Heart and sole
February 1, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

 
At some point this guy is just not going to be able to keep it up. I wonder where his manager with his "home cookin'" will be, then.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:08 PM on February 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Jesus. Can the internet band together to get him a nice new Honda Accord? If anyone deserves it, it's him. (There's the insurance and upkeep to think about too, of course. But surely that can be factored in.)
posted by naju at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


And every day is a tribute to how much he cares about his job, his boss and his coworkers.
...
"I set our attendance standard by this man," says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. "I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!"
...
His job pays $10.55 an hour
America fuck yeahyou!
posted by klanawa at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2015 [121 favorites]


Two hours of sleep each day simply doesn't add up. It doesn't just cause sleep deprivation but all kinds of serious mental and physical health issues.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yeah, he gets under 4 hours of sleep most nights and he's working with injection molding equipment (not the most dangerous of industrial machinery, but still), but his situation is used as a negotiation tactic for other employees who need to take a day off?

He's making up on sleep on the weekends but this is still burning the candle at both ends.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:14 PM on February 1, 2015 [42 favorites]


That's depressing.

Detroit is full of shitty, owned houses where people are paying astronomical utility bills that would exceed the rent and utilities on a small, new apartment. But for some reason, people hang on to these places.

The fact that there is so little work that he's schlepping all that way for slightly above minimum wage is depressing. That there's no bus service is depressing.

The most depressing thing is that his boss seems to think that he's a barometer of the 'right' kind of dedication to his work. Dude. This guy is not doing this out of loyalty or dedication to you, it's just how he's wired.

Honestly, someone needs to sit down with him and sort him out. But that's just me wanting to fix people. Maybe if he got some sleep he'd work on something better.

This is just abusive.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2015 [75 favorites]


Even a cheap bike would help this guy a lot.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:17 PM on February 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


That's a heck of a walk. As jeff-o-matic noted, a bike would make a huge difference.
I'm an old guy and I ride 16-18 miles on my daily commute and it's no big deal. I can't imagine walking it very day. And 21 is even farther.

I wonder if he wants a bike or, (please say no) a car? Or he he a dedicated walker?
posted by cccorlew at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I couldn't finish reading the article because my eyeballs filled with blood and exploded from rage.
posted by trunk muffins at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2015 [34 favorites]


There's at least one GoFundMe page that's close to 25K to get this guy a car.

Speaking as a Detroit transit advocate - the whole episode is just depressing. The suburb (Rochester Hills) to which Mr. Robertson commutes opted out the suburban Detroit bus system in the mid 90s, which is why he has to walk so far from the end of the line. And of course the local common wisdom is "Get this guy a car!" instead of "How can we provide a public transit system that lets people get to work reasonably?" Of course, given the insurance he'll have to pay on a car in Detroit, and the low-level property crime & ticketing regime that revolves around cars, it's more of a curse than a blessing.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 12:31 PM on February 1, 2015 [40 favorites]


Yeah, the whole thing is just unspeakably gross.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:36 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bootstraps!
posted by Thorzdad at 12:38 PM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


He says at the end that the walking is just part of him. I get that. I walk an hour each way to and from work, and I really enjoy it. I could imagine upping it to 2 hours each way--my body's only just started revving up at the 1 hour mark. 3 or 4 is maybe a bit excessive!

The main problem is that after the time spent walking, working, and taking care of base needs, there's not a ton of time left over for other things. 24-hour days are too short.
posted by mantecol at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm ashamed to share a species with that plant manager. Home cookin'? Thank'a ver' much, boss. How about a fucking raise?
posted by notsnot at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


And every day is a tribute to how much he cares about desperately needs his job.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2015 [42 favorites]


See you on the barricades!
posted by Meatbomb at 12:44 PM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


"I set our attendance standard by this man," says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. "I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!"

This leaped out at me also. The question he should be asking is "what fucked up system do we have where someone has to walk 21 miles a day to work" and not "how do I make other people do the same."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:45 PM on February 1, 2015 [33 favorites]


I live in Toronto and so hate the TTC (public transit) that I regularly walked to and from work: 23km and mostly uphill going there. I worked there 8 years. I still took transit during storms (though it rarely got me there faster). I biked when running late but it's dangerous during rush hour so dreaded it.

In March I opened my own business and now the walk is 4.3km each way--no hills. I also got my license this year so will get a car soon. I'm sure that the day I can forever declare not to set foot on the TTC ever again will be one of my happiest. The TTC is by far the worst thing about this awful fucking city.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


instead of "How can we provide a public transit system that lets people get to work reasonably?"

Or perhaps how do we get employers to not locate where their lower-wage workers are dependent on a car to get to work? A good chunk, maybe most, of the low-paying industrial factories or warehouses where I've worked were in the process of moving to some further away place, another episode in their histories of moving from the dense inner city to the long bus ride inner suburbs to the car dependent outer suburbs.
posted by TimTypeZed at 12:56 PM on February 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


There are few jobs IN Detroit proper.

The people of Rochester Hills will NEVER participate in a bus line that allows people to ride a bus from Detroit to their neighborhoods.

Welcome to Michigan, where racism is rampant, the state government's efforts go towards filling the pockets of business people, public education is failing, and we've pretty much destroyed the unions that created a thriving middle class. Welcome to "Pure Michigan Bullshit"
posted by HuronBob at 12:57 PM on February 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


The TTC is by far the worst thing about this awful fucking city.

Hey, did you hear about the transit situation in greater Detroit? It's in the story that you're commenting on.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:58 PM on February 1, 2015 [37 favorites]


My city, a small town that is a suburb of the greater Milwaukee area, just recently got a bus line connecting Milwaukee to here- specifically to the industrial parks. It did so, because the state of Wisconsin was sued over how it's improvements to the freeway were not equatable to people of all income levels. (Walker has been all about killing public transportation since his time as city manager, though Wisconsin's disdain for public transportation goes back even further.) Several articles covered all the different ways people had to get to work before this and a few similar routes were put in, including a number of tails of people walking or biking in crazy weather. Most worked at jobs that had very low tolerance for tardiness or absenteeism, so most ended up with some sort of punishment and eventual job separation. The bus was a real chance at some consistency in transportation to these jobs.

Of course, the bus is only funded for a couple years from the lawsuit payout. People are "hopeful" new funding will be found when that runs out. But considering how hard my city fought the bus proposals prior to this, I am doubtful.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:00 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


You live in a pretty rarefied world if the TTC is the worst thing for you about Toronto. I used to semi-frequently walk to/from work--Rosedale to the Annex and back. Nice walk, but wouldn't want to do it every day, for sure.

And better to have an imperfect system that at least tries to get people around the city than one that simply doesn't exist. Owning a car is a financial impossibility for me and many other people; we need transit. To say nothing of the environmental concerns.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:01 PM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm glad that the kickstarter will buy him a car. That's great. No, really, it is.

