There you were, arm outstretched, thumb pointing straight up the blue skies that canopied the long flat wheat plains of Saskatchewan. I’d been on the road for the last 3 days, trying to keep my mind occupied with extended phone calls to family and friends, podcasts, some albums, and the thoughts in my head – I was looking for some human connection.
We shook hands outside the vehicle while I threw a few bags of old groceries and whatever else was littered across the front seat and I felt a good vibe about you. Of course, when I got back in my car I could tell that you’d have a few drinks of the strong stuff. Only a few hours ago you’d been asleep next to a hay bale, covered only by a blanket; something you’d gotten used to you said. I had a good laugh, as I too had spent time on the road patiently waiting on the goodness of others to help get me where I needed to go, and sometimes you need to extend this patience quite far.
You looked in your mid-fifties, but I assumed that you were likely younger. You’d been divorced recently, had 4 kids, and were travelling across the country like so many other men… in search of work, of a little cash in the wallet and a place to lay your head. You’d been doing this your whole life, spending time with your family, and then searching for work across the country, whether it was Southeast to Toronto, East to Nova Scotia, or West to British Colombia.
There I was, telling you that I’d travelled to ‘such and such’ country last year, and I was looking to go ‘this’ place this year, all the while realizing the privilege and the fullness of life I’d experienced. But not on its own, no, I was feeling this while comparing my life to yours. I know this sounds conceited, but for me it was a good wake up call. It’s easy to get trapped in the goals of your own life, to “look over the fence” and contemplate decisions made. Sometimes it’s nice to get a friendly reminder that I shouldn’t be complaining; that at the end of the day I’ve got a great gig going. With the advent of social media we are inundated with each other’s lives. We constantly see the progression, or the façade of progression in other people’s lives and it often causes us to question our own. This can be a form of positive self-reflection, but more often it’s not. It’s a form of comparison with no real data to it – just what we choose to share and what we want others to see.
As you lay there, finally getting a deep enough sleep that temporary security and an end goal reached can provide, I sat in self-reflection. So, to the man I picked up outside Regina, thank you, for the pleasure of your company those 6 hours, and for a well needed dose of reality, I wish you all the best.