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In E. L. Doctorow's Book of Daniel I read the following sentence:

The state police brought Susan in off the turnpike and that makes her a public charge.

Susan is an inmate of a mental institution in 1967 and the person, who says this (her brother) seems to be a hippie.

What does off the turnpike mean (what did Susan do before the state police brought her into the asylum) ?

Update 1 (22.05.2015 15:46 MSK):

Later in the book I read

Why do two state cops, finding a young girl bleeding to death in the ladies' room of a Howard Johnson's take her not to the nearest hospital, but to the nearest public insane asylum?

Howard Johnson's is probably a motel, which is located near a toll road (turnpike).

  • What does your dictionary give as a meaning for turnpike? – Tim Lymington supports Monica May 22 '15 at 10:35
  • @TimLymington 1) Road or highway 2) Form of boom barrier. I can imagine she went around like a homeless person and I can imagine that the police may have caught her (in some places vagrancy is a crime), but I don't understand, why she got into the asylum. – DP_ May 22 '15 at 10:38
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    @DmitriPisarenko: She became a public charge (someone who has to be taken care of by the government) probably because she didn't fit into any other category and more than likely she was under-age. – Robusto May 22 '15 at 11:19
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    There's a vague possibility "turnpike" is being used as a euphemism for prostitution. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. – Hot Licks May 22 '15 at 11:53
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    The Howard Johnson restaurant chain, beginning in the 30s, notably had their most visible locations on the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- the restaurants were actually located in rest areas that were situated between the two sides of the highway. Only later (mid 50s) did they begin having motels (and later still abandon the restaurant business -- alas, no more clam strips). – Hot Licks May 22 '15 at 13:33
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She was found in a HoJo's in a rest area on a turnpike...rest area restaurants being those that could be reached without exiting and re-entering the turnpike at an exit, but just off the side of the turnpike.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Johnson%27s:

When the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Ohio Turnpike, and New Jersey Turnpike were built, Johnson bid for and won exclusive rights to serve drivers at service station turnoffs through the turnpike systems.

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