But what about the other thousands of people in very similar lives of hardship, who didn't strike the fancy of an ambitious reporter?
posted by Dashy at 1:03 PM on February 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


"I set our attendance standard by this man," says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. "I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!"

This leaped out at me also. The question he should be asking is "what fucked up system do we have where someone has to walk 21 miles a day to work" and not "how do I make other people do the same."


Ugh, yeah. Like, that guy was so PROUD of his employee who is basically killing himself to get to work and keep a job. That's an example of a GOOD employee.

Don't get me wrong, I love America, but ugh, capitalism sometimes.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:05 PM on February 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


"I set our attendance standard by this man," says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. "I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!"

Christ, what an asshole. Yeah, sorry if you were sick, had a family emergency, the kids were sick, etc., etc., etc.

But there's a lot more than a paycheck luring him to make his weekday treks. Robertson looks forward to being around his coworkers, saying, "We're like a family." He also looks forward to the homemade dinners the plant manager's wife whips up for him each day.


Bullshit. Family members would offer each other rides.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:07 PM on February 1, 2015 [32 favorites]


...but his situation is used as a negotiation tactic for other employees who need to take a day off?

Some would call this rate-busting.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:15 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I work the morning shift at a before-school care center run by a national youth development nonprofit. Overall I have no complaints, the pay is low but it's pretty standard for this kind of job, unfortunately.

However, I wasn't super impressed when I went in to interview there and the friendly guy doing the hiring asked me a few questions, then asked me 'and can you tell me how you got to this interview today?' I (truthfully) said I drove. He says 'Good, I'm glad to hear that. You wouldn't believe how many people I have come in [for part time jobs paying $8-10 an hour in a city that does have a bus system] that seem great but they don't have a car.'
posted by geegollygosh at 1:32 PM on February 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I don't like/get the whole low paid job put in the suburbs with impossible standards. It's not even the transportation issue, (though that's not good either.) but on top of that, a good number of those jobs, be it call centers or wearhouses or factory jobs, have some deeply inhuman systems of points that don't take into account the realities of every day life. Or maybe they do, purposefully weeding out people that have transportation, family, or other life problems. Single mother with kids and a weak support system? You'll be weeded out. Unreliable transportation? Weeded out. Dont want to arrive at work an hour early to account for any possible public transportation delays? Weeded out.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:46 PM on February 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I used to semi-frequently walk to/from work--Rosedale to the Annex and back. Nice walk, but wouldn't want to do it every day, for sure.

Rosedale to the Annex, what's that, 15 minutes at most? On wide clean sidewalks full of people passing upscale retail stores? Wouldn't consider messing with the TTC for that. For factory workers there are longer walks from the bus stop through the industrial park to the worksite. Especially on weekends or during second or third shift hours, when those dotted line routes on your TTC map don't operate.
posted by TimTypeZed at 1:53 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


[insert clever name here]: "Yeah, I don't like/get the whole low paid job put in the suburbs with impossible standards."

It makes a lot of sense if your goal is to keep out inner-city minorities.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


More like forty minutes to an hour depending on my speed--Mt Pleasant/Summerhill to Bath/Bloor.

For factory workers there are longer walks from the bus stop through the industrial park to the worksite.

That's kind of my point; my fault for not being clearer. It was a pretty pleasant walk and I wouldn't want to do it every day. And yet there are people doing these hideously unpleasant commutes without any choice. That's a problem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why none of his coworkers have offered to help him with transportation. I know it's out of the way and everything, but if everyone took turns it wouldn't be so bad. It's 10.5 miles, not 100!

(And yeah, fucked-up system, capitalism, Michigan bullshit, ugh).
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 2:05 PM on February 1, 2015


It makes a lot of sense if your goal is to keep out inner-city minorities.

Yeah, there was a big fight recently about putting affordable housing in a Milwaukee suburb with a lot of light industrial facilities. It's a no-brainer from a planning perspective - put workers next to jobs - but most of the workers would not have been white. It took a federal civil rights lawsuit in order to get the project built.
posted by desjardins at 2:07 PM on February 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't understand why none of his coworkers have offered to help him with transportation

If the boss is using his punctuality as a bludgeon against other workers, maybe no one likes him.
posted by desjardins at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


I turned down an opportunity for a job on the other side of Atlanta because of lack of transit. The recruiter was a bit befuddled, so I had to explain it to him.

Take MARTA to Cobb and Rob.

I'm so glad they're putting the new Braves Stadium there. It'll be awesome for traffic and so accessible to Atlanta residents.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Employers' prejudice against transit users is frequently ill-informed (I mean when it's based on practical reasons rather than just bigotry, obviously the bigotry's ignorant bullshit). I always beat everyone to the office when I take the bus on snow days -- it's got better traction than pretty much anything else on the road. Plus knowing I've got to be at my stop on time keeps me from deluding myself that I can make up for being late by driving faster.

And of course all that assumes a moderately functional transit system, which isn't really in evidence in this situation. Ugh. And I don't know enough about Detroit-area geography to suggest that a bicycle would help much -- the commute map shows a lot of interstate highways, which do horrible things to bicycle route planning when you've got to find a way to cross them.
posted by asperity at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


This man isn't a hero, he's a symptom.
posted by butterstick at 2:14 PM on February 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


I do NOT want to be FitBit friends with this guy. I look bad enough as it is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:18 PM on February 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


For the most part, riding a bicycle in the Detroit suburbs is basically a death wish - you can ride on the sidewalk where you're likely to get plastered by someone whipping out of a driveway, or you can take your chances on the 45-mph stroads, where you'll probably get run over from behind by someone who doesn't know that you've got a legal right to be there. There's a few pleasant routes but they are few and far between and don't generally connect to each other.

Riding in the city is a different story, but I don't blame him for walking the whole way.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 2:18 PM on February 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


"I set our attendance standard by this man," says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering.

I'll bet you do. But I'll bet that doesn't equal extra dollars in James Robertson's pay packet*. I'll bet you're not going to buy him a secondhand car for 10 years of loyal service to your shitty factory that manufactures shit. I'll bet you're not campaigning the city for extra bus routes. I'll bet you're not introducing a company bus service for the employees (despite the fact that you're complaining about everybody else being late all the time). I'll bet he doesn't get his medical covered. Oh, wow, a "Southern" meal. Hope you can wolf it down in the ten minutes you're probably allocated for your lunch break, James!

*Oh, sorry, yes it does: two dollars an hour over the state's minimum wage, for a man nearly 60 with a decade of service. Bravo.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:29 PM on February 1, 2015 [33 favorites]


Yeah, a bike would be a great idea for this guy. Isn't Detroit pretty flat? Some people are not all that well-balanced on bikes, so maybe he could use a trike. Not as efficient, but a helluva lot better than walking.
posted by zardoz at 2:54 PM on February 1, 2015


I'm sure that the day I can forever declare not to set foot on the TTC ever again will be one of my happiest. The TTC is by far the worst thing about this awful fucking city.

