I’ve only been driving regularly for a year or so, and at that, only two to three days a week to school and back. But I live in a rural area, and it takes 45 minutes for me to get to school, ample time to drive by hitchhikers. I’m pretty fearful, so I don’t pick them up that often, but if the answer is “yes” to the following questions, I do.
1) Have I seen them before/ do I know them?
2) If they attacked me, could I beat them up?
The common denominator in all the hitchhikers I have picked up has been awkward conversation. While I am skilled in sustaining conversation, I am not skilled in making it natural. Giving coworkers lifts is the best because we have the same job to complain about. When I gave the guy who makes sandwiches at the store a ride, it was terribly uncomfortable. However, we were saved when “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton came on the radio, and he launched into a story about the drugs he took at a U2 concert in the 80s. Scratch that, I was still uncomfortable, but he was safe in his reverie.
The most interesting experience I’ve had was when I gave my friend’s father a ride home. Most people in my community smoke weed, and he was no exception (I am an exception). I dropped him off at his house and realized that the inside of my vehicle now stunk. The car that I drive is shared by my family, and my mother drives it often, and at the time, my grandmother as well. Fearing for my freedom, I frantically sprayed the upholstery with body spray. I am an extremely well-behaved teenager, and I wanted to keep the little trust my parents have in me. Imagine getting in trouble for smoking pot when you were simply being a good samaritan.
I’m writing this post because just yesterday, I had the best experience with a hitchhiker imaginable. I took Spanish classes for five years, but with the state of the language department at my high school, learned little applicable material. It has, however, always been my dream to live in Argentina for a time, and I brush on my Spanish periodically. For instance, I watch M*A*S*H in Spanish (of course, it’s just not the same without Alan Alda’s voice), and practice everyday with an app on my phone. It just so happened yesterday that the hitchhiker I picked up spoke very little English. So we conversed in Spanish. I was surprised my how much I was able to understand and could relate to him. The concrete details were that he was from the south of Mexico, had a large family in our town, and worked at one of the farms. It was thrilling to be able to learn so much about a person I hadn’t expected to be able to communicate with.