“They are hippies,” said Wifesy. “Now, there’s a word I haven’t used in at least 15 years. The guy has a drum.”
“Oh, they’re definitely hippies,” I agreed. We were commenting on a couple standing by the side of the road near a “fresh strawberries” sign. At first, I saw a man with his requisite backpack, scruffy, long beard, and knit cap. Then a woman came into view. She wore a prairie skirt, a series of scarves around her neck, a flack jacket, and boots. Her hair was long and flowing.
“They probably camped out back there,” said Wifesy. Behind the “fresh strawberries” sign was the wide open field of a farm. From the look of them and the time it was in the morning, I guessed that she was right.
“Terrifies me, hitchhiking,” I said. “Have you ever done it?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Wifesy.
“Whaaaatttttt????!!” I screeched.
You see, Wifesy and I have been together for a number of years now and I’m always floored when she has a new story to tell me that I don’t already know. The fact that the story involved hitchhiking shocked me even more. Now, yes, Wifesy is a California girl. I am a New York lady. But, she’s not soooo Californian that I picture her on a commune eating berries and smoking gonga while trying to figure out how to make an eco-friendly home out of banana leaves. She’s an ex-rocker girl, but not really a patchouli-wearing hippie. Suffice it to say, I was surprised and had to know more.
“Ok, you hitchhiked? Where and why? And how?” I asked.
“With my babysitter,” she said.
“Whhhhaaaattt?” I responded.
“Well, I had this babysitter when I was 12. She took me hitchhiking, so she could go see her boyfriend and have sex with him.”
“Jesus,” I said. “Babyshitter, is more like it. How did you get back in time for your mom? How far did you hitchhike?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I was young, so I don’t remember how far it was, but we did get back in time.”
“God, where did you go when she met up with the boyfriend?”
“I stayed downstairs with the roommate, while she went upstairs,” she said.
“Oh, man, what an a-hole,” I said.
“She’s the same sitter who got me high too,” said Wifesy.
I looked at her just then and did a silent prayer that she’s still alive. Honestly, I did. The minute she mentioned the two of them – young Wifesy and the babysitter – hiking into the beyond so the horrible, babysitter could whore it up, all I could think of was Jaycee Dugard. Thankfully, decent people picked them up that day because I always feel that every hitchhiker is one automobile-roulette wheel away from being kidnapped and forced to live in some psycho’s backyard tent. I don’t know how they encountered these decent people because I’m a decent person and I NEVER pick up hitchhikers because I always think about the converse. The converse goes something like this, I pick up a sweet old lady in a wide skirt and a dirty jacket with impeccable hair and a nice bag by the side of the road. She gets in the car with me and about two minutes into the chat, a small man – her partner in crime – pops out from under her skirt brandishing a swiss army knife. Then of course I’m filleted and my spirit screams from the heavens for all time, “You stupid, a-hole, why did you pick up that sweet, old, lady who looked like your grandma?! Don’t you know everyone who hitchhikes wants to make a body suit out of your skin like that psycho in Silence of the Lambs?” That’s my thought process and that’s why I never pick anyone up.
Wait, that’s not entirely true. I have picked up an old woman by the side of road once. Wait, she was not by the side of the road. She was in the MIDDLE of the road waving her arms and legs around like a banshee. At first, we went a touch past her. I don’t think any of us in the car were even convinced that she was real. Wifesy was driving the car and my brother was sitting next to her in the passenger seat. My brother’s longtime friend, Veronica, sat in the backseat with me. We were in southern England, most people would call it Wales. Okay, everyone would call it Wales. Being Wales, it was a touch misty out and foggy, the sky was grey. On the side of the road were incredibly high fields of what looked like wheat. It was probably just reeds, as we were nearing the beach, regardless, it was high. High enough for a person of average height to be completely unseen when walking through them. About ten feet ahead we saw a woman gesticulating wildly in the middle of the road. We all gasped and Wifesy maneuvered the car around her and then pulled over. I’m not kidding you when I say, the woman looked about 90 and yet, spry, and fit somehow.
I got out of the car and said, “Are you okay?”
The woman said, “Yes, but I need a ride into town.”
“We’re not from here,” I said.
Another car pulled up behind us. A local woman rolled down the window. “Everything okay?” she asked.
“Yes, I think so. This woman needs a ride,” I said. “Did you want to take her into town? We’re not from around here,” I added.
But, I think the woman had the same old lady turning your innocent skin into a unitard horror show running through her mind, as I had, because she said, “Oh, no. No, no, no,” and drove off in a hurry.
I looked at the old woman. She was tall and skinny and close to 90, of this, I had no doubt. I thought then – it’s me, my brother, Veronica, and Wifesy in the car, surely if something goes down, we can take this old broad. That is seriously what I thought. Blame it on my cynical, New York, upbringing. When you grow up in New York – where in some ways EVERYONE is trying to run a game – you develop street smarts and paranoia at an equally quick rate. I decided we were going to take this old lady. There was no way we were leaving her by the side of the road.
“Well, come then,” I said. “We’ll take you,” I smiled.
There was no denying it, the old lady looked relieved. Soon, I understood why. It was miles upon miles into town. I could not believe this old woman was going to walk that far.
I had Veronica scooch over and I sat in the middle between V and the old lady.
“So, where you from?” I asked. “Your accent doesn’t sound, British.”
“Germany,” she answered and I could literally feel the muscles of everyone in the car relax.
I suppose, we, from the urban cities in America, have a view of Germans as a constantly backpacking and traveling group of citizens. We see them as never afraid to traipse from one side of a country to another on foot, stopping cars along the way, and having a beer stein or two with each passersby they’ve met. It’s probably a fictional vision, but it’s a good one at least and it relaxed us all.
“You’re a long way from Germany,” said V. “Whatchya doing here?”
“I’m here learning English,” she said.
“Ah, that’s wonderful,” I said. “Where did you come from today? Do you live nearby that road?” We couldn’t see anything, but fields for miles, so I was curious as to how she had come upon that road at that very moment.
“I walked through the fields,” she said. And I could feel the collective thought process of my friends and family in the car again. This woman walked god knows how many miles through the fields, then she was going to walk god only knows how many miles into town, she’s here learning English, and she’s gotta be pushing 90. Feck, we Americans are a lazy people, indeed.
We arrived in town and drove the old lady exactly where she wanted to go. At this point, there was no way I was going to let her walk one more step than was necessary.
“You’ll get back okay, right? You’ll take the bus?” I asked.
“Oh, yes, I’m meeting my friend and she can drive me if I miss the next one,” she said.
“Good,” I answered.
“It was nice meeting you and thank you for the ride,” she said in perfect English.
“Goodbye,” we all called out after her and collectively waved.
We were thankful for the experience, in some odd fashion. I suppose not everyone has it out for everyone else. You do, indeed, need to rely on the kindness of strangers from time to time. But, I would ALWAYS say be careful in who you choose as a babysitter. There are a lot of nutsos out there. Lots of nutsos and a normal person or two.
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