Thursday, June 07, 2007


I picked up my first hitchhiker the other day. I did.

I've been on the receiving end of hitchhiking. I was young, fourteen or fifteen, lived in Florida and was so impressively stupid some might find it difficult to comprehend. Imagine hitchhiking to a party that was leave-your-clothes-at-the-door and then actually getting into the backseat of a two-door number with a couple good old boys who passed a half empty bottle of Southern Comfort between themselves. Yep. That is probably in the top ten idiotic things I've done. Scary to think of the other nine, eh? (Note: attending the party wasn't one of them, I might have been dumb but I wasn't getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers, dernit.)

But this was the first time I've ever been on the giving end of hitchhiking.

I was coming home from a busy day of stuff and shopping when I saw her. She was alone, wandering around the middle of a busy road and trying to flag down random cars. She sort of jumped in front of me so I stopped and rolled down my window. She couldn't have been a day younger than eighty, maybe ninety. A tiny little thing.

She said she wanted to go to Jusco, a supermarket, so I told her to hop in and took her there. I offered to stay with her and shop and then take her home. But she said no, she'd be fine. Since I had some seriously warming milk in my floor board, I didn't insist. Although now I wish I had.

Why? Because on the ride to the store she told me the best stories. She said when she was younger she had fled North Korea with her husband. They ran into the Soviet Union. She was butt naked. And he ended up being killed. She told me about how many children she has lost and about the ones left over that don't want to live with her. But that's okay because she never wanted to be a burden on anyone. And true to her nature she apologized at least a dozen times on the drive to the store.

I made sure she got inside and waved to her. She waved back. I wish I had gotten her name at least.


Brian said...

Sounds like a fascinating person. I've always been intimidated by hitchiking, but the couple rides I've given were great experiences.

There was a great special on CBS Sunday Morning about this reporter who had a hidden camera and hitchiked across the country and recorded his experences. Then, at the end of the ride, he would get the driver's permission to use them in the reporting pieces. It was a great story.

I know that there are bad things that happen to unsuspecting hitchikers, but more insidious is the culture of fear we have regarding one another.

poetinahat said...

It's humbling to hear stories like yours -- when I'm feeling all entitled and superior because of my worldliness, I read a story such as yours, and I realise that worldliness isn't much about feeling worldly. Less yakking, more living.

It occurs to me that this was a simple but well-written story. I'm beginning to appreciate clarity of expression. Thanks for commenting on my blog, meaning that I could follow you here!

Kappa no He said...

Brian: Oh, I don't think I would ever hitchhike again or, sadly, pick up anyone under the age of eighty. I'm a wimp. (Also read "In Cold Blood" recently, *shiver*)

But, yea, the world really has changed. I remember when I was a kid and left the house at dawn only to return home when the street lights came on. My parents hadn't a clue where I was. Not these days, huh?

That show sounds really interesting!

Poet!: I realized I didn't leave who I was when I commented. I am currently juggling several Internet identities. Even I'm confused. Ha ha.

I am very guilty of staying inside a little too much. This blog has probably helped to get me out the door more and anything.

I was so happy to see you stopped by!

MDK said...

Is there any chance you could possible see her around? It was very nice, and warm, what you did. And to feel the urge of responsibility tugging at you, enough to make you see her in the store before you left. Here's more Kudos!

I remember that HBO series "The Hitchhiker". It's been what, some 20 years since it was first produced. There was some really cool stuff in the 80's. I miss them.

Virginia Lee said...

Wonderful story. I'm so glad I stopped in today!

In the '70's on a rainy day,my mother picked up a hitchhiker outside of a grocery store she frequented. She thought it was a girl because of the long hair, but it turned out to be a guy! I am not sure she's recovered from the surprise yet.

Kappa no He said...

mdk: She did tell me where she lived so I have incorporated that into my walk. I have my fingers crossed I'll bump into her again.

Virginia: That is funny. Your poor mom!

jean said...

I love Brian's comment - 'more insidious is the culture of fear we have regarding one another.' I'm really glad that Japan is not at that point yet (in terms of public safety, fear of kids playing by themselves in the park, etc.)

Craig and Lotta said...

That is a great story, but you live in Japan. If I picked up an 80 year old hitchiker in Nebraska she would tell be about the good old days of segregation, how great Bush is, and then she would shoot me with her hidden gun (now legal in Nebraska) O.K. mabye not. Anyhoo, love the story.

Anonymous said...

I hitchiked from Iowa to Texas and back and got several great stories out of it. I did it again up the West Coast and got just one good story from that. That was in the 70's, and while it was pretty safe, there were two times I was glad I was carrying my Texas toothpick in my boot. Texas to Iowa on $2.35. The record, I figure. Put that down in your notebook to talk about when I eventually get there. Or you and the family get here.
There is a lot to talk about on the idea of a "culture of fear", too. I think I mentioned this before, but I would have to live in my hometown 60 years to have the same chance of getting murdered as one year here. While it's true that the actual odds of me getting offed aren't all that large here, the contrast amplifies the reