Monday, March 16, 2009


I previously mentioned how when I worked for the turnpike that I tried to make each patron's experience a good one. The grumpier a person was, the harder I tried. Probably annoyed the heck out of some people. Kind of like when you are in a bad mood and someone tells you to "Smile" you often want to clock them a good one. Still, it gave me a goal each day and kept the tedium of my job in check. Besides, I really like people.

The regulars often became my "minute friends". There was one gentleman however who was impervious to my attempts. His dark face was grim and showed no response to me as a fellow human at all. Should have let it go but what else did I have to do? He came through periodically, always turning towards Vero Beach when he left the turnpike.

One day when I was in a booth with a college kid named Kenny, I saw the familiar car approach. I told Kenny to check out the man. He was in the car with two other grim faced fellows. They were all dark haired with flat, almost black, eyes. Again the driver stared straight ahead with frozen features as if I were a mechanical being.

"Wow." Kenny observed when they left, " Maybe they are Mafia. Those are really scary looking dudes. You had better give up on them." Which was good advice from a youngster.

I eventually gave up any idea communication with the driver and just as suddenly he quit coming through. Several weeks passed and I forgot about the stony faced man. Something else had captured all our minds.

One day, Kenny brought in a newspaper and put it in front of me at lunch. There on the front page was the picture of my sour patron. My flesh actually crawled as I looked at the familiar face. I felt dirty, angry, and sick. The face staring back at me was that of Mohammad Atta, a terrorist pilot of the 9/11 attack which was still agonizingly fresh in our minds.

That I had smiled at him, talked to him , wished for him to have a "nice day", sickened me. Some how I felt his slime on me. If I could have and survived I would have taken a bath in Clorox though I doubt it would have helped.

I know I couldn't have stopped what happened that day in September but that I had been so solicitous to the perpetrators took a long time to put aside.

For someone who generally feels there is good in most everyone, that day I realized that is not always the truth.

I can still see that man's face and know with out a doubt, no human soul resided there.


  1. Well written, Patti. What an experience!

  2. WOW. I bet you weren't the only person who attempted to be friendly to those people. I was sickened when I heard that some of them had taken flight lessons here in NC. I'm pretty sure I never met up with any of them, though. If I had, I'd be bathing in Clorox too.

  3. What an incredible experience. Some people leave an indelible impression. Isn't it interesting that this man's inhumanity was obvious even while he was just driving in his car. A true monster.

  4. Pat Thanks. It was but I hope never repeated.

    I wonder about those poor persons who lived next door to them only to find out who they were. Much worse.

    I do believe he was evil thru and thru.