“We are a country defined as much by distance as by culture,” says Keisha (Jasika Nicole) in “Alice Isn’t Dead”. I know the feeling. After twenty summers crisscrossing North America it all can feel so… big. And separate. With everyone mistrusting everyone else.
A few days ago we stopped to get gas somewhere between Lincoln and Omaha. At the pump behind us were three people solemnly staring at their smoldering car’s engine. After asking them if they needed help they answered no but thanked me for the offer. One said he was not worried because he had broken down in a “good place.” Another said there was no way anyone would have stopped to offer help in Miami. I think it is safe to say that “Miami” here was code for “city.” And “good place” likely meant any area filled with people looking like themselves (so my good place would be a city of mostly tall white people with poor motor coordination and questionable fashion sense).
Twice this trip our car sputtered in the middle of nowhere and twice people helped us as best they could. The second mechanic even called us a couple of days later to make sure we made it to our next destination. And outside of San Diego at a discount gr ocery store, where no one looked like us, a bottle of wine slipped away from our grocery cart a moment after we had purchased it. It made one heck of a dramatic mess. A long silent moment passed before the scary looking security guy asked if we were OK. A cashier told us to get another bottle and then told us not to worry when apologized for our carelessness.
After six weeks and over five thousand miles (and also twenty years and fifty states) we know some things. It is a big country out there. Not everyone agrees with one another. But it is still a nation of people trying to do the best they can. Maybe in the end that is all we can ask for.