A thumb goes up, a car goes by

So, XUP Jr. comes home the other day all excited and says, “I saw someone hitch-hiking today!”

“So?” says I, confused as to why this should excite an otherwise blasé teenager.

“SO?” says she, incredulously. “It was cool! It was so retro!! It was like in one of those movies!!!”[1]

Sometimes the gaping maw of the generation gap is a chasm as large as the Niagara Gorge without the convenient bridge.

“Why when I was your age, hitch-hiking used to be my primary mode of transportation,” I wanted to say, but didn’t, because that would have sent entirely the wrong message.

But I lived in the boonies and my parents would have laughed their asses off if I’d asked for a ride to a friend’s house or to the movies or to go shopping. We got to ride in the family car for church or for medical appointments and once in a blue moon for a “special”[2] family outing.

The school bus took us to school. There was an inter-city bus we could catch to go to town, but it was a good hour’s walk to get to where we could catch that bus. And friends all lived at least an hour’s walk away, too. So, how else to get around?

Everyone got their license as soon as they possibly could, of course.  Those with some knowledge of the combustion engine bought contraptions-that-were-once-cars and somehow kept themselves mobile. The less mechanically-inclined had to rely on borrowing the family car which was a pretty hit or miss proposition back in the day when almost every family only had one car and/or maybe one truck. Then there were those few privileged people who were able to acquire real cars of their very own. Any or all of the aforementioned people were very, very popular.

But most of us hitch-hiked a lot. We’d try to do it in pairs whenever possible and had some basic safety rules.[3] And, while there were a few scary moments and some close calls, nothing really bad ever happened to anyone I knew because of hitch-hiking. Or maybe it did, but I blocked it out.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, don’t hitch-hike. It’s a very stupid thing to do.


[1] Yes, she talks with ever-increasing exclamation marks.
[2] And by “special” I mean an excruciating, forced day of togetherness with 7 of us crammed into one vehicle with a goal of visiting some distant friend of the family’s who invariably had their own passel of squalling brats so that I could babysit, for free, their 5 or 6 kids as well as my own 4 siblings for the afternoon while the grown-ups chatted. Sometimes on the ride home, we’d stop for ice-cream. I’m lactose intolerant.
[3] No vans. No vehicle with more than one person in it. Don’t accept a ride if the driver has his penis in his hand (It happened at least twice). And, of course, don’t accept rides with anyone giving off a serial killer vibe. (Teenagers know this stuff. They’re very worldly.)
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24 responses to “A thumb goes up, a car goes by

  1. you just triggered a memory for me that I will have to blog about.
    i used to hitch hike all the time, without safety in mind. stupid girl. i’m lucky nothing really bad happened to me.

  2. A lot of teens hitchhike up around where we have our cottage since there’s no public transport to get anywhere. If mom or dad aren’t available, it seems to be the way to go.

  3. Of course you’re absolutely correct. Hitch hiking is the scariest most dangerous thing you can do.
    After all when we were kids looking for rides ninety nine percent of the adults around were decent and offered rides to help out.
    Now that we are the adults who might offer rides ninety nine percent of the people are evil abductors just waiting for a chance to do evil.
    Boy those adults of a generation ago were sure taking a chance weren’t they.

  4. I used to hitchhike from Peterborough to Toronto when I was in University. Always with a male friend, never alone. We got talked to about Jesus a lot by the people who picked us up, but never anything worse than that.

    But I have a friend who was violently attacked while hitchhiking alone as a teenager. She is very, very lucky to be alive today. Hearing her story changed the way I felt about hitchiking in general.

  5. Meanie – Can’t wait for your post! And yes, weren’t we so stupid? I can’t imagine what how my parents thought I was getting around all the time. They never asked, I never told. Sheesh.

    Hannah – You are a virtual storehouse of relevant videos for every occasion, aren’t you? I wonder if hitch-hiking was actually safe UNTIL they started making movies about horrible things that could happen to hitch-hikers and/or those who picked them up and gave people all sorts of crazy ideas?

    Jazz – What else can they do, after all in cottage country? Swim in lakes? Sit on the deck reading a book? Fish? Boat? Good grief.