Wow, you hate the TTC enough to walk 23K a day?! As someone who has lived in several cities with much worse transit systems than the TTC before moving to Toronto, I just don't understand this attitude. Most of the TTC's problems are caused by woefully insufficient government funding. All things considered, they do a pretty good job with the limited resources they have.
posted by barnoley at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


A bike is not really an option, he would be dead in a week. And, the bike would only work during about 6 months out of the year...
posted by HuronBob at 2:58 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Riding a bike at 10 pm on busy roads sounds like a death wish.
posted by desjardins at 2:59 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, you hate the TTC enough to walk 23K a day

Just for shits and giggles, I actually mapped this. That's walking from 1 Yonge to York Mills and back, every day.

There is no way in hell that taking transit wouldn't be faster every single time for that distance anywhere within Toronto, and frankly I really don't believe that anyone is making that walking trip by choice on a daily basis.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:03 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Riding a bike at 10 pm on busy roads sounds like a death wish.
I'm sure he could simply choose a route on the many safe and clean side streets in the area.

(Why yes, that is bitter sarcasm, thanks for asking.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:06 PM on February 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


My guess is that the plant manager, Todd Wilson, was happy to have what he expected would be positive press -- featuring (a) loyal worker(s) and his magnanimity in having his wife cook for his employee every evening. He's probably surprised at the people who are rightly comparing him to some asshole out of a Dickens novel.

"Yeah, a bike would be a great idea for this guy."

I really, really hate that whole "Oh, MetaFilter..." thing that people sometimes do but this is one of the very few times when I'm tempted to do it. So I have, I suppose.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:25 PM on February 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


I feel like a lot of people may have missed the end of the article: "If I can get away, I'll pick him up. But James won't get in just anybody's car. He likes his independence,"

(emphasis mine)

I mean, yeah, obviously wanting to get him a car or a bike or a jetpack or whatever is coming from a good place, and maybe at the same time it's worth considering that he'd rather do what he's doing until he needs help because he's getting too infirm or something.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:29 PM on February 1, 2015


In Medieval times, ~ 25 miles was a day's march, he's doing 42 miles a DAY! No way this is good for him!
His boss needs an ass-kicking in my considered opinion.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:13 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I mean, yeah, obviously wanting to get him a car or a bike or a jetpack or whatever is coming from a good place, and maybe at the same time it's worth considering that he'd rather do what he's doing until he needs help because he's getting too infirm or something."

There's also something similar about his coworkers trying to help him get a car, IIRC.

Almost always with this sort of story -- or, hell, similar stuff about me and my health and circumstances -- it's a big, complicated thing that involves personal preferences and decisions, bad luck, systemic injustice, specific people being dicks, etc. We sort of want a clean, simple story that implies a clean, simple solution, but it often doesn't work that way. If you are or know or have worked with people in difficult situations, you know that it's almost always the case that solving one big problem really and truly does help, but that any one, big problem is still only a piece of the whole thing that makes up the shitty situation.

It's pretty clear that he's made some choices that factor heavily in this. And here's the thing -- people judging those choices is part of the problem with how people who aren't poor or who aren't disabled or whatever think about this stuff. They feel entitled to make all sorts of judgments about any given choice that a person makes. Like that he should be willing to accept rides more, or that he should be willing to move to another house, or that he should get a bike, or that he should find another job.

And that's mostly missing the point. It's not missing the point if you're some conservative that believes that every bad situation is necessarily the result of that individual making bad choices. But we all make bad choices and we all make choices that are not necessarily good or bad, they're the choices we make because life is like that. If you want to blame someone for their misfortune, you can almost always make a case for doing so.

But in addition to his choices are all the things that are making his situation worse, chief among them the lack of mass transit in Rochester Hills and his low wages (just two dollars above minimum wage for a several decade employee who has a perfect attendance record). And other systemic things that are designed to make this sort of situation more likely for people like James Robertson and for the benefit of people like Todd Wilson and the plant owners and the people who live in Rochester Hills.

We can help individual people like James Robertson and we should help individual people like James Roberston, but people like him are in these sorts of situations because our society is set up that way. I don't see Todd Wilson walking 21 miles a day to his job and yet I'm pretty damn sure that it's not the case that Todd Wilson hasn't ever made a bad decision or hasn't preferred the known and comfortable over taking a chance on something that would be better for him in the long run. We could scrutinize anyone's decisions the way that people are tempted to scrutinize Robertson's, but the point is that people with privilege don't have their decisions scrutinized like this but people who lack privilege do and that's no accident. Privilege means never having to say you're sorry and lacking privilege means that you always have to fucking say you're sorry.

I'm not aiming this at you, fffm, or any person in this thread. Just to sort of head off at the pass any narrative about how it's really all Robertson's fault and to point out that it's problematic when we begin to scrutinize his choices, even when we're well-intentioned in doing so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:17 PM on February 1, 2015 [19 favorites]


I don't understand why none of his coworkers have offered to help him with transportation.

I don't understand why HIS BOSS hasn't done something about this nonsense. So much for freakin' company loyalty.

My guess is that the plant manager, Todd Wilson, was happy to have what he expected would be positive press -- featuring (a) loyal worker(s) and his magnanimity in having his wife cook for his employee every evening. He's probably surprised at the people who are rightly comparing him to some asshole out of a Dickens novel.

I imagine him standing in an office with a window, overlooking the factory floor, while dozens of kids who all look like Oliver Twist perform the same repetitive action for 8 hours a day without stopping. He may be twirling his handlebar mustache.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:20 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I meant 21 a day. That is still bad.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:21 PM on February 1, 2015


I used to walk 6 miles between home and work daily. At one job it was 8 miles. People can be really undependable about ride sharing. I'm female and not exactly a karate mma champ. The people who dicked me around the worst over rides were all females. The para-transit cut out before work did. Transit cut out before work did. The bus schedule got me to work overban hour early. If I did not have spare coffee money this was not good. Also at least one job was located far away from someplace safe for me to wait that hour and there was a rule that you not be in more than 15 minutes early. Walking was actually a safer option. Except for a couple times when I was scarily harassed...
One job was split shift and 6 miles from home. So a 12 mile walk there assuming I used the bus once per day, usually to get in for afternoon to evening shift.
None of those jobs paid enough.
I despised the co-workers who had a 10 minute drive and were constantly late.
I was so glad when I finally was considered disabled enough to get SSI. It's not quite enough to meet my needs but it's STILL more coming in a month than I got at ANY of those shitty jobs.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Back in my food service management days (thankfully more than twenty years ago now), I managed a pizza place in a shopping mall in rural Washington state. I had one employee who lived about twenty miles upriver in extremely-rural Washington state. He did not own a car. Every day he either walked or hitchhiked both to and from work, better than twenty miles.

He was my most dependable employee.

To my recollection he was never, not once, late (or absent) for any scheduled shift. He was hard-working, conscientious, dependable... everything you could realistically hope to ask for from a barely-over-minimum-wage employee.

