By Jessie Patterson
A few thoughts on hitchhiking experiences that I have had.
It’s always been interesting to me to see my own reflection in the person that picks me up hitching. This one time I was hitching from Humboldt County, California down to the Bay Area. I had just visited my ex-girlfriend and her energy had mingled with mine after making sweet love and war all weekend. I was standing out on the off-ramp, in the wind and cold, waiting for someone to pick me up. In my head, I was singing the diddy that I always sing to keep the good vibes coming: “I need a safe and awesome ride, give me a safe and awesome ride… give me a safe! And awesome riide, give me a safe and awesome ride.” Ridiculous lyrics brought to you by positive thinking. So, a guy pulled up in his little brown pick-up. He was a small older male with a beard and a wide smile. He had a few missing teeth and he smelled like weed, but I knew I had nothing to worry about. He wasn’t looking me over, and appeared to be a fatherly type, a man of silent wisdom. My eyes were immediately drawn to the fleet of toys that his entire dashboard was filled with: little figurines, from aliens to barnyard animals. Hundreds of plastic toys all sat facing and greeting me in the passenger seat. They were colorful and different: the cow with the milkmaid and the little boy, G.I. Joe hanging out next to Pink Panther. Hundreds of plastic TV icons, obviously collected from all sorts of places, sat silently keeping me company while we started south. The driver was an old stoner with a young spirit. He loved music and had boxes of tapes and CDs below my feet and behind our heads. He put on the Dresden Dolls as we continued through the Redwood forest, and told me about his wife and kids. There was nothing loud about the way he communicated, nothing pressing, nothing forceful; he just was. About every fifteen minutes he would pull out a pre-rolled spliff and smoke it, repeating this ritual for the several hours that I rode with him. It must have been a long-practiced routine, because he kept on talking, seemingly unaffected. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice that I was even in the car…just another day driving in the company of colorful, plastic friends. I liked him. I found myself wishing he could take me further south so that I could enjoy his company more, but I realized that if I took him out of his area–tall green redwoods, rural highways and slow driving, his essence would be destroyed. He belonged in his old brown truck with his pre-rolled spliffs. His is a life that doesn’t need to question or strive for something big, I thought. When we got to the small town at the end of our journey, I said goodbye, appreciating what was.
Truckers: There are some similarities I’ve noticed after hitching with several truck drivers. You step up into his temporary home and notice his face, take a look in his eyes to see if he’s crazy or not, see if there’s more red than white. Most often you accept his eyes and sink into the giant passenger seat, looking at all the tiny cars that fly by down below. In my experience, there is usually a picture of his girlfriend tucked into the wall of the truck. It may be near the several gauges and speedometers, or sticking out of the oversized flap of plastic that keeps the sun out of his eyes, but it’s there. The wallet-sized photo of her in make-up, sometimes with a kid, sometimes without, but usually in a low-cut shirt looking kid of sweet and sexy. There’s a picture of her, and then there’s either a religious icon or an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. Mother Mary or a cross protects this trucker as he drives over twenty hours a day in his loud beast of a machine. A giant plastic mug that’s big enough for an ogre to drink out of usually sits between the trucker and I. He’ll sip on soda or coffee, or it’ll just sit there while he talks. Truckers like to talk. Several have told me about how they were in prison and now they’ve cleaned their lives up. Some of them are family men who go home to their wives after ‘hauling loads’ all week long. Most of them seem to enjoy the simplicity of the routine: drive your truck, stop off and get something to eat, make jokes on CVC radio, take a nap in your cubby holed bed, and probably think about sex. They take their responsibilities seriously; but are simply another set of characters amongst many.
Ms Guided (misguided.org)