Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hitchhiking, Part 2

Strangely enough, after writing the post about the absence of hitchhiking from our current literal and figurative landscape… three of my kids and I were driving to the baseball game of the fourth on Sunday when we passed—you guessed it—a hitchhiker.  A middle-aged woman with longish gray hair, dressed simply in shorts and a blue tank top, standing by a bus stop, perhaps hoping for a quicker way.

Me:  “There’s a hitchhiker!”
Kid (I’ll denote the combined comments of all three as "kid"):  “A what?”
Me:  “A hitchhiker.  Do you know what that is?”
Kid:  “No.”
Me:  “When you want to get a ride somewhere, you stand at the side of the road, put your thumb up like this, and hope someone will pick you up.”
Blank Stares
Me:  “Not that you’re allowed to do that.”
Kid:  “Why doesn’t she just drive?”
Me:  “Maybe she doesn’t have a car.”
Kid:  “But she was so fat.”
Me:  “What does that have to do with it?”
Kid:  “Because she’s not poor.”  (Apparently, his reference being literary:  rotund kings in fairy tales; thin, shivering, poor townsfolk dressed in rags.  Sidenote:  this is the same kid who uses the word “hobo” to refer to modern homeless.)
Me:  “Who said you have to be poor to hitchhike?  Maybe her car broke down.”
Kid:  “She should get it fixed.”
Me:  “Maybe she doesn’t have the money, or can’t get to the shop until Monday.”
Pause, little brows furrowed
Kid:  “Where does she need to go?”
Me:  “I don’t know. The grocery store?  The library?”  (Here, I admit, adding the last thing to improve their impression of her.)
Kid:  “That’s not safe.”
Me:  “Maybe not.”
Kid:  “Why doesn’t she just walk?”
Me:  “Maybe it’s far.”
Etc., etc.

I should add that all of the “Kid” portions were spoken with what I can only call a general tone of intolerance, even mild irritation.  It made me feel guilty for the sheltered life we’re obviously offering them.  Later, however, their judgmental tone softened a bit and became more curious. 

Kid:  “How often did you see hitchhikers when you were a kid?”
Me:  “I don’t know, pretty often I guess.”
Kid:  “Every day?”
Me:  “No, maybe once a week.” (Knowing I will be forced to quantify eventually.)
Kid:  “I’m going to tell all of my friends I saw a hitchhiker!” (Almost like seeing a dinosaur, or some other ancient thing from when I was young.)

In conclusion, I can only reiterate what I said before:  hitchhiking is gone, and all the romantic notions one might want to attach to it.  The kids couldn't get their minds around the fact that someone might not be able to get wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted.  Are they spoiled or practical?  I'm not sure...


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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