    Bandobras – Like I said to Hannah, I’m thinking it was all those hitch-hiking horror movies that gave people evil ideas on what they could do AS hitch-hikers and TO hitch-hikers. Before then it was just a way to get from point A to point B.

    Jo – Sorry about your friend. That’s awful. We were all very, very lucky that nothing really bad ever happened to us. Teenagers are frighteningly stupid in some ways. (and oh so clever in others)

  6. My point being that we were not “very very lucky”
    Most people are decent reasonable people who will help out others. ANyone over 40 knows hundreds of people who hitched hundreds of times and had little if any bad happen.
    It is in fact those who are hurt that are “very very unlucky” but we continue to think that the world is now a more horrible place than it used to be.
    Such is simply not the case.

  7. My father, a 51 year-old lawyer, hitch-hikes often in Vancouver. It helps that most cars entering Stanley Park from downtown will then proceed all the way to North Vancouver, within moderate walking distance of where he lives.

  8. More rules:

    1) NEVER hitch at night
    2) Always look into the back seat window before opening a door.
    3) Don’t ever hitch while drunk or stoned – your judgement isn’t the same (duh!).
    4) Stay well off the asphalt. I had cars purposely swerve trying to hit (or scare) me a few times.
    5) If you hitch in the winter or in the rain, have a spare set of clothes – you will get wet.
    5) Finally, tell your teenage kid that you NEVER, EVER hitched a ride… even if you did!

    This public service message was brought to you by Trashy.

  9. Here ya on number 2 XUP. I’m the oldest of nine (born in ten years). Often we would car pool with my mom’s sister (married to dad’s brother and holy crap this is sounding bad) who had five kids. Although, the car was often a pick up truck with old car seats arranged nicely around the edges. And, yes, this dairy farmer’s daughter is also lactose intolerant. No wonder I’m not normal.

  10. Bandobras – Ya, I know what you were getting at. Are you sure the world is not a more dangerous place these days? And if you’re sure, how do you know?

    Milan – That’s kind of cool. Why has he chosen such an unusual and unpredictable mode of transportation?

    Cedar – Did you end up getting a ride? Was it an interesting adventure?

    Trashee – No worries. I only tell my daughter about the good, sensible and wholesome things I did when I was young.

    Grace – Well, you have me beat for embarrassing family excursions. I actually may have seen you out on the back roads the occasional Sunday afternoon, because your scenario doesn’t sound all that strange to me.

  11. He does it largely because the buses don’t show up as often as cars, particularly when it isn’t rush hour.

    You can easily save yourself 30 minutes of waiting.

  12. I only hitch hiked once, in Europe. We were so nervous, but also wet and tired and a little lost in the dark. We’d missed the last bus, I recall, and someone drove us while we tried to explain about finding the youth hostel or a pensione. He was friendly and laughed (at us) and eventually dropped us off at the bottom of a steep hill and pointed to a lighted building off in the distance. It was only in the morning, when we went to pay that we realized we had been driven to a different country! Out of Switzerland and into France.

  13. “It’s nearly one a.m. and here am I, hitchin’ a ri-i-ide, hitchin’ a ride.” Vanity Fare, from somewhere around 1970. And that info comes without benefit of Googling.

    The only times I ever hitchhiked were to and from the lake for a swim. It was a six-minute ride from the edge of town to the lake — a town where everyone knew everyone else. Nothing scary happened, except when a woman blamed my best friend of being someone else, someone who had obviously wronged her or her children. “I should make you get out and walk,” she told a shocked Bill. But she took our word for it that he wasn’t Dirk, he was Bill. Besides, we were already at mile 3 of 6.”

    Once I had a licence and at least access to a car, I would always pick up hitchhikers on that same route, knowing they were there for the same reason we used to hitchhike. But you know what? — You never see hitchhikers on the good old Jacob’s Hill Road anymore. I wonder why…?

    Ahhhh, good memories.

