Remember James Robertson of Detroit, who grabbed worldwide headlines last year after it came to light that he walked 21 miles daily to get to work?
Well, he’s now 57 and his life has changed dramatically. He no longer has to walk all of those miles to and from work. After a donor gave him a new 2015 Ford Taurus last year, he drives to his job as an auto-factory worker at Schain Mold & Engineering in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Robertson also received about $360,000 from online fundraisers. He left his gritty one-room apartment in Detroit’s North End neighborhood and moved into shiny new suburban digs in Troy, Michigan.
One thing’s for sure, he doesn’t miss walking all of those miles in the winter, he told The Detroit Free Press. However, he has encountered a new set of problems:
They include a need to find new friends and new interests; a yearning to fit into a new neighborhood — a new kind of neighborhood, actually; and, no surprise to anyone, a wish to lose weight, now that a body formerly in motion 21 miles a day has become a body at rest most of the time.
One thing that’s making Robertson happy this winter, besides not having to foot-slog through snow and rain day after day, night after night, is some good news about what once was his cross to bear — namely, the merciless gaps in metro Detroit’s two beleaguered bus systems. It was gaps in SMART’s suburban routes as well as in DDOT’s Detroit schedules that forced Robinson to walk much of his route to work and back, mile after mile on Crooks Road in Rochester Hills, where there is no SMART service at all; and on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, where late-night service ended at 1 a.m., forcing Robinson to walk through Highland Park and Detroit in the wee hours each weeknight.
He has been uprooted from the neighborhood in Detroit where he grew up, where most everyone looks and talks like he does. Now, he’s an odd character in an attractively bland, earth-toned complex of upscale suburban apartments. He stays up late watching TV. He was just getting up at 10 a.m. on a recent weekday when a reporter arrived. Compare that with a year ago, when his routine was truly daunting: Rise in Detroit before dawn, dress for the elements, then start an Olympian commute that required riding two buses and walking 21 miles a day — all to keep a suburban factory job.
While we know it takes time to adjust to change, we’re happy to hear that Mr. Robertson is acclimating to his new life. We wish him well.