Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Hitchhiker's Guide To Apoplexy, or: Thumb Enchanted Evening

It seems like a couple of lifetimes ago, but there was a time when hitchhiking was my main mode of transportation.

I came to driving rather late in life, so I was dependent on the kindness of strangers to get anywhere that public transportation didn’t go. At one point in the 1970’s when I was working in a factory outlet, I hitchhiked to and from work, a little dicey when you consider that I had to arrive at a prescribed time. But in those days it wasn’t much of a problem, unless you count those occasional longeurs when it seemed as if no one would ever stop for you again.

During such stretches, you found yourself bemoaning the little-mindedness and selfishness of one’s fellow man as you bravely trudged on down the shoulder of the highway. It wasn’t until I was behind the wheel myself that I got a feeling for how difficult it can be to pull over and allow a stranger into your car. I haven’t always repaid my good fortune through those years with the greatest of generosity.

Luckily for me, there were lots of drivers who were only too willing to stop and help me out. Now for someone as shy as me (and make no mistake, I am someone who has always taken great pains to avoid intercourse, social or otherwise, if it meant talking was involved), it sometimes took a little effort to start a conversation with a complete stranger. This was, however, the courtesy I felt I owed the driver for the favor he or she was performing.

And the great plus of hitchhiking turned out to be not merely the fact that one’s ride was free, but that I was being forced out of my shell and, by extension, my world was being expanded.

I met people from all walks of life and social strata. I was given lifts in junkheaps that were on their last legs and expensive automobiles that seemed a step away from being air-conditioned limos. And I heard all kinds of stories, stories that always left me feeling a little more part of the human race than I had before I’d gotten in, because none of these strangers turned out to be as strange as I’d expected. With the exception of owning a car, we were much more similar than not.

There was a great freedom to it, trusting everything to fate and throwing oneself into all these different lives.

It seems to me that I rarely see anyone doing it anymore, though. I imagine they probably chase you away from the turnpike tollbooths now, and I’ve seen the signs that forbid you to be there without a car.

In truth, it felt like it was a dying art then.

Now we have this new car, sleek and beautiful, that rides and glides down the road. It’s got every comfort you could want.

It makes me blink in disbelief.

I could never have imagined it when a friend and I were burning cardboard under an overpass in New Haven to keep warm after an all-night hitchhiking trip to visit this girl he liked.

We’d read our Kerouac and, what’s more, figured the young lady in question would be more than thrilled and impressed with our initiative and imagination.

When the sun finally came up, we made our way to her apartment and knocked on the door.

“You guys have to get out of here,” she said.

We just looked at each other. That wasn’t the way it worked in On The Road.

2 Comments:

Blogger RadioZero said...

Hey, I Googled "Screw," "Intercourse" and "Complete Stranger" and this is what I get...?

Worst porn ever!

Do you need a credit card number or something first before you deliver the goods?

Thursday, May 03, 2007 1:49:00 PM  
Blogger Count Screwloose said...

If this disappointed you, I'd advise you to steer clear of our popular line of Screwloose Gone Wild! videos.

RG

Thursday, May 03, 2007 3:12:00 PM  

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