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.





Quick Musing #3

Why does everything hafta go by threes?

It’s like, not a completed cycle unless you’ve got a third to throw up there. And three is a strange, awkward number. But maybe it kind of gives people enough options to have a preference, to have a favorite; to choose a little order, organize a mini-hierarchy, set up a pyramid scheme, impress strangers with your dearth of evil step-sisters, set-up a precedent for bears, stooges and ill-fated blind mice.

Three is enough to be jovial, and the perfect equation for drama.

Aw shit, I went and answered my own question.

It might take a little while to like you


What are first impressions comprised of? What cements an impression, or turns it on a dime? What forges an instant camraderie, what creates an illusion of uncertainty?

I don’t know. I know these questions hold a certain fascination, particularly online.

Cus essentially, when it comes to a ‘blog’ first impression, you’re physically/mentally/emotionally reacting to a digital presentation of selective thoughts or graphics. You’re reacting to what a specific brain chooses to reveal of itself.

In real life, and this is just me, but in real life I have an unreasonable bias toward people I already know. Those who have won my affections can take rather freakish liberties and still find me in their corner. But to strangers? I am squinty-eyed and horribly unfair. In fact, I’m not unlike Cleveland Armory’s cat Polar Bear who thinks the number of people he knows is exactly the right number of people, and adding more to that number is excessive and very possibly dangerous.

New people, for the most part, arouse in me suspicion. For example, my daughter’s school teachers: It takes a teacher about 7 months to convince me that he or she is actually a good educator with my daughter’s best interests in mind, and not a slacker or a cruel, busy-work demon just clocking in wearily till that blessed day that they can retire and move to Florida. By the time I’ve given one of her teachers my stamp of approval, it’s usually only a few weeks till the school year is over with, and then I go through the process of borderline hostile skepticism all over again.

Is it merely a trust issue?

Maybe, but I’m not really sure, because I’m not very consistent. Every once in awhile I meet someone whom I take an immediate and senseless shine to. This can be anyone at all, from a stranger on the street, to someone’s great Uncle Marvin visiting from Chicago. It’s like lightning strikes, it can happen anywhere: Random Like.

What about here on the net, though?

There are people over there to the right, on the blogroll, that I loved that way, immediately. There are some whose words please me to such a degree that I require no reciprocation, no acknowledgment whatsoever in order to remain a loyal reader, a die-hard fan. Others won a place in my attention over a period of weeks, a slow building trust and admiration.

And there are some that I would eject without a moment’s hesitation if I sensed the slightest hostility or underlying agenda in our exchange.

There really isn’t a definite reason why. I mean, not a consistent one. There’s no particular trait, no font that strikes my eye as more trustworthy, no reason maybe to value this person’s time and attention more than another’s. It’s just one of those crazy things.

So the constant is that there aren’t any constants. I might take things differently coming from a man or a woman (but you can blame the culture for that one). I might, have, and would again forgive someone with whom I’ve suffered online misunderstandings, simply because their devotion to me or my words seems completely sincere.

There’s another who despite many signs of good will and inter-blog communication, I’m still convinced on some basic level that we do not and probably will never genuinely like each other.

And there’s at least one that may or may not like me, but I like them insensibly and will probably continue to hang around in dopey, indefatigable good cheer until the day they say, “Um, fuck off, do” in no uncertain terms.

It’s fascinating how these impressions develop, how we build relationships, whole exchanges, dramas and friendships that are at least 75% percent internal, arising from reactions in our heads.

New people have been dropping by lately. Most of them I recognize from the blog of someone I wasn’t sure of right at first but came to like, and truly admire very, very much. It’s nice to see new faces, though I hafta soothe my inner Polar Bear who is at least a little freaked out by signs of change.

Like any egotistical biped, I tend to think my own overtures more likely to net good weebles, but I’ve been repeatedly, agonizingly wrong. It’s a surprise and a delight to be so thwarted, and real writery relationships will hopefully ensue. Just understand, it might take a little while to like you.

But I’ll really like you, once I do.