I drive all morning, fervent and focused, finally stopping for coffee at The Waffle House near Plain City, Ohio. My car sports a “Free Tibet” bumper sticker that I picked up in Atlanta, and as I lean against the left fender, sipping my cup of mindfulness, a young man spills out of a purple school bus and starts running toward me. He is a 1990s version of a hippie—a white kid with dreadlocks; a knit cap, probably made of hemp; and Grateful Dead patches on his Levi’s cutoffs.
“Hey, hey, free Tibet!” he shouts, pointing to my bumper. “Free Tibet, man.”
“Hey” I answer back.
“Free Tibet,” he repeats. “Were you there?”
“Tibet?” I ask.
“No, man, the concert. Were you there?”
I realize that he is talking about the Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco and that, to him, the grave situation in Tibet has mainly translated into an opportunity to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers through really big speakers. I explain that I’m not primarily a music fan but rather that I’m heading to Bloomington, Ind., to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The hippie kid tells me that he and his busload of pals are on their way to Woodstock, N.Y., for another music festival. “It’s gonna be cool.”
His girlfriend, a 20-something, long-haired woman in an oversized, Mama Cass, cotton dress and Birkenstocks, is on a pay phone about 20 feet from us. She seems to be arguing with someone.
My new friend shouts to her: “The Dalai Lama is in Bloomington. Wanna go?”
She waves and shouts back, “Free Tibet! I was there!!”
I give them a peace sign.
There is nothing else to be done.