I don't recall why he continued to live that far out, I expect it was because he simply could not afford to move. There were literally no jobs available in his microscopic town, the job I gave him was the best and closest thing he could find.

It wasn't long after that when did the whole "fall in love, get married, start a family" thing and quit that job to take a better-paying job in Seattle. I have no idea what ever happened to David, but I sincerely hope he found the success he deserved.
posted by Lokheed at 5:28 PM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


'Good, I'm glad to hear that. You wouldn't believe how many people I have come in [for part time jobs paying $8-10 an hour in a city that does have a bus system] that seem great but they don't have a car.'

I'd never not hire someone because of this (nor would I ask during an interview), but when I've had employees with no car, usually because of a repo, it's always been a hassle for me as a supervisor. This area has not-so-great bus service (like most of the US outside of specific metro areas and some college towns), and that shows up in things like the poor person having to choose between being 30 minutes early or 10 minutes late, and the same thing at the end of the day also.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not aiming this at you, fffm, or any person in this thread. Just to sort of head off at the pass any narrative about how it's really all Robertson's fault and to point out that it's problematic when we begin to scrutinize his choices

I totally agree with you, and was trying to say that. Sorry if it came across the wrong way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2015


Some of the responses here are kind of laughable.

The important part isn't about this one man. He certainly walks more than most, but there are lots of us out there. We don't have much of a choice. So people can buy this man a car, and he may or may not want that, but no one is offering to help me find a way to class, even with my legitimate, documented disability. There's no article about how I've been hit by cars twice in six months, or stopped riding my bike to class because it was a death wish. The wait for the next bus to go home is 90 minutes for me. I get up earlier and leave later than anyone of my 49 classmates because there is no other option.

But you won't hear about the people like me. I live in a city like Detroit, where crime is high and resources are low. I feel ignored, forced into carlessness by a disability. Sometimes I feel less than human as I stand outside for 20 minutes in below freezing weather because the bus is late or trip and fall because there's ice on every inch of sidewalk on my hour walk home.

So you know, maybe remember there are others. This isn't a story about one man.
posted by Aranquis at 5:40 PM on February 1, 2015 [28 favorites]


I just wrote a letter to the editor about that manager, because - my God, the CALLOUSNESS.

Look, I know that not every manager can help it if their workers have a hard time getting there because they have no car - but for the LOVE of FUCK you don't rub them in other people's faces. Lokheed isn't using the guy who worked for him as any kind of "David doesn't even have a CAR and he's at work, the rest of y'all are losers" example the way Roberston's boss is doing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:41 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


and that shows up in things like the poor person having to choose between being 30 minutes early or 10 minutes late, and the same thing at the end of the day also.

Couldn't the employee's starting and finishing times be adjusted appropriately?
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:56 PM on February 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


The infographic says he takes about two and a half hours to walk five miles (2 miles/hr, or about three hours to walk seven (2 1/3 miles/hr). I suppose that could be right, depending on the terrain, but they're both pretty slow walking speeds. A good walker would usually be going a bit over three miles an hour. Also, I find it hard to believe that someone who sleeps for only two hours a night would wake at 6 AM when the bus to work doesn't leave until 8:30 AM.

It looks as though his schedule is mostly determined by the bus schedules. Assuming he walks three miles per hour, a more plausible schedule would be:

Leaves the house at 8 AM to catch a bus at 8:30 AM. He rides the bus for an hour, napping, then walks to work (seven miles), getting there at about 11:45 AM. Then he naps for a couple of hours. Alternatively, he naps then walks.

After work, he leaves at 10 PM and walks to the bus stop, getting there at around 12:15 AM. He naps for 45 minutes, then takes the bus back , getting off at 1:35 AM. He walks home, getting there around 3:15 AM. He then has a blissful four hours or so of sleep before rising and having breakfast.

So he actually gets nearly eight hours of sleep - bad sleep, interrupted sleep, but a lot more than the two hours that the article implies.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:21 PM on February 1, 2015


Couldn't the employee's starting and finishing times be adjusted appropriately?

Start/end times are often set organization-wide or because of external factors, and may not be left to the immediate supervisor's discretion. If that's an option where you work, then of course it would the most humane approach.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I totally agree with you, and was trying to say that. Sorry if it came across the wrong way."

Nah, I knew you didn't mean it that way, no apology necessary. I doubt anyone took your comment that way. But I wanted to argue forcefully against scrutinizing this guy's choices before that digression began, as it usually does.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:46 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suppose that could be right, depending on the terrain, but they're both pretty slow walking speeds.

I'm passingly familiar with those streets, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that you could only do 2mph. There's a lot of cross-streets, and likely some pretty busy ones that don't have sufficient pedestrian crossing signals.
posted by Etrigan at 7:21 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


naju: "get him a nice new Honda Accord?"

I don't think you understand how Detroit works.
posted by pwnguin at 7:39 PM on February 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


I suppose that could be right, depending on the terrain, but they're both pretty slow walking speeds.

I'm passingly familiar with those streets, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that you could only do 2mph. There's a lot of cross-streets, and likely some pretty busy ones that don't have sufficient pedestrian crossing signals.


He is also 56 and obviously not in peak physical condition.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:46 PM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


who sleeps for only two hours a night would wake at 6 AM when the bus to work doesn't leave until 8:30 AM.

How far away is the bus? On the way home it's a five mile walk. I think it's closer in the morning but if it's 5 + 7 at night, then it should be 2 + 7 in the morning to add up to 21, right?

Anyway, your numbers have him sleeping practically every moment he isn't walking or working. When does he get to have any down time? Or social time? It's pretty ridiculous to expect people to live this way.
posted by mdn at 7:49 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lots of questions about why his colleagues haven't given him a lift to/from work.

According to the article:

None of his coworkers lives anywhere near him, so catching a ride almost never happens.
posted by virago at 7:53 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


It makes a lot of sense if your goal is to keep out inner-city minorities.

But that's the kicker. In my experience, that's who they're hiring. Unless the distance song and dance is just all about hiring the most resourceful poor. (Which I suppose it could be.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:21 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anyway, your numbers have him sleeping practically every moment he isn't walking or working. When does he get to have any down time? Or social time? It's pretty ridiculous to expect people to live this way.

Sure. But that's a point that can be made with realistic figures. Many people are expected to live on a broken six to eight hours' sleep, and work hard in their remaining time. That's outrageous in itself, but the assertion that he only sleeps two hours a night will make it look as though people getting by on six are slackers.

Jewish story time:
A rich man comes to a rebbe (sort of a Jewish guru) and boasts about his abstemious lifestyle. He sleeps on a board, bathes in cold water, all week long he lives on bread and water, and even on the sabbath he contents himself with a morsel of salted fish.

The rebbe says "OK, stop doing that. From now on I want you to eat a roast chicken every day, and wash it down with a bottle of wine."

