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Road America: Cool runnings

4 weeks ago

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Sam Smith | Journalist


26 April 2024

It was a sweltering afternoon in August, around 38deg C, the interstate slick from recent rain. Traffic had been stopped for 40 minutes. I was sitting at the wheel in St. Louis, windows down, clothing drenched in sweat, in a black car, staring at a dashboard button with a snowflake on it and hating myself.

I was 23, only a few months out of school. My body has never been healthier or seen more exercise than it did then, and I still felt as if I had eaten a crockpot full of hot socks. I had been driving around the county all day, trying to find work, bouncing from one job interview to the next in a sweat-soaked T-shirt and some dingy running shorts. The car’s A/C hadn’t blown cold in over a year, a refrigerant leak I was too broke to fix. Because nobody wants to hire a smelly goon in gross gym rags, I had packed into the boot two sets of nice interview clothes – one primary and one spare – plus a few towels and a stick of deodorant for quick car-park clean-ups.

I leaned back against the headrest and sighed. I had spent the day in a series of defeats, swallowing frustration in that slog of interviews, each clearly a dead end. And there, in that car, hard-parked on I-64, it came to a head: brain-dead from baking all day in a dark steel box, I smacked the wheel with both hands and yelled, at the top of my lungs, the first gibberish that came to mind:

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