That’s a bit misleading. I wanted something catchy, but here’s the disclaimer: Wondrous stupidity doth unfold in these here lines. I don’t advocate the picking up of hitchhikers by girls, because there’s always that possibility you’ll hit the wacko jackpot and become the central plot of one of those CSI investigation shows. For safety’s sake, please leave the transport of absolute strangers to more retarded drivers. Like me.
Hitchhiking is a ballsy endeavor, because it involves sticking out your thumb, and letting fate take over. Extending that meaty digit along any traffic thoroughfare expresses a willingness to throw in your lot with absolute strangers. What an enchanting, fucked up thing to do.
The picking up of hitchhikers requires a degree of that same enchanted fuck-uppedness. When I see someone standing by the side of the road, trying to flag down a ride, I get curious. The disheveled solicitor seems to throw off the same might-be-magic gleam of a parboiled glow worm.
Who is this wheel-lacking highway person? Some displaced noble from a far off land, attempting to make his fortune and save his family’s crumbling estate? The woman, sitting on a suitcase, is she a fallen Vegas Angel, escaping the clutches of a hairy pimp? Maybe making her way to the orchards of Washington, for seasonal apple-picking employment? Could be. Then again, they could be murderous-rapist-thieves. There’s no way to tell for sure.
I picked up my first hitchhiker mainly out of boredom. My early twenties were messed up times, and the introduction of any person, place or thing outside the sphere of my daily existence was enough to stir a degree of curiosity.
When you pick up a hitchhiker, there are a few things you want to look for:
1. Does his or her physical demeanor stimulate a visceral perception of impending death? If the answer is ‘yes’, drive on by. It’s impossible to discern a Bundy by appearance, but most people have a subconscious, gut level of intuition that can sometimes communicate an essential ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ if they’re paying attention.
2. Singles or pairs? It works both ways: There’s some safety in numbers. People who would not pick up a solitary man will often stop for a man and woman couple. I’m antsy about being double-teamed, but then again, killers don’t tend to travel in pairs- probably because murder is socially awkward. It’s hard to find follow-up conversation once you’ve dumped a body together.
3. What does the hitchhiker carry with them? If they are fingering a large bowie knife, or holding a bag that’s dripping dark substance from the bottom, give them a pass. Also avoid- florid faces (alcohol), the skeleton thin (drugs) and crank eyes, which are hard to describe but if you’ve ever seen them, you’ll always recognize them. People on crank have a very distinguishable look, kind of like someone’s hollowed out their eye-sockets with a pewter spoon and then stuck their eyeballs back in there. A crank user might not kill you, but they’ll definitely complain about your music.
Here’s an important one: Avoid hitchhikers who seem replete with the holy spirit. You wouldn’t believe how many serial killers have, at one point or another, stolen a bible from a motel room. There are no correlating studies to link religious fervor with the innate ability to stick a knife in a person’s throat, but you hafta consider the mental facilities of anyone exuding peace and love while standing on a highway shoulder trying to beg a ride to Logsden. They’re being flipped off and snickered at by any dregs of society who can afford a Pinto, being rained on, honked at, blown assundry by beefy truckers named Mel- a little angst is just reasonable in such a situation. This is the Pacific Northwest, after all, not the bible belt.
My first hitchhiker was named something generic like Andy or Ted. He was handsome in that rakish way that gets totally ruined once they speak and you find out what a flake they are. Most hitchhikers I’ve picked up pretty much follow Andy’s template: They’re poor, good-time guys who are between cars, or at least between girlfriends with cars. They can afford cigarettes, and can usually scrape up enough to look good and survive okay, but now and again a lapse in judgment leaves them to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Andy flirted with me, which was disappointing. I know that’s how its done, sometimes. If you have nothing to offer, you offer flattery, but I was offended at being taken for a purveyor of road-side flesh. I’d like to think I’m not a person who has to pick up dates ‘en-route’ from the dusty meatlockers of the hard up. Ew. He got the bubble-gum pop treatment, and almost redeemed himself with a comical rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’.
The next transport was a middle aged woman trying to get to her job at the local hospital. She had the look of someone whose been through the grist-mill and gotten sad instead of hard. Pale blue eyes, an older woman’s face, no car, two kids, daddy’s gone, some kind of fine from the state. Your typical, small tragic life. I know that it was probably some lapse in judgement, some character flaw that landed her in her current situation, but I afforded her my sympathy, and dreamed her up into the noble heroine she likely wanted to seem. I almost said it, as we pulled into the hospital parking lot: “I’ll write you, I’ll write you in such a way that grown men weep.”
But I just headed on my way.
I took a hiatus from hitchhikers after an older fellow, a veteran, gave me a good dressing down for picking him up. He tried to describe, graphically, what could happen to a woman alone with a stranger. Maybe he was trying to scare me, but at that point in time I had cable and he just wasn’t up to the job. Mostly I was resentful. Typical male, go all condescending and superior on someone you’re relying on for something. I hate having to listen to a lecture when the situation dictates that the other person should logically be my bitch.
If you’re a dedicated weeble, you might be a little anxious on a particular point. And the answer is no, no I have never picked up a hitchhiker while my daughter was in the car. Likely you could build a case that these sojourns into stranger land were irresponsible enough to merit the vet guy’s dressing down, but I kinda think we all hafta go our own way on such issues. Life is a dangerous past-time; just getting into an automobile guarantees a degree of risk and endangerment rarely equalled by dancing naked on the beach in a lightning storm. Like alligator wrestling, the hitchhiker thing seems particular foolhardy because of the stand-out aspects of the risk: It’s voluntary & death by hitchhiker is a really lurid, horrible way to go. It seems weird, the idea of subjecting yourself to a possible psycho.
But there’s that other aspect: The story part. If you lead a sheltered, monotonous life, you have to get your excitement somewhere. I think the internet is an interesting place to act out fantasies in relative safety, but sometimes you hafta rub elbows with the fucked-up hoopla. The inherent possibility is more important than the outcome. A stranger can change your mind, change your destination, change your life.
What a fucked up, enchanting idea.