Later one of the rebbe's followers asks why he told the rich man to live like that. "Because," the rebbe answered, "if he lives on bread and water he'll think that poor people can get by on stones."
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:35 PM on February 1, 2015 [41 favorites]


I worked at a bank in a suburban industrial park twenty miles from where I lived. I took the bus there, which was mostly fine -- but my shift ended at 9 p.m. and that usually meant missing the bus that was scheduled to arrive slightly before 9, so I ended up waiting nearly an hour for the next one, sometimes in the cold and with all the nearby businesses closed. I didn't get home until 11, and because I lived in a semi-sketchy neighborhood, my boyfriend would pick me up from the transit station rather than have me walk the few blocks home by myself that late at night. I asked to switch to the day shift, but that wasn't possible, and I ended up quitting because doing that commute was so hard on me and my household. Occasionally I did get a ride home with someone, but I was never fully comfortable with that.

Also, I always did get to work absurdly early, and got chastised by the boss for being at my desk earlier than company policy allowed.

But all this sounds blissfully easy compared to what the fellow in the article goes through.
posted by mirepoix at 12:30 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


God this is giving me flashbacks to the day, at my bullshit chain coffee job, when i was pulled over by a gigantic asshole cop for not wearing a helmet on my bike(which, it's really stupid, is actually illegal here). I knew i might get fired for being late, and i told him that. So he wasted more of my time, intentionally, and made me sit on the curb like a shitty vindictive parent while he ranted at me about "respect" and stuff.

I got to work, and no one believed me. I had shitty, backstabbing coworkers who were always trying to rat someone else out for breaking some rule for praise. My boss didn't even believe me until i produced the ticket.

The ticket amounted to half my paycheck. I was fully committed to never paying it, since it didn't count as a moving violation and wasn't the turns-in-to-a-warrant type of ticket

The same cop tried to pull me over again another morning for the same thing. I thought my options for a minute and ran away on my bike. I got away, because he wasn't about to ride his motorcycle through a crowd of people. It was "hmm, stop, get harassed by an asshole for 30 minutes again, probably lose job... or cut down there, probably get away, and keep job. Fuck the police i guess!".

I walked to that job a lot after that.

This was the kind of shithole place that would fire someone for being two minutes late. One of the aformentioned shitty coworkers would actually fill out of the writeup forms and leave them on the managers desk, marked with tons of highlighter where she needed to sign.


I've also, far too many times, been in that stupid position of "well this bus gets you there 15 minutes early, but if it's late you're fucked. the next option that connects up between the buses gets you there 90 minutes early". I've been told repeatedly by shitty bosses, teachers, whatever that obviously getting up an hour and a half earlier to catch the early bus is the only responsible option rather than being a few minutes late a couple times a month. Hell, i've been there when a whole group of people who all take that bus show up late and everyone gets scolded/reprimanded.

And i've been there as well, at that job interview, when they ask you that transportation question and wrinkle their nose when you say you take the bus or bike. Real adults have cars, duh. I've even seen the application forms with a hasty whiteout and tape in modification then photocopied by the manager to note that "bus is not considered reliable transportation". Fuck, even the idea that an application has a space for "how will you be commuting?" unless the answer is "because we give out bus passes!" is fucking offensive and none their goddamn business.

Mostly though, i just want managers like this to get dumped in to a volcano. Someone is not an irresponsible piece of shit deserving of a dressing down(possibly in front of sniveling suckup coworkers who will revel in someone "getting what they deserve") for being 10 minutes late once in a while. And something about the whole "this guy WALKED and he's on time, you have no excuse!" thing punched multiple old scars. Because i've been the walking guy, and i've been the late-because-shit-happens guy.

And jesus, nothing on the internet has made me this mad in a while. What a sack of shit. I hope he gets tboned by a semi truck because he was looking at his phone.
posted by emptythought at 4:15 AM on February 2, 2015 [18 favorites]


A good walker would usually be going a bit over three miles an hour.

There have been a lot of bizarre comments on this thread ("yeah! he should totally bike in suburban Detroit at midnight in the middle of winter!") but I think this is by a large margin the weirdest.

Some people are not "good walker"s.
posted by nicolas.bray at 4:23 AM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


A good walker would usually be going a bit over three miles an hour.

Guy walks 20 miles in Michigan winters to never miss a day of $10/hr work, and he's still not doing it right.

Oh poors, when will they learn.
posted by dglynn at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2015 [24 favorites]


Mostly though, i just want managers like this to get dumped in to a volcano. Someone is not an irresponsible piece of shit deserving of a dressing down(possibly in front of sniveling suckup coworkers who will revel in someone "getting what they deserve") for being 10 minutes late once in a while. And something about the whole "this guy WALKED and he's on time, you have no excuse!" thing punched multiple old scars. Because i've been the walking guy, and i've been the late-because-shit-happens guy.

Joe Bageant, in an essay entitled A Nation of Pickle Vendors:

OK. So the truly rich may not get it. But the most dangerous weasels of all, the ones at the next level down from Dicko -- those little ankle biters trying to get a bigger piece of the action -- they get it all too well. Or at least to the extent they understand that the masses need to be roughed up from time to time. Kept in their place. Now I'm not talking about the barber or three-chair beauty shop or the deli owner up the street. I am talking about the realtors, lawyers and middlemen willing to cooperate in whatever it takes to destroy land use and zoning codes, bust unions and keep wages low, rents high, the liberals down and the "cullids" out. This group of second tier conservative professionals and semi-pros are dead set on being real players someday. On their way up the ladder they will screw you blind and make you beg for your change.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


I might have to stop reading news altogether for a little while, since for various reasons I currently have the privilege to do so. Because on the one hand I can't stop thinking, like I really literally cannot stop thinking, about how THIS is what happens when you let capitalism gain control over your means of subsistence, and on the other hand I also can't stop thinking about how there's no immediately apparent way for us to untangle our lives from the beast. We're trapped by our dependency on it, almost irrevocably, and now that we're in our little traps we're forced to do ridiculous life-ruining things like this, like trudging through the cold for miles every day for the privilege to make shit no one wants or needs for no money — and we're also forced to pretend that we somehow enjoy it, or that we're doing it by choice.

If only we could all get on SSI or something.

I recall reading a bunch of articles a long while ago about life in the waning days of the Soviet Union that described it as a time and place when and where there was little work, little luxury, few consumer goods... but also little starvation. And where most people spent their days sitting around, hanging out, talking about whatever, drinking cheap booze, being poor and never working hard. And, goddamn but I want to go to there. I would trade my stupid macbook and my stupid phone and every single item of new clothing I've ever bought and, hell, every sharp razor I've ever owned for that. In a heartbeat. No hesitation whatsoever.

