When I was sixteen I found a worn copy of On The Road in a little newsstand. I had never been to this place before, and never been back, but it helped introduce me to a new world. Since then I have been a champion of the hitcher. Nearly any sorry sap with the effort to raise a thumb gets a ride in my car.
The first person I picked up was a young hispanic girl. She was walking down a dirt road at night. I nearly hit her, clad in black jacket and jeans with a hand cocked to the road. I pulled my truck over and threw open the door.
I was on my way to my girlfriends house, but this girl was in need. She had been stranded by some asshole guy at a party full of people she didn’t know. She had a vague idea where town was, but was lost. She was 12 miles from her home in the ghetto, a short detour for me. She got home safe and I had good karma for the week.

Since then I have had countless people in my vehicle. I had a guy start screaming that we were going the wrong direction, he tried to get me to pull a u-turn on the expressway. He babbled on about how the government was out to get him. I grabbed the first exit ramp and shuffled him out.
One guru told me this sage advice- “When its summer, it’s OK to be homeless. It’s all warm and you an just lay around. But in the winter it’s cold and dark ‘time to get a job at Burger King.”
A man, a true vagabond, pulled a knife out. Not to use on me, mind you, but to show me the case he had made for it from Elmer’s glue and newsprint. It was painted yellow and the hinge was coming apart.
One night I picked up a dark figure in a snow storm. He was near hypothermia, just an unlucky soul out of gas and walking to town in sneakers and a thin shirt. He knew my sister and went to my high school.
I never took the plunge to trust my life in the hands of another driver. My thumb never saw the road until Mexico. A buddy from San Francisco had me meet him in Chetumal for a whirlwind trip, San Christobal de la Casas, Palenque, Tulum. We took busses for a spell, until we managed to chance the fate of thumbs.
The rides were fast and consistent. We never stood on the road more than a few moments. We rode with teachers and vacationers and retirees and fruit vendors. Our last night a truck pulled over. It’s driver was thirty and columbian. He and his french friend took us to a strip club and bought beer and lap dances. He was a coke trafficker and happy to spend time with boring folks like us.

No comments: