Exceptionalism in randomness
I guess this is a random location, a Pilot truck stop in Troy, Illinois. I drove three days to get here from New Brunswick. Relaxed driving, 900 kilometers a day, no stress. I arrived Saturday late afternoon and now have the entire Sunday to myself. I'm just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, which is an old city, known for its arch - the gateway to the west, and a big baseball town at that too with the St. Louis Cardinals. I could have taken a taxi to check it out but I decided to stay put in Troy and walk two miles into town. Google Maps is showing me there is a bar. I want to go there, have a beer and a burger and walk back.
On my way the temperature is above 90 degrees and the sunlight is harsh. It reflects brightly on the sidewalks, to the point that I am squinting my eyes. The bar is easily found though and inside it is dark and cool, the exact opposite of outside. I order a Goose Island IPA and it probably takes about six minutes for me to get into a conversation with two fifty-something year old guys next to me at the bar. The two guys introduce themselves and I feel terrible now for not remembering their names, especially since they did remember mine, which is even more remarkable because it's not a common name in the English language world.
We get to talk, about Canada, the one guy has relatives in Montreal. About different parts of the US - Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington State and Florida, and about Illinois. The one guy is from neighbouring Indiana originally but here in southern Illinois things are better. He's not moving back to Indianapolis. There are four distinct seasons here with a winter that is not too brutal, a nice summer and a good fall and spring time too. And even though taxes are high and all the money raised here disappears into the bottomless pit of Chicago, property prices are good and you're conveniently close to lots of other places like St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisville and Cincinnati and a great fishing spot in Arkansas.
We also talk about my job, truck and me living in Canada and being Dutch. And about sports: baseball, American football and Nascar, and... about politics. Inevitably so. I didn't start it, even though I love hearing what people here have to say about it. The one guy appears quite outspoken: 'I'm not your typical liberal. I'm more a conservative. I like us being responsible citizens and all, like being fiscally conservative with money and stuff. But also, I believe in the idea of live and let live. I don't like the far left or the far right. They just want to take your freedoms away. Don't get me wrong, I am a military guy, I am pro military but something has happened to the party that I used to vote for. Why can't we just be civil about it all, have respect for one another?'
Behind me, and out of my sight, another guy all of a sudden responds loudly and says: 'Amen to that, amen to that.' We all shake hands and he leaves with the food that he had ordered. I finish my beer and am about to order some food myself. One of the two guys decides to leave and we shakes hands too. The other is telling me I might want to go somewhere else for food. Fire N Smoke is a good place if I liked barbecue style food. Before I even realize it, I am actually in the passenger seat of his 4.0 liter, straight 6, open top Jeep Wrangler, racing the two miles or so to this place.
That cool, bright yellow little car and the freedom that it conveys while cruising down the highway that I had walked earlier, but now under a low, warm, early evening sun, in combination with its owner's warm ideals; his belief in freedom and civility, is for sure one of the most American things I have experienced in my life.
As we arrive at the Fire N Smoke restaurant I am kinda lost for words. I thank the guy whose name I have shamefully forgotten. I am extremely grateful for the ride, the conversation, for the sharing of ideas, the acceptance, the friendliness, the stories, the freedom. Cool stuff coming my way in a place where I am just a passer-by who happens to be parked for 34 hours without ever having asked for any of it. I feel humbled. We shake hands and he takes off into the evening. I go in to the restaurant and am not disappointed with the burger and salad that I get. As I walk back to my truck the sun has set and the dark evening glow makes for a nice, soft dark blue eastern sky in which the illuminated Troy water tower takes its position gracefully, right next to my truck stop. Time to go to bed a happy guy and get back to work tomorrow morning. There is exceptionalism in randomness here in America. I love it.