Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Picking up a Hitch-hiker in Berkeley

Hitch-hiking. Sticking your thumb out and miracle of miracles – a passing driver stops, asks you where you are going and if it matches with the driver’s destination you hop in.  When you arrive, the driver lets you safely off and usually won’t even accept help with the gas money.

That’s what Berkeley was like in the late 60's and early 70's when I lived there.  I was a have.  My husband, the alien, and I had a car. We didn’t drive it every day.  But, when we drove, we often had hitch-hikers on board.  No, there wasn’t a yellow hang-tag for the window Hitch Hiker On Board.  It just made sense.  It was ecological and neighborly.  We met interesting people that way.  Sometimes we wound up with overnight guests.

When we moved to Boulder, Colorado, I picked up a hitch-hiker my first day.  Wheee-oooo. A police car pulled me over.  He gave me a warning – not a ticket. And he didn’t make me give up my passenger.  “Picking up hitch-hikers is illegal here. And it’s not safe.  I’m not criticizing your passenger, but I’ve picked up dead bodies that were abandoned by hitch-hikers who killed them and stole their cars.”

I didn’t pick up more hitch-hikers in Boulder.

On long cross-country drives, my husband and I picked up hitch-hikers.  Some were friendly interesting people. Others were upset that we didn’t have drugs or smokes to give them and we had no interest in stopping to party.  Once, when we stopped at a restaurant, a pair of drug-hungry passengers left us without a word.  We were glad to be rid of them.  But when we came out, a different pair of hitch-hikers was waiting beside our car.

The man said, “Your last passengers told us you’re going where we’re going.”

“Did they tell you we don’t have drugs and we don’t party?”

“I think we’ll get along fine,” the man said.  And we did.

In Florida, we never saw a hitch-hiker going where we were going.  We were on short trips and they had distant destinations on their cardboard signs.  Hitch-hiking isn’t popular in Philly either and we got rid of our car 8 years ago.  In short, we got out of the habit.

But last week, we visited Berkeley. A young woman came up to us, to ask if we knew the bus schedule.  We didn’t.  She said she was going to the Berkeley Campus.  We were going near there.  We picked her up and dropped her off safely.

You can go home again.

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