A Day at the Office


Yesterday I was almost gave up at the entrance ramp of 43 North in Indiana. Steven had dropped me off there, but the lay of the land was not in my favor. Most of the cars appeared to be families picking up their sons or daughters from Purdue University, just five miles away. Full vehicles and families are usually not going to stop. Then there was the bend in the entrance ramp, which made it tough for a truck, or any vehicle, to safely pull over. Sometimes you just get dealt bad cards.

It was getting warmer, and the shade was getting scarce.

I have a  routine when I get to a ramp. I spend the first 10-15 minutes with the pack on my back. Somehow I think that drivers will reward me for my athletic efforts. I do llittle dips to strengthen my legs. I walk about ten yards forward, then ten yards back, just to loosen up a bit and keep myself from getting bored.

After a while the pack starts to feel heavy, and I find a signpost to help me get it off my back and on to the ground. I lean backward into the sign, unclip the hip and chest straps, and then, sliding my arms out, reach up and grab the top of the frame, then slowly lower the frame and my body to the ground.

Early on I had tried to just let my arms out, but the pack pitched backwards and landed on its head, (where my laptop resides). I was worried that I would break the screen. Then a truck driver in Ohio dropped my bag on its head and broke the screen, so I don’t have to worry about that. (It’s since been replaced, thanks to Deb Alexander and Best Buy). Caring for fragile technology was not something we had to worry about in 1978.

Back to yesterday. I was contemplating quitting, though I have no idea what quitting would really entail, since I was still in the middle of nowhere with no means of transportation. I was on that roadside for so long that the Google Camera car went by, so for all I know the Google Earth image of that highway ramp might include me!

The sign said that the nearest McDonald’s was three miles down the road. I told myself that I would stay until my water ran out, then retreat to the Golden Arches. I had about half pint of water left in my jar.

You have to play such games with your mind to keep yourself out there when things aren’t going well. It’s like fishing. You tell yourself that you’ll just spend a certain amount of time in a spot, or you’ll wait until you’ve finished that next beer, or employ some other artificial barrier or deadline to keep yourself in place. You don’t want to move on from a spot just before the big ones start biting.

And yesterday it worked. Chip came along and took me to Remington, where Gary stopped to drive me to Kentland, where, after a few hours of waiting on the roadside, Adam came along and drove me all the way across the state line and into Peoria, Illinois.

Today I used every trick I knew.  I got to the ramp early, and set up with my sign. Heeding the truth that you get rides not with a thumb but with a smile, I put on my brightest smile, waved at everyone who passed me, and walked up and down. If you think this is easy, you should try smiling at dozens of strangers whose faces you cannot see through tinted windows as they sail by at 60 miles per hour, all the while crying because of sunscreen in your eyes.

You start to rethink your plan. You rethink your location. Or maybe it’s the sign? Should I have worn the other hat? Were the shorts a good idea or no?  You start having so many conversations in your head that it suddenly occurs to you that you might be having them out loud and the reason no one is stopping is that you are actually moving your lips and those stares from the passing vehicles are actually looks of concern for your mental stability.

And then the phone rings. It is the office. My actual office, back in Syracuse. Most things can get done there without me, but there are always a few items I need to check on or they need to run by me. Soon I’m staring at my screen trying to check contacts and emails and take care of those, all the while squinting because the sun is glaring off the surface of my phone.

And then it was noon. And then it was 1 PM. I’m starting to cook. My best option is to cross the road, and find shelter. Shelter for the moment is the Northwoods Mall, which has a charging station and comfortable sofas in the center court. I’m tempted, but I’m pretty sure it would be frowned upon to lie on this sofa. I’m gonna check a few things and make my way back to the ramp.

Oh, and they’re talking lightning later. We’ll see how this goes.

Hope you’re having a great day.



Massage Therapist and writer from Syracuse, NY, hitchhiking across the US.


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