To keep his $10.55 an hour job, this 56-year-old man walks almost 45 miles a day, five days a week. He has done this for over a decade.
He is serious about working. He says this: “Nobody can say I haven’t paid my dues.”
If someone wants to pay these dues, he can find work.
Leaving home in Detroit at 8 a.m., James Robertson doesn’t look like an endurance athlete. . . .
But as he steps out into the cold, Robertson, 56, is steeled for an Olympic-sized commute. Getting to and from his factory job 23 miles away in Rochester Hills, he’ll take a bus partway there and partway home. And he’ll also walk an astounding 21 miles.
Five days a week. Monday through Friday.
It’s the life Robertson has led for the last decade, ever since his 1988 Honda Accord quit on him.
Every trip is an ordeal of mental and physical toughness for this soft-spoken man with a perfect attendance record at work. And every day is a tribute to how much he cares about his job, his boss and his coworkers. Robertson’s daunting walks and bus rides, in all kinds of weather, also reflect the challenges some metro Detroiters face in getting to work in a region of limited bus service, and where car ownership is priced beyond the reach of many.
“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!”
External conditions matter. Internal conditions matter far more.
“I sleep a lot on the weekend, yes I do,” he says, sounding a little amazed at his schedule. He also catches zzz’s on his bus rides. Whatever it takes to get to his job, Robertson does it.
“I can’t imagine not working,” he says.
He starts home at 10 PM. There are fewer buses in operation. He walks two extra miles.
Good news: when this story was run, people donated money to help him buy a car. A lot of money: $80,000 so far.