The old concept of 'kids say the darnedest things" holds true in kindergarten classroom 101 at Tunbridge Charter School. These five and six year old children are extremely curious and the most common question out of their mouths are 'whatcha doing?,' followed up by 'why.' Sometimes if they do not like your answer, they tell you a story about something that they did that they found exciting, which is completely unrelated to what you are doing at the moment. Moreover, they also want to learn everything about your life and apparently no subject is off limits. You would think it would be questions like where are you from or do you have a brother or sister. My family did come up but not in this matter.
One day I was working on a craft project with some kindergarteners when one of them turned to me and said, 'Ms. Kate, do you have a son?' I was not exactly in shock; earlier last summer one of the younger swimmers I coached (around the same age as the kindergartners) had asked me a similar question and than informed me that I should be a mom by now. In both situations, I was asked by children who were around the ages of five and six and I was in a position of authority. This made me considered that these children had no perception of age but instead replaced it with an idea of what a coach or teacher should be. In their minds, since I was in the same light as other teachers and coaches they have had, I was not a college student or younger than their own parents. Based on what they have experienced, I should have my own children since I was able to take care of other people's kids. To them, twenty-one is old compared to five. Now, I cannot be mad or shocked when they ask me this because I can present to them a different perception of age; that twenty-one is not old enough, in my mind, to be married and have children. (Yes, my younger swimmers over the summer thought I was at least married even if I did not have children yet)
Sal experiences the same naive perceptions that my kindergarteners and swimmers did when he began his journey. For starters, he had an idea of what traveling across the country would be like as he began his journey. He expected fifty dollars to be enough to get him across the country; he also believed that it would be simple and easy. He was mistaken as the first day of his journey ended with him outside, in the rain. He soon had to learn that just because it may seem easy to travel on certain routes on a map does not mean that actually walking down those streets would be as simple.
Furthermore, Sal had certain views of certain types of people and expected his perceptions of them to match up to his expectations. Some of the people, like the cowboy he rode with to pick up his wife, matched up to Sal's preconceived notion of them. Even though this is true, there were somethings that Sal could not learn about the cowboy solely on his perception of him. On page 21, Sal states, "I wished I know his whole raw life and what the hell he'd been doing all these years besides laughing and yelling like that." In this instance, Sal's image of what a cowboy was proved to be true but he still did not know why this man was this way.
In another situation where Sal met a group of hobos, he learned something about these men that changed his perception of them. When he delivered a postcard on the behalf of Slim, he learned something new about this man. As Sal read the message Slim wrote to his father, "it gave him a different idea of him; how tenderly polite he was with his father" (34). In Sal's mind, the idea of a polite hobo had never come to him before. Like how my swimmers and kindergarteners learned that even though I may look like an adult does not mean I have a family, Sal learned that just because an individual may look dirty and live the life of a hobo does not mean that he cannot be educated or polite.
In the end, as Sal continues his journey through-out the United States, he constantly meets people who questions his perceptions of the world and himself. His travels altered the way he sees America and how he sees himself.