Ian Frisch| Longreads | April 2018 | 32 minutes (8,040 words)

When 59-year-old Jack Mack wandered from picket station to picket station to ask the Question, he tried as best he could to ease into the conversation. He didn’t want to scare anyone off. It was two months into the strike, and tensions were high. “You know, we handle some pretty nasty stuff in there,” he’d say. Or, if the guy was older: “C’mon, you’ve been here as long as I have! You know everyone!” Sometimes, if he already knew the person, he’d cut to the chase: “Wasn’t there a guy you worked with down there that was diagnosed with cancer a few years back? Did he make it through?” If they didn’t answer, staring instead at their steel-toed boots, Mack would lean in and say, “You know, I’m sure you heard, but I was diagnosed with cancer myself. Beat…

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