Detroit factory worker walks 21 miles to work and back each day

For ten years James Robertson hasn’t missed a single day of work. What’s even more remarkable is that Robertson walks a round trip of 21 miles a day just to get there.

For five days a week, Robertson, 56, trudges from his home in Detroit to his job at the factory where he works in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

He’s walked the walk ever since his 1988 Honda Accord quit on him more than 10 years ago.

His job pays him $10.55 an hour, which he claims is not enough for him to buy his own car, but that may well change after well-wishers managed to raise almost $42,000 for him in an online campaign in just hours.

For now though, whatever the weather, Robertson is there, on the job for his 2-10pm shift.

In the city that made the motor car famous, he is without his own four-wheels and there’s no decent bus service to get him to where he wants to go, either.

‘I set our attendance standard by this man,’ said his boss Todd Wilson to the Detroit Free Press.

Wilson is plant manager at high-end plastic moulding specialists,  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! He’s never missed. I’ve seen him come in here wringing wet,’ said Wilson, 53.

Robertson claims he powers his marathon-like commutes by drinking two liters of Mountain Dew and countless cans of Coke each day.

‘I sleep a lot on the weekend, yes I do,’ he said, ‘but I can’t imagine not working,’

Although the commute getting into work is grueling, things are worse on the way back as Robertson has to walk the streets alone, in the dark and freezing cold.

None of his co-workers lives anywhere near him, so catching a ride almost never happens.

His colleagues have been telling him for years to get a car but it appears that Robertson has fallen into a routine that he almost seems to enjoy it.

‘I keep a rhythm in my head,’ he says. ‘I’m not saying I’m a member of some church. But just before I get home, every night, I say, ‘Lord, keep me safe.’

About three-quarters of the way home, he has to catch the very last bus of the night at 1am into downtown Detroit – after that it’s another five mile trek back to the home he shares with his girlfriend.

The walk takes him through some shady neighborhoods including Highland Park and the infamous 8 Mile area.

Robertson says he was mugged once but doesn’t like to talk about the incident.

Four hours later he is back home to catch some shut-eye before the long-distance commute begins all over again the following afternoon.

‘The last five years been really tough because the buses cut back,’ Robertson said.

Once he gets to Troy and Detroit, Robertson can take a bus but the schedule is so infrequent the area is really best designed for those that have access to a car.

He says that it’s not just the $1,700 monthly paycheck that lures him back to work each day but the very essence of being around his friendly co-workers whom he calls ‘family’.

The boss’s wife has also taken a shine to him and prepares him home-cooked meals each evening too.

On several occasions, a banker driving the exact same route has given Robertson a ride.

Blake Pollock, 47, of Rochester said he saw Robertson over and over in various weathers and wondered what he was doing out all alone.

Whenever he sees him along the route, he gives him a ride and very occasionally, even if it’s after midnight, he will go out driving along his route to see if he can offer him a lift.

‘Knowing what I know, I can’t drive past him now. I’m in my car with the heat blasting and even then my feet are cold,’ Pollock said.

Of course, all that may now be about to change after tens of thousands of dollars were raised for him in an online campaign. 

Robertson said Sunday he was flattered by the attention he’d gotten for his tenacious treks after the he made front page news in a local newspaper.

He said he was amazed that complete strangers would respond so generously with some even offering to buy him a brand new car.

Evan Leedy, 19, of Macomb Township, a WSU student studying computer science, said he was struck by the article and the sheer numbers of people commenting online, many of them asking how they could help Robertson.

Leedy said he decided to act. ‘I just used my phone. I created the go-funding site and within an hour we had $2,000,’ he said.

A local car dealership even offered to give him a 2014 Chevrolet Cruz or Sonic.

‘He gets to choose,’ said Angela Osborne, customer service specialist at Rodgers Chevrolet in Woodhaven.

‘We were just impressed with his determination,’ Ms. Osborne said.

As of Monday morning, the total was close to $42,000 and still rising.

Source: The DailyMail

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