem not to have noticed at all.

Katarina

We're going to Montreal, Canada.

Nancy Updike

You're going to Montreal?

Katarina

Mm-hmm.

Johnny

Yeah, we're coming from New York, and we're going to Montreal.

Katarina

Right, yeah.

Nancy Updike

Johnny is finishing up his residency, but he's not sure he even wants to be a doctor. 35 years old with more than $200,000 in school debt. But he doesn't want to talk about that. He's on a road trip with his girl. He brushes off my questions, leans into the microphone, and steers us back to what we should be talking about.

Johnny

(SINGING) Love me tender, love me true, never let me go. Oh my god.

Nancy Updike

But even at a rest stop that's fizzy with love, there is heartache. As I'm standing outside, a man asks what I'm doing. So I ask what he's doing. We end up talking for a while. His name is Dan. He's driving back to upstate New York after a day in New York City.

Dan

Spent some time with my boys.

Nancy Updike

How old are they?

Dan

19 and 20-- oh my god-- 23.

Nancy Updike

How often do you see them?

Dan

Not often enough. I'm trying to make it more regular 'cause I just got divorced, like, a year or so ago, and so. They're staying with their mom, so I'm seeing less of them. Try to get to see them, like, once a month.

Nancy Updike

How is the divorce for them?

Dan

I don't really know. It seems to be OK for them, you know? It's a little weird still, but we still try to do things together and--

Nancy Updike

You and your ex-wife and the kids?

Dan

No, I don't do things with her anymore. Last year, my son's 18th birthday, we went skydiving together.

Nancy Updike

All four of you.

Dan

Yeah, all four of us. Like, she wanted her boyfriend to come. And I was like-- I actually called him and said, don't come.

Nancy Updike

You called him?

Dan

Yeah. I called him, left him a message. It was a very polite message. And I was like, Michael, please don't come.

Nancy Updike

You know him. You have his number.

Dan

Yeah. I knew him, yeah. So. It was a tough thing. She wanted him to come and, like, go on my son's 18th birthday. And it was like, really, it was just too weird. It's a very weird thing, trying to be friends with your ex, and then you can't really be friends. And then you have this other girlfriend, and then it's just like it's such a difficult thing.

She didn't want me to go to the house to pick the boys up. And then one week, we're having a good conversation, and next week, something like that comes up. And you're like-- you have the thing. You want to call that person, and yell at them, and talk to them about it. But you don't have that relationship anymore.

Nancy Updike

That's a hard moment, when you realize, right, we don't have that relationship anymore.

Dan

Try to go to counseling and stuff and try to get her to come back.

Nancy Updike

She didn't want to go to counseling?

Dan

She went with me one time, but then she wouldn't stop seeing this guy, this other guy she was seeing. So I mean, that kind of-- I made her pay the copay and we left.

Nancy Updike

This other guy, Michael.

Dan

Yeah. I had actually met him. I had met him at a party and her and him had become friends. And they just became more and more intimate. And instead of trying to work stuff out with me, she was trying to work stuff out with him, so-- I just think about it a lot. I beat myself up for where did I go wrong as a father, as a husband or whatever. And I'm basically 45 years old, and I figure half my life is over. And I'm really trying to figure out what to do with the next half.

Nancy Updike

I know this is just a rest stop, but really, some kind of love force field is in effect here tonight. Because guess what? Dan has a new girlfriend. She's at the rest stop with him, just doesn't want to talk into a microphone. They met through a singles group, and they've been together long enough that they've started meeting each other's kids. It's still complicated, but wow, it feels great.

Dan

I just told her tonight. I said I don't know what I would do with somebody else in my life. I mean, this is-- I found a woman that really loves me. And I'm, like, so over bowled by that, you know? It's just, it's--

Nancy Updike

It's like a miracle.

Dan

Yeah, it is. I'm optimistic about the future. Very optimistic.

Jay Allison

In the parking lot, when I first saw Stevie G from a distance, I thought he was naked.

Stevie G

And right now, I'm de-kinking the muscles in my buttock.

Jay Allison

Then he kicked one leg in the air above his head, and I saw he was wearing little white gym shoes.

Stevie G

Oh, it opens up the Fountain of Youth in the front of the hip joint.

Jay Allison

And then he jumped into a pool of light, and I saw he actually had on some tiny black nylon shorts. Stevie G teaches bodywork, pilates, yoga, massage, and such. And he stopped at this rest stop to stretch and move. It's hard not to notice, though, that while Stevie is working out in the parking lot, he's simultaneously smoking a hand-rolled cigarette.

Stevie G

That's what I am, you know? Unfortunately, I'm polluting my lungs, but they're doing well. I clean them out on a daily basis.

Jay Allison

How do you clean them out?

Stevie G

Usually a mixture of running, and steaming, and meditational breathing, and not swallowing what I cough up. I always spit it out. Like, I have a little cup. I can spit out all-- I don't never swallow it.

