As much as I rely on air travel, the Road Warrior is occasionally grounded. After an aborted flight on takeoff because of a mechanical failure the other evening at Chicago O’Hare, the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” was becoming a reality. My proactive measure was not to rebook a flight for the next day, but to rent a car and drive all evening to meet my speaking engagement obligation. Some others on the flight noticed my quick and efficient rental arrangements, since I have had much experience doing this over the years. When it appeared I was not a serial killer out of an old “Twilight Zone” episode, they asked if they could hitch a ride. My answer was yes; if they would handle the driving and allow me just to go along for the ride.

The group in our Crown Victoria rental car consisted of a 12-year Navy veteran, an FAA airline crash investigator, a civil engineer and a school book sales director. Since I was battling a sore throat, I just basically shut up and listened. The five-hour trip across the Midwest late at night covered many diverse topics that every politician and government planner needs to hear. The following is a summary of the comments.

  • People need to be held accountable. A major concern of this group is that too many in society are there with their hands out rather than attempting to improve our country. The bottom line was that if my travel companions had to pay more taxes, others need to get off their entitlements and start contributing to society.
  • The travelers were trying harder to live within their means and actually downscaling on homes, vehicles, etc. They desire a simpler lifestyle with increased savings.
  • They were not angry toward the government’s new initiatives, but very concerned about too much change too quickly, with too much complexity and not enough accountability.
  • Two of the four are sending their children to private schools because of lack of confidence in the local public school systems.
  • They want term limits for politicians, and nothing to do with the Canadian health care system.
  • Most of the car’s passengers preferred reading compared to the screaming TV. They preferred reading a real paper book or magazine to reading via the internet.
  • All passengers agreed that America is still a great place to live and work, but they are very concerned about the impact of increased federal debt and government spending on future generations.

As dawn was breaking, we ended our journey. Each gave a handshake and hug, and I refused any financial reimbursement for the rental car. Listening to this off-the-cuff town hall meeting was worth the loss of a night’s sleep and extra cost just to know that America still has some people with common sense.

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu.