The other day I decided to play hookie and drove down to Appleton for the day. Since I was in no hurry, I took the long meandering way, through the backroads, only getting lost once when my map software stopped working, swinging by the casino for a quick break, and two hours later getting back on the road forty dollars poorer and only halfway to my destination. At one point, I was passing through one of the tiny villages en route, and I saw a guy hitchhiking. He had three or four plastic shopping bags dangling from his hands as he stuck out his thumb and for half a second, I thought about how cold it was and how far he might be from home. And then I was past him and my momentary twinge of guilt was replaced with an image of Ted Bundy.
That’s not to say I haven’t stopped for hitchhikers in the past.
In Arizona, my son and I picked up a rather tall man and his adorable red headed toddler one scorching afternoon. The poor man’s car had broken down and he told us that the two had already walked several miles as cars zoomed past and ignored them. We dropped father and son at the first gas station we passed. Years before that, I stopped for a couple at the entrance to an airport. They were next a stalled car, with suitcases beside them. I don’t know why I picked them up. Maybe it was the desperation they oozed. They jumped in, professed their love for me and I got them to the departure area with just enough time to make their flight. I always wonder what happened to their car.
So what makes us stop and what scares us away? If you think about Mr. Bundy, everything about hitchhikers should scare you away. Things are not always as they seem. That father could have kidnapped that small boy and been on the run. That couple could have simply found a stalled car and posed next to it, their suitcases empty and waiting to be filled with the dismembered body of a gullible driver.
My days of picking up strangers are probably over. I’m not as adventuresome as I was in my younger days. How about you? Have you ever pick up a hitcher? Were you the hitcher?
Leave your story in the comments and Write on,
If you can find it, watch The Hitcher starring Rutger Hauer, an absolutely terrifying movie. Don’t bother with the remake. They changed the story and completely ruined it.