Girl’s Guide to Picking up Hitchhikers

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.





10 thoughts on “Girl’s Guide to Picking up Hitchhikers

  1. I have not picked up a hitchhiker. The reason is that when I am going somewhere I’m usually with the fam, so that ain’t happening. When I’m by myself in the car I am usually not going to go very far. It would be kind of an F-U if I picked up a guy and dropped him off two miles down the road.

    I do often render roadside assistance and have granted the use of my cell phone. I used to drive a clunker so I have to pay back a lot of push starts.

    The main type of hitchhiker that I would absolutely pick up is a… well… hiker. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through our state and anytime I am near it I keep an eye out for hikers. My sister did the PCT and the trouble is that the trail is not near towns usually so they have to hitchhike to get to towns for mail drops and supplies. I owe it to a lot of kind souls who gave my sis a ride so if I see a hiker I will absolutely pick them up. Even with the family. PCT hikers are generally good eggs.

  2. Since I have been a mom since I was 20, I am almost never in the car alone. And I think I am too scared in general to take that risk alone. However, my dad once picked up a hitchhiker while I was in the car – lest this sound too horrid though – he did recognize the guy as someone from our church so it was not a huge stretch. I still remember it though because he was a stranger to me (at the time) and was your typical long-haired hippie!! Funny the things that stick in our child hood memories.

  3. I remember one time we picked up some hitchhikers in a Correlian Corvette in orbit over Tatooine. They didn’t so much stick out their thumbs as steal plans for my new ultimate weapon. We blasted a bunch of them, I force choked a couple… haha… yeah. Good times. Ultimately it didn’t work out so well for them so I’d recommend against hitchhiking, especially in Imperial space.

    It was entertaining though. I might pick some up again one of these days, if only for the anecdotes.

  4. I picked up a hitch-hiker once, outside of Lloyd Center. All she did was pick at her meth scabs and wipe her finger on the pant leg of my other passenger. Big fun.

    But, you never know when you’re going to find the Sweet Hitch-hiker who’ll help you make music at the Greasy King. Or something. Maybe John Fogerty’s just a dirty liar.

  5. Wow, you have way more balls than I do. I would do it if I had a group of people with me and by group of people, I mean ass-kicking ninjas.

  6. Brilliant piece, typical you……

    A stranger can change your mind, change your destination, change your life.

    Love this, pure Hitchcock with a amuirin twist……

  7. You are a braver woman than I am. While I have both hitchhiked and picked up hitchhikers, I was in the company of a male companion.

    I must say my experience with picking up hitchhikers has been much better than in being picked up. The boyfriend, who spent much of his wasted youth hitchhiking around the country, believes it is his karmic duty to pick up hitchhikers when he can and it seems safe. Interestingly enough, this always seems to happen when we’re traveling, so it’s been an interesting way to learn about an an area. No bad experiences, just good stories.

    And with hitchhiking my self, oy, an ex-beau and I got stuck out in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t be too terribly picky about our ride, so we got in with this old hippie dude who kept talking about how him and his brother live down in that thar holler, and how they don’t got no electrical power or phone service. He was coming across as some character straight out of Deliverance. But, as our ride progressed, we found out that they chose to live off the grid and made their living making these beautiful windsurfing boards. And while we arrived relieved and alive, that was the last time I went hitchhiking.

  8. Thank God for people like you or I would have been stranded in the desert on two different occasions (sp?). I can’t remember ever picking up a hitchhiker…my car is always loaded to the hilt when I am travelling long distance. My rule of thumb for picking up/getting picked up would be YOUNG and PAIRS. People who travel in pairs and are young college kid types, while perhaps not the most interesting characters to pass the time with, are mostly a safe pick.

    As for me, I was a clean-cut 18 yr old travelling with guys my age most of the time. We were ideal hitchhikers or something. The few times I took a ride by myself, I lived to regret it. One guy thought I was a prostitute (I was like, k, drop me off here creepy), another guy wanted me to model for him (again, drop me off here creepy, or I will open the door and jump out), another three times, the guys thought we might have a future together and wanted to exchange digits (coincidentally these are the guys with young children). Twice when I was with guys, we got ditched on the side of the road.

    Actually, my fond memories of hitchhiking are not so fond now that I think of it. Hitchhiking sucks. Sing a sob story for money and catch a Greyhound….at least you are guaranteed A/C with your impending doom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s