All I want is a shitty little apartment and enough food to eat and time every day to sit around talking philosophy and politics with my friends and loved ones. I want whole days free for my partner and I to never leave the house and instead spend our time just reading and writing and playing board games and having sex. That is the only luxury or comfort worth anything in this world, and the whole game is rigged to keep us from ever getting it, except in those charmed moments when we're able to furtively steal it back. And, of course, when we do manage to steal back what is ours, we're punished for it.

I guess the tl;dr of this is that we shouldn't be talking about whether this guy needs a bike or a faster walking pace or a different place to live or a different job. Because what we all really need is some damn communism.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


He is also 56 and obviously not in peak physical condition.

Given the fact that he walks 21 miles five days a week, he is probably in better physical condition than most other people aged 56.
posted by sour cream at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Given the fact that he walks 21 miles five days a week, he is probably in better physical condition than most other people aged 56.

Maybe, maybe not. The article describes him as "pudgy," and the photographs don't do a lot to gainsay that. Just walking a lot isn't enough to be healthy. His sleep schedule sounds torturous, for one thing, and he probably can't afford to eat all that healthily ("Southern" cooking every day, remember?). His joints are probably taking a beating that he's not getting the proper nutrients to rebuild from. I would not bet he's in all that good a shape compared to someone who doesn't have to exercise but does, and 56 isn't all that old these days.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


> "I set our attendance standard by this man," says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. "I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!"

This reminds me of GW Bush asking a woman who asked a question at a debate "You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."

Upper management of any kind just *loves* this sort of thing, because they can use it as a weapon against other workers.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


Given the fact that he walks 21 miles five days a week, he is probably in better physical condition than most other people aged 56.

Given the fact that he's only making minimum wage, his health insurance probably sucks dingo kidneys, and the resultant stress and poor wellness care is probably cancelling out whatever benefits you think he's getting from walking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Even if he had the best diet, exercise regimen and health insurance on the planet, I still don't think they'd cancel out the health problems caused by regularly getting four hours of sleep a night.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:26 AM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Crazy question - even if someone were to give him a car (and not dissing, in any way, those wanting to help), would someone in this income bracket be able to afford insurance, gas and maintenance? $11/hour seems pretty tight.
posted by milnews.ca at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most people I've known who've lived in Detroit either didn't insure their cars or told insurance companies that they actually lived with friends or relatives out in the suburbs, because of the staggering cost of insuring a car in Detroit. I briefly lived in Hamtramck, a municipality surrounded by Detroit, and the only way we could get reasonably priced car insurance was by going through a west coast company that apparently didn't realize that the town was more or less part of Detroit, and as such had accidentally failed to redline it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:11 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


also though: good luck if this guy wants to try getting an apartment near his workplace, because landlords up there who are willing to rent to a black man are few and far between.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:06 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Couldn't the employee's starting and finishing times be adjusted appropriately?

They only give us 30 minutes to eat lunch and chill.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:21 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's making up on sleep on the weekends but this is still burning the candle at both ends.

The pisser is, it just doesn't work that way. And I've always sort of been in denial, but it's kind of like saying that eating healthier one month eliminates the damage done by eating poorly on the previous month. Not quite :(

I have experimented with all manner of sleep deprivation, sleeping anywhere from 0-4 hours multiple days in rows for various cockamamie work-related and personal reasons. I have fucked around with this for a couple of years. I always "recover" in a sense, but you don't truly ever catch up on sleep or build a sleep deficit for that matter; you sustain damage from not-sleeping, and to some extent you recover your energy deficit that is lost by not sleeping sufficiently when you do get enough sleep.

The long and short of it is, the time he's spending walking is just the beginning. He's spending more than "now" on this daily slog.
posted by aydeejones at 2:20 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Note: my first scares with sleep deprivation involve my core body temp dropping to 96° and getting way more sick, way more often. The immune system and brain depend helplessly on sleep to function)
posted by aydeejones at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Strangers raise $60,000 to buy Detroit man who walks to work 21 miles a day a car
The story inspired Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old computer science major at Wayne State University, to set up the campaign on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe with a goal of raising $5,000. Within an hour, more than $2,000 was raised, Leedy told the paper. Through Monday afternoon, the campaign had raised $62,444 via nearly 2,000 donations.

According to Leedy, all the money raised will be set aside for Robertson's car, insurance, gas and maintenance.

Meanwhile, a local car dealership has offered to give Robertson a free car.

"He gets to choose," Angela Osborne, customer service specialist at Rodgers Chevrolet in Woodhaven, Mich., said. "We were just impressed with his determination."
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:21 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sure, one "lucky" schmuck gets his story to go viral and finally gets some relief for his hardship while the many thousands of anonymous people who deal with similar obstacles are still fucked. Not that donating to this guy is wrong, of course, but I wonder how many people who love his "determination" so much that they donated to him also oppose more concrete public policy steps that could help so many more people who didn't have the privilege of a heartstring-tugging story.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


whew! I'm so glad that this turned out to just be an individual problem instead of a systematic one. Cause if it were systematic, it prolly would have been super hard to fix. instead of totes easy.

Mission accomplished, guys! backpats all around to all my fellow internet heroes!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


And now the guy gets coerced into taking the car, lest he disappoint his saviours. Has anyone stopped to ask him what he wants?

"And I think some of it should be set aside for his insurance and gas and maintenance," Leedy said.

Yes, because of course he can't be trusted to use the money you are giving him wisely.

He said Robertson would have to pay the tax on the car, which would be about $900.

The unintended consequences of gifts.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


actually, though, even though it's still an individual response to a systematic problem, I would nevertheless be down with this if the money wasn't meant to get him a stupid car but instead was meant to let him quit his evil fucking job. How much money does it take for a man in his 50s in the midwest to comfortably retire?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:37 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


yeah, upon reflection my only real beef with the individual rescue is that it misidentifies the problem as the lack of a car rather than the necessity of a job.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:49 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


People are going to respond to outrageous human suffering. Some people are going to want to stop the individual problem they see, others will want to correct the underlying issues that give rise to it. Neither are awful or opposed to the other; different strokes for different folks, yeah? Spend your energy/money/time where you see fit.
posted by naju at 4:11 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bankruptcy. Emergency manager. Hey, lets talk policy.
posted by clavdivs at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I respectfully disagree naju. The solve the individual problem types are not guaranteed to be, but are very often "i don't see the systemic problem so it doesn't exist! lets just deal with this situation and each other one as we find it".

It's the play of willful ignorance, and often leads down a blackhole of bootstraps mentality. You, depressingly, hear this very often from people who have been in shitty situations themselves and dug out.

