Friday, September 30, 2011

Free Associations: Hitchhiking

When I was growing up, quite often you’d see a person at the side of the road, thumbing for a ride.  Lancaster is a city in the high desert of California but when I was young, it was still a town, with long stretches of undeveloped land, miles of sagebrush, sand and Joshua trees.  In the summer, the temperature is often 100 degrees or more, so that alleviating a walker from the distances and heat seemed like a very practical thing to do.  Not that we ever picked anybody up.  Hitchhiking was something that hippies did, or kids who were headed, metaphorically, in the wrong direction.  And later, taking a ride from a stranger would come to be considered a truly dangerous thing.  It used to seem, though, like a key to expanding freedoms, a possibility of adventure.  Like so many other remembrances from childhood, this too would lose its magical connotations, its romanticism, its associations free from adult concerns.

Hitchhiking is still legal in the US, although you have to be sure to stand off the roadway.  There’s a website with the aim of “starting a new hitchhiking craze:”  They have a lofty view of the practice, and define it as a cultural experience, with two or more people meeting to exchange ideas, stories and beliefs.  They do caution, however, that not every ride results in deep conversation.  Oh, and you can “like” hitchhiking here.

I’m not recommending it.  I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that really, it doesn’t typically end well.  I’m just saying that I wish I could look at hitchhiking like I looked at almost everything as a child:  a possibility, an open road.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka