Lots of budget cuts are hard to get your head around. Say, the Department of Environmental Conservation is going to have fewer people. Well, exactly what does that mean to you and me? Even the people who work there are still trying to figure that out. But closing a rest area, we can understand.
We’ve all been to them, grateful for a clean, safe place to stop and do your business. All the better if they have good coffee and a friendly person behind the desk to make small talk with. I availed myself of all those things at the Highgate rest area just last week. Apparently, the friendly person behind the desk is going to lose her job now.
A bunch of out-of-state drivers want us to keep the rest areas open, according to the Associated Press
. Easy for them to say, of course, in that they’re not footing the bill. Ah, but one of them even suggested the state ask for a $1 donation at each rest area.
Most of us would be happy to pay a $1 for a clean, safe rest area, but only if we didn’t have to, and then, well, maybe they’d be happy to pay in theory, just not on this particular visit. Next time, maybe.
I like a nice rest area as much as the next guy. You tend to remember states that have good ones (Tennessee) and bad ones (Arkansas). But the truth is we might all be better off if we got off at an exit, bought a cup of coffee and used the facilities at a commercial venture. If we hadn’t used the Highgate rest area, maybe we would have frequented the Swanton Dunkin’ Donuts.
There’s a nice rest area at the Vermont/New York border in Fair Haven that I haven’t stopped at in years because there are also two convenience stores with clean, plentiful restrooms, good coffee and cheap gas practically within spitting distance.
Why shouldn’t we encourage people to get off at Randolph and visit the convenience store or the McDonald’s rather than the taxpayer-funded rest area?
Would we miss out on the tourism angle? All those maps and fliers for B&Bs and Ben & Jerry’s? Why can’t there be some sort of public-private partnership by which the convenience store displays those?
Is it true, as one traveler told the Associated Press, that “Nothing’s worse than seeing somebody on the side of the highway, going to the bathroom"? I pulled a pop quiz on my husband at the breakfast table this morning. Fill in the blank, I said, Nothing's worse than ... ?
He'd just gotten back from visiting his father, who just had quadruple bypass surgery (he's doing well), and his mother, who is sitting home without electricity from last week's ice storm (she's not doing so well). So his first answer was not "seeing somebody on the side of the highway, going to the bathroom."
- Terri Hallenbeck