Quite related to that gross "well i never accepted public assistance" pride.
posted by emptythought at 6:33 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, here's the takeaway I saw on my facebook feed. Awesome.
posted by naju at 6:35 PM on February 2, 2015


I live not far from Detroit and I work for a temp agency that provides a great deal of staffing for factory work. The jobs are often cut-throat. Hard work, punctuality and attendance are everything. Miss a day because you're sick or your car breaks down? You might be out of a job. And, god help me, almost NONE of these jobs are located on a busline within a reasonable walking distance of the nearest stop. These jobs pay minimum wage up to about $10/hr. This guy is likely doing all of this for something in the neighborhood of $10/hr. How the fuck it is you expect someone who makes $8-$10/hr to have food, shelter, AND a functioning, reliable vehicle I do not know. This article makes me very, very sad. He is right. No one can fucking say he didn't pay his dues in life, but I have to wonder what reward is waiting for him. Once his body gives out, is the factory going to pay him a pension? Will he be able to retire? Or will he continue on like this until he's dead? This is the lifestyle you expect to see and do see in the developing world. There is no excuse for this here. And yet it is all too common. I spoke to an employee whose mother passed away last week. He missed two days of work. He will miss two more at the end of the week for her wake and funeral. He intends to go to work in the mean time, though. Despite his grief, he can't afford to lose his job. I've talked to men who have lost their children--young children--tell me the same thing. "I have other children to feed. I have to think of them. i can't afford to miss more than a day." More than a day for the death of your child?! More than a few for the loss of your mother?! It's inhumane and it's standard.
posted by apis mellifera at 7:12 PM on February 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


I wonder if Robertson is the last man standing after the transport cuts made other commuters from his area (not necessarily workers at the same plant) lose their jobs. The article says that none of Robertson's co-workers live near him; could it be because there's no easy way for people to commute? If the bus ran more frequently and for longer hours then Robertson and other commuters wouldn't need to walk so far; some people would be able to get better jobs; they'd be happier and better off; and their increased health and leisure and discretionary expenditure would be a boon for the whole community.

Public transport is an economic multiplier, but the direct benefits are less obvious than the direct costs. Consequently, it's easy to eliminate it - or reduce the services to the point that commuters can no longer use it. And once those commuters lose their jobs, you can't show an economic case for bringing public transport back. You end up with economic wastelands with no jobs and no way for people to get to work. You need to start with a leap of faith: service the community you'd like to have, not just the one you have at present.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:20 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Shit, I missed the part where he actually DOES make ten fucking dollars an hour. How did I know?! And let me tell you, those are premium jobs for the workforce not educated or qualified or even just situated to do anything else. This is how people live.
posted by apis mellifera at 7:23 PM on February 2, 2015


I live in a very urban area, I just got a new job four miles away, and according to Google Maps, if I want to be there at 8 am it will take an hour by bus, including a transfer and a mile of walking. It snowed 12" yesterday and it was below zero wind chills today, so fuck that, I'm buying a car. It's ridiculous - there are hundreds, if not thousands of people that work in this office park, and they pretty much all have to drive there because the street pattern was designed for cars and not transit or pedestrians.
posted by desjardins at 8:31 PM on February 2, 2015


Now all the poor schmoes he works with are going to be hitting him up for loaners. I hope he takes the $60K and retires.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:51 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


He might not like cars. Maybe he is being polite when he turns down lifts and says he wants his independence. Maybe he just doesn't like cars and that is an opinion it is impossible to express in public.

A good walker would usually be going a bit over three miles an hour.

Guy walks 20 miles in Michigan winters to never miss a day of $10/hr work, and he's still not doing it right.

Oh poors, when will they learn.


That is an ungenerous reading of that sentence. The average walking speed is just over 3 miles per hour. My housemate who walked into work every day (2.5 miles each way) covered that in 30 minutes, so she was a fast walker, or a good walker using the same language. She was doing that for minimum wage six or seven days a week. If you walk regularly then generally you get better at it.
posted by asok at 2:14 AM on February 3, 2015


Asok - if you Rtfa, he says the reason he hasn't bought another car up is because he hasn't had the time to save up for one - it's not because "he doesn't like cars" or "he wants to stay independent" or whatever other lies you want to tell yourself about his motivation to let yourself stop feeling oogie.

Also, your roommate only had to walk 2 miles and was probably in her 20's. This dude walks 20 TIMES that, and he's 56.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


A good walker would usually be going a bit over three miles an hour.

Guy walks 20 miles in Michigan winters to never miss a day of $10/hr work, and he's still not doing it right.

Oh poors, when will they learn.

That is an ungenerous reading of that sentence.


It's a fairly generous reading of the comment from which it is excerpted, which straight-up accuses Robertson and the reporter of lying about how long it takes him to get to and from work.
posted by Etrigan at 4:22 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


My housemate who walked into work every day (2.5 miles each way) covered that in 30 minutes, so she was a fast walker, or a good walker using the same language.

That is really fast for walking. It would be exhausting to keep that up for 2.5 miles (rather than going to a more efficient gait like skipping or jogging), let alone the distance this guy covers.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:56 AM on February 3, 2015


The donations for this guy are now almost $190K. I know there are a lot of systemic problems this doesn't solve, and a lot of other people who need the help as well. It's terrible. But I still feel happy for this guy, what a difference this will make for his daily quality of life.
posted by JenMarie at 9:00 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


What are the income taxes on gifts, anyway?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2015




This story really,really bothers me. His boss is an oblivious jerk; I don't care that his wife makes this employee scrumptious dinners. How about paying him a wage so that he could actually save for his own car? How about pushing for accessible transit especially in places where folk who are less likely to own vehicles may live or go to work? I took transit in Detroit; it sucks big time. I can't imagine relying on it every day and where I live I do rely on it.

And to the ones complaining about other transit systems like TTC; the TTC is phenomenal compared to DDOT. Miles ahead.
posted by jenc at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is an ungenerous reading of that sentence. The average walking speed is just over 3 miles per hour. My housemate who walked into work every day (2.5 miles each way) covered that in 30 minutes, so she was a fast walker, or a good walker using the same language.

Was your roommate a 56-year-old man with a slight limp who has trouble getting off buses? No? I'm guessing not.

Average walking speed has nothing to say about this specific person. Some other random person sure as hell has nothing to say about this specific person.

My mind boggles that this is apparently a difficult concept for some people. The eagerness you people have to judge this man is bizarre.
posted by nicolas.bray at 2:54 PM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm actually judging the reporter. The times literally do not add up. I mean, does anyone seriously believe that this man gets two hours of sleep a night, five days a week, and then operates heavy industrial equipment? That he wakes up at 6 AM after going to bed at 4 AM, then takes two hours to get ready for work? What does he do in the one-and-a-half hours (according to the reporter) between arriving at work and starting his shift? If he really gets only two hours of sleep then I can tell you: he falls asleep every instant he can, even while working, because that's what happens to you.

I suspect that he actually gets a lot more sleep than that, but it's broken sleep, in bad and/or dangerous environments, and it's ruining his health and cognition. A serious look at his schedule would probably show that he's not some freak of nature; he's in the same situation that many people are in. Instead, though, the report just goes on about the 21-mile walk and two hours of sleep. And the phenomenal hot dinner from the boss's wife, of course.