Jay Allison

Our conversation, by the way, is happening next to Stevie's vehicle, which figures largely in his life. It's an old yellow school bus he got up in Woodstock to start a volunteer service program.

Stevie G

Picking up the drunk people, like, going into the bars and finding the ones and say, all right, who looks really bombed? Offer them a free ride home.

Jay Allison

But now Stevie G has a larger vision for the bus. He wants to build a health center made of school buses. Before he leaves the rest stop, Stevie G gets out a big foam roller and takes it to his favorite spot for a final stretch.

Stevie G

All right, we got all the big 18 wheeler trucks on one side. We've got all the smaller cars over here on the other. We are on 87 highway. This is where I think it's the cleanest. You just got to watch out to see if the dogs have been here.

Abracadabra, scoop that belly, burn the jelly, America. You gotta get off your fat one and do something good, something good like the solid oak wood. Get out there and help others. And especially help yourself to be your best, so that you are not a cranky old fool. Now we all got to pull up the hill.

Jay Allison

Stevie rolls all around the sidewalk, with truckers looking down at him from their cabs. He doesn't notice. When he's all loosened up, he picks up his roller and heads back to his vehicle.

[ENGINE STARTING]

Stevie G

Oh, it sounds good. That's my baby. Take care. Take it easy.

Jay Allison

Stevie G coughs up some phlegm, spits it out, and heads off for Woodstock.

It's morning. English sparrows are congregating like crazy in the trees just outside the rest stop doors. Standing out in the parking lot, nine-year-old Brian Belco looks kind of like a bird, actually. His eyes are bright. His arms are stiff at his sides and held out a bit like wings. And when he speaks into the microphone, he bobs his head forward, like he's pecking at it.

Brian Belco

We're going fishing up in Swanton's Mine.

Jay Allison

Yeah, what are you going to catch?

Brian Belco

Bass, pike, pickerel, perch.

Jay Allison

Wow, it sounds like you've done this before.

Brian Belco

Yep. But the tradition started with my family. It started with my great grandfather.

Jay Allison

Is that right?

Brian Belco

My great grandfather was a great fisherman. He really liked fishing, so he went up to Lake Champlain. And some of the cabins were built right over the historic battlefield of the war in 1842, the Battle of Lake Champlain.

Jay Allison

You're a student.

Brian Belco

This is my first radio interview ever.

Jay Allison

Really?

Brian Belco

Yep.

Jay Allison

You did great.

Brian Belco

I know. I'm really, really excited.

Man

Say goodbye.

Brian Belco

Bye.

Jay Allison

Bye. Have a great vacation.

Man

Thanks.

Credits

Ira Glass

And with the new day here, we have just the time for one final note before we go. Final tallies from the battle between the rest stops in Plattekill and Maine. At the end of the afternoon, after our two days in Plattekill, I can report to you that business never really picked up for either rest stop. And after two days on Saturday afternoon, Robert told me he only had one consolation for the weekend-- he beat Andy.

Robert Woodill

I'm the king for the day. I beat Andy, and the Red Sox got smacked around and massacred by the Yankees. The unfortunate thing is being king for the day when you miss your sales by seven grand isn't so good. And everybody was down. So it was a bad day for everybody. Maine-- Andy sent out a quick note, not hitting his numbers at all.

But you know, we're ready for next weekend. We still got two more weekends to go. I still think they're coming. I mean, yeah, in this business, you've got to be positive.

Ira Glass

When I left, he was around $12,000 down for two days, 7% or 8% lower than where he needed to be. But all this rain, he said, could make for really beautiful leaves upstate come the fall. A lot of people could get on the roads for that to look at those leaves. He could still turn this around.

Today's show was reported in 2009. In the years since, Robert, the general manager, has been promoted several times. He's now a senior director of Motorways, overseeing travel plazas in the New York Thruway, the main turnpike, and a few Starbucks in Massachusetts-- which means, of course, that the competition between Plattekill and Andy in Kennebunkport came to an end. Though, Robert says, they do still argue about baseball.

You can still find Lenny Wheat dispensing travel advice and Clara Dragon behind the register at Plattekill, though they've stopped using J-1 visas to bring in foreign students.

Well, our program was produced today by Sean Cole and myself, with Alex Blumberg, Jane Marie, Sarah Koenig, Lisa Pollak, Alyssa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer for today's show is Julie Snyder. Additional production on today's rerun from Jessica Lussenhop, Katherine Rae Mondo, Stowe Nelson, and Matt Tierney.

Special thanks today to Morgan Hook, from former New York Governor David Patterson's office, to the New York State Thruway Authority, and to Shelia McGee at HMS Host. Our website, ThisAmericanLife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia, who says do not believe his reputation. Do not believe what people say about him. It's not true.

Adelaide Giron

I don't think I'm a big crazy Mexican at all. I'm a gentle giant, really.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

[MUSIC - SILVEROOT, "REST STOP"]