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“Never seen a hearse with a luggage rack” – Luster, truck driver who picked us up in Michigan.

“I’ll give you a ride if you have sex with me” – as I stand right next to Ryan near the Detroit airport. Nice.

“Now you can tell all your friends that one day, a cop gave you a ride” – cop in a small town near Michigan City as Ryan and I were trying to get to Battleground, IN, to see Mike. When he first drove up we were prepared to get hassled, then he offered us a ride. However, he dropped us off in a pretty inconvenient spot, and made odd conversation. Thanks, dude.

Then there was the shuttle driver who took us from Indiana to Chicago who said, while waiting for a passenger, “Orientals are never on time.” I said “Thats a pretty big generalization” and he got quiet. As did Mike and Shelly for a little bit. When we arrived in Chicago and were expected to give a tip, Ryan said “Sir, we usually make a point of tipping but we were really offended by your comment back in Indiana and just want you to know that.” He responded with, “Well its the truth.” That’s great.

Ryan would remind me, “you’re not at Hampshire” as a way to contextualize and be real about our interactions while hitchiking. Of course I don’t expect people across the country to have access to educational opportunities or use politically informed/ “correct” language, and I try to do a decent job of listening for what someone is really trying to say. But still, the course, xenophobic sentiments that get aired spontaneously shock me a little. What did I learn from truckers and others we met on the road? This country DEPENDS on the trucking industry. Hardcore. No wonder the interstate highway system was one of the first massive national infrastructure projects. One man we rode with, Lester, delivered a range of things including steel rolls that weighed over a ton and would be pressed into all kinds of steel products. He also delivered special forest-eating tractors destined for Brazil.

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