Incidentally, does he have to pay for that dinner? How much? This is effectively a company store; would there be any repercussions if he declined to use it? How do the other workers there feel about this?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:27 PM on February 3, 2015


My housemate who walked into work every day (2.5 miles each way) covered that in 30 minutes, so she was a fast walker, or a good walker using the same language.

If your roommate was doing 2.5 miles in 30 minutes, that's an average speed of 5 miles per hour (which means walking faster than 5 MPH, given the need to stop for traffic signals and the like). That's significantly higher than average walking speed (2.8 to 3.4 MPH) and higher than "brisk" walking speed (4 MPH).

But that's beside the point. "Maybe he likes walking" and "maybe he's choosing this" would only enter into it if there were better transit options that he was choosing not to use. There aren't. He's walking because he doesn't have another option.
posted by Lexica at 4:07 PM on February 3, 2015


Even some cheap protected bike lanes would help this guy a lot.
posted by anthill at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2015


What really bothers me when I see stories like this and the comments that are contained within like this was that when I was in high school 20 years ago, we were excited that you could make $9-10 working at a few places like cousin's subs. 20. years. ago.

Something's badly broken.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:38 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: "I mean, does anyone seriously believe that this man gets two hours of sleep a night, five days a week, and then operates heavy industrial equipment?"

You seem incredulous that this is even possible. I've sometimes operated heavy machinery myself on 2-3 hours of sleep, not because I wanted to but because I wanted to keep my job. There are approximately zero blue-collar jobs in America where saying that you didn't get enough sleep is an acceptable excuse to be absent.

This man has perfect attendance. To get perfect attendance walking and riding the bus to work that far, you have to start very early to make sure that you are never late, even if the bus doesn't show up. Does it also seem impossible to you that a bus might be late or absent altogether in Detroit?
posted by double block and bleed at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Two hours' sleep five days a week? I really don't think that's possible. Injection molding machines aren't intrinsically dangerous the way that a table saw is, but they can leak hot oil or searingly-hot fluid resin, they have moving parts that aren't all concealed, and slipping or falling while working on them can be very dangerous. Also, he apparently has to trim and drill the pieces as they come out - so that means working with more dangerous equipment. I used to work in a factory similar to his; I would have been terrified if one of my co-workers was regularly short on sleep.

Employers in Australia can be found liable for ignoring risks that lead to a worker's injury. I suppose it may be different in the USA, but if I were his employer I would try to find some way for this man (who sounds like a great worker) to live a more normal lifestyle.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2015


The infographic says he takes about two and a half hours to walk five miles (2 miles/hr, or about three hours to walk seven (2 1/3 miles/hr). I suppose that could be right, depending on the terrain, but they're both pretty slow walking speeds. A good walker would usually be going a bit over three miles an hour. Also, I find it hard to believe that someone who sleeps for only two hours a night would wake at 6 AM when the bus to work doesn't leave until 8:30 AM.

Well, it says it is "Rochester Hills" so there's no reason to think there aren't some hills (I don't know for sure). But more important, he does this every day and he covers nearly a marathon's worth of ground each day, only to get up and do it again, and again, and again... And he's been doing this non-stop for years. So I don't think he's probably going at a top walking speed.

Whether he gets up two hours before he leaves his house or the infographic was mistaken about when he left, I don't know. But if he is very tired, he may need time to wake up and prepare himself for his long day, and some people find it easier to have a long wake-up/ coffee/breakfast time than to sleep longer and then have to bolt out the door, when the amount of sleep is still insufficient. Maybe he's stressed that he'll oversleep. Maybe the sun or street noise wakes him. Who knows?

Sure. But that's a point that can be made with realistic figures. Many people are expected to live on a broken six to eight hours' sleep, and work hard in their remaining time. That's outrageous in itself, but the assertion that he only sleeps two hours a night will make it look as though people getting by on six are slackers.

Lots of things are outrageous, including most low-income industrial jobs, but this man's situation is notable, and it seems strange to downplay what he goes through. Sure, as he himself says, there are others whose situations are worse (there always are - without exception, somehow). But to push the case that if he were able to walk fast enough and sleep every moment he wasn't walking or working, he could conceivably get some amount of sleep is missing the point. He doesn't walk fast enough and he doesn't spend all of his free time sleeping, whether by choice or ability, and he shouldn't have to.
posted by mdn at 3:58 PM on February 4, 2015


Two hours' sleep five days a week? I really don't think that's possible

Let me tell you my schedule from the first restaurant I worked at:

6:15: wake up, shower, bus
7:00: work starts
anytime between 11pm and 1am: work finishes. Get ride home from work, arrive home anywhere between 1 and 3 in the morning--most often around 2. Eat something, decompress for a few minutes.

3:00: sleep, probably. Sometimes not until 4--I need decompression time before I can sleep. One night, one of the guys and I just sacked out on banquettes in the basement of the restaurant so we could get a couple extra hours.

6:15...

That was six days a week, although Sundays were brunch only so done by about 3pm. All thoroughly illegal of course, but it happens.

I doubt that injection machines are significantly more dangerous than knives, open flames, 500F ovens, and deep fryers. It's absolutely possible to do, and it will kill you to do it. I kept it up for a few months and bolted. I have no idea in hell how this guy is doing it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:24 PM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Employers in Australia can be found liable for ignoring risks that lead to a worker's injury. I suppose it may be different in the USA..."

Perhaps this is your own answer Joe.
What might not work in Austrailia might work here. Did you mention his naps, that he has accepted rides from time to time. Or is it you don't believe this world contains folks who value dignity over scrutiny.
You don't understand Detroit and that's ok.
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 PM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This has a happy ending. Mr. Robertson is now driving a 2015 Ford to work....
posted by HuronBob at 12:07 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Welcome to Michigan, eh, Huronbob.
posted by clavdivs at 5:30 PM on February 6, 2015


My statement stands, clavdivs.. I never said there weren't good people here, if that was your point.
posted by HuronBob at 3:55 AM on February 7, 2015


Riffing off of Jame's Robertson's story, Melissa Harris-Perry had several segments today (1, 2, 3) covering how transit policy is failing in America.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2015


"This has a happy ending. Mr. Robertson is now driving a 2015 Ford to work"

And I stand by your statement, Huronbob.
posted by clavdivs at 7:36 PM on February 7, 2015


The story that just won't end...
posted by HuronBob at 12:43 PM on February 18, 2015


But still a good story and he sought advice, good for him.
posted by clavdivs at 12:49 PM on February 18, 2015


I got here (again) via the newly deleted post. That's just sad, and I know that feeling. Crabs in a barrel man. It's not hard to see how the mindset exists and persists, but boy is it frustrating when you're trying to move up and out and you've got to deal with people who do things that you'd literally have to shame them to their mothers for to get them to stop. (And sometimes even the parents are sheisty).
posted by cashman at 5:47 PM on February 18, 2015


I was so excited to make my first post that I forgot this thread was still open. Here's Charlie Leduff's take on the follow-up.
posted by Gronk at 5:51 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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