The Love’s Travel Stop on I-74 in Knoxville, Illinois at noon is a jumping joint. Locals from three counties mingle with road trippers, business travelers, and truckers while filling up the tank, satisfying a fried chicken and gravy or sub sandwich fix, and getting in a good stretch. It’s also a target rich environment of random interview subjects in flyover states.
And you know me; I love to talk about politics with complete strangers. First and foremost, the personal attacks are taken off the table; strangers do not know your nickname or how it was earned and why you dabbled in veganism for 12 hours. And secondly, once the conversation ends, they won’t show up at the next family holiday dinner table and remind you of all the ridiculous mistakes made as a wild youngster.
I holed up at a dining table, one of the few remaining at rush hour, to sip coffee, make a few random notes, and periodically watch Fox News on the plasma TV hanging between the chicken and sandwich menus.
President Trump was praising his tax reform, which had just passed Congress, and lunch-goers were talking back to the screen with varying responses ranging from “bout time” to “what’s in it for me?”
On the Road
Jack Macias, 46, is a transport driver for a major U.S. retailer. A father of three teenagers with college tuition bills looming, Macias, who drives a regular route from Minnesota to Oklahoma, was ready to share his opinion.
“I’m no CPA but with a serious cut in the corporate tax rate, that will spur the economy and provide jobs. If they get relief, we all get relief.” Macias was referring to the corporate tax cut from 35% to 21% that has the leftists crying foul. The same sad soundbite of helping the rich on the backs of the poor. Well, maybe the poor will get a decent job and join the middle class. Just a thought.
As Mandy Malloy walked by our table, she said hello to Jack (they apparently run into each other often on the road) and joined the conversation. Mandy, 57, owns her own transport company and was ecstatic about Trump’s tax victory. “I live in nowhere Ohio. We need this boost to our economy. Maybe my husband [a laid off factory worker] can get his job back. He worked 40 years for the same people. Gave them his best. I’d like to see his company succeed and call him back.” Mandy was also a Trump voter and said, “I’m proud that my state went for Trump. And we’ll do it again.”
To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate? That is the Question.
When Isaac Markoff and his wife Ann settled at the table next to us, the Trump love increased. The Markoff’s, in their 70s and retired, were traveling from Davenport Iowa to Cincinnati, Ohio for the Christmas. Although Jewish in faith, their daughter married a Protestant and their Buick was loaded with brightly wrapped packages for the grandchildren (people will tell a stranger a lot of interesting details).
They agreed with the tax cuts and were looking forward to more Trump victories. “That’s why we all voted for him. To fix this mess we are in,” Isaac told me. Nods around the table were unanimous in positive approval. Before I finished my notes, Mandy asked the obvious question. “So you are Jews that celebrate Christmas? Can you get in trouble for that?” Nice one, Mandy.
“Oh, goodness no, dear. We celebrate Hanukkah too. And why not get all dressed up in festive colors and give gifts in honor of Jesus,” Ann replied, patting Mandy’s hand. Another Christmas miracle of sorts.
There are many reasons to embrace life and the lifestyle of people who live and work in Flyover states. It’s difficult to feel lonely where everyone from the farmer to the banker will give a wave to whomever they pass on the road. The folks in the middle of “nowhere,” as Mandy eloquently stated, will never pass by a soul who needs help. It’s not their nature to put themselves before others, whether stuck in the snow or chasing down errant hound dogs. It doesn’t matter whether one celebrates Jesus as their savior, lights a Menorah, or howls at the full moon; folks in the Heartland may think the Howlers are weird, but they will be standing right there alongside to at least see what the fuss is all about. And they will still wave at you.