    The other day, I saw two hitchhikers at the Riverside Dr. onramp onto Hwy. 417 in Ottawa, holding up a hopeful sign that simply said “Vancouver”. I wondered whether they’d be lucky enough to make it with only one ride.

  14. My brother used to hitchhike all over the place and Dad used to pick up hitchhikers with the whole family in the car and it drove Mom crazy. Once Dad and I were on the way to the beach in a little Datsun Z car two-seater and Dad picked up two college boys with great big metal backpacks. He popped the hatch and they mashed in with their legs hanging out the back. It was crazy. The closest I ever came was when Lo and I walked over to a convenience store from the Luxor in Vegas, bought a case of beer and other stuff and realized it was too heavy to carry back. I saw a truck and ran up to beg the guys to give us a ride in the back and lo and behold they had Luxor patches on their workshirts. They told us they could not take us to the “front door” so we had to be dropped off by the employee entrance. It was funny.

  15. wait – didn’t you have a whole post on your love of cheese a while ago? how do you get away with that and lactose intolerance?

    i heard nothing but horror stories as a kid, so i considered hitchhiking like i considered jumping off a bridge. when i dated someone who picked people up as a matter of civic duty, i found out he’d hitched all over while he was in college. and he was attacked by a lunatic once too, so i guess a bad experience here and there doesn’t kill the kerouac-ian instinct in some people. just like one car wreck didn’t turn me off driving, i suppose. at least with accepting (or offering) rides you have the option of engaging your gut, whereas car wrecks happen for all kinds of crazy reasons. bad weather, other drivers, freak automotive failures, etc.

  16. Milan – I don’t think I’ve never seen a lawyer or anyone over 25 hitchhiking. Is it common in Vancouver?

    Violetsky – He too you across an international border and you didn’t have to show papers or anything? How is that possible. We had a hell of a time hitch-hiking to different countries in Europe. They detained us for almost an entire day at the Swiss border.

    Bob – You truly are the king of rock and roll …or was that Elvis? I can never remember. Would you still give hitchhikers rides if you saw them on old Jacob’s Hill Road or anywhere else?

    Geewits – Cars were a lot more fun when you could just sit in or on them or just hang off them somehow – before all the strict rules about seat belts and car seats and having all your doors closed and your limbs in the car and stuff. Good times.

    Hallie – Cheese doesn’t have the high lactose content that milk and ice cream and stuff does. Also I tend to stick mostly to goat cheese which is a lot friendlier. And it’s too bad people have to be all psycho. Hitchhiking seems like such a reasonable sharing of transportation to me. The driver gets some company, someone to talk to, a little vicarious travel adventure and the hitchhiker gets a ride.

  17. i’ve never done it but have picked up only one hitchhiker while riding iwth a friend. we were scared shitless b/c of course he was a weirdo.

    i decided to never do it again.

  18. In 1972, after I had asked Karen to marry me and leave Milwaukee to go to California, there was a going away get together at her apartment.

    I made sure to catch the last bus back to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, even though I had to put up with recruits who had gotten very drunk while on their single day of liberty during boot camp.

    A day or so later, police officers showed up at Karen’s apartment. Her name and address had been found with a body that had been found along a country road. The body was that of a sailor by the name of Kennedy who had been at Karen’s place with one of her friend from the USO.

    He had decided to hitchhike back to base.

    He had been killed with a gun.

    Karen told the police that she was moving and provided information on how to get in touch with her if they needed any further information.

    We never heard anything more about it.

  19. Leah – Too bad. Hitch-hiking used to be a fun, interesting thing to do except for the occasional psycho-killer. Now it seems there are only psycho-killers hitch-hiking and/or picking up hitch-hikers.

    Mike – Yikes, that’s a little close to home. Glad you caught that bus.

    Geewits – Ya, thanks for noticing. Bob mentioned the song, too, though I’m not sure it was because of the title or the general topic.

  20. I don’t remember exactly where we were, but there seemed to be many little towns along the border and the road criss crossed form one country into the other frequently. As I recall (from waaay back) the only time we had to show passports was when we were on an international train. It was so much easier in the 70s.

    And, yeah, I noticed the song link – your tags are often as funny as your posts!