Hitch hiking is so not me. It involves lots of things that make me uncomfortable: strangers, the social tension of asking someone to do something for you for free, riding in a car driven by someone whose skills I haven’t vetted, and rejection.
But hitching is a pretty necessary facet of my life now. Every five days or so we land in a town we’ve never been to before and have to run errands. And you can read about walkability and our cities’ lack of it, but when you’ve got to run errands without a car suddenly you get it. A half mile walk doesn’t sound so bad, especially when you consider that we regularly walk fifteen at a time. But a half mile walk in the gravel along the side of a busy highway with five heavy grocery bags hanging off your arm is not fun. It’s also not really safe. A lot of people have been very nice to us out here, but there is a special place in my heart for the people who’ve given us rides.
In my previous life, hitchhiking was either a romantic adventure (read On the Road too many times) or something dirty weird people did. I never even considered whether or not to pick up a hitchhiker. Obviously I would not.
Now I’m the one standing there with my thumb out. Which still feels ridiculous, by the way. I have a hard time forcing myself to keep my arm out because it feels so dumb. Certainly it doesn’t feel like it’s going to work. And there’s always that stretch of time at the beginning of trying to get a hitch where you’re certain this time it won’t. Why should it? Everyone knows not to pick up hitchhikers.
Which is why the separation between us and the cars is so aggravating. I want to be able to talk to the people as they blow by. To tell them we just need to get two miles up the road they’re already driving on. We just want to go to the grocery store, nothing scandalous. To explain that we’re very nice. We’re very nice! I want to shout. Why the hell are you passing us up??
Some people have no problem passing us, and gaping at us as they go. I try to just smile at them. Others are clearly guilt ridden and can’t even look at us.
But hitching is easy. All you do is stand there and wait. Literally what you need comes to you, eventually. It’s a glorious moment when a car slows down and pulls over. It completely makes up for all the ones that passed.
It’s just like everything else out here. A roller coaster. You stand in the sun feeling vulnerable and awkward and rejected, and then you’re squeezing into a tiny old car (the more run down the car, the more likely they are to pick you up) and feeling grateful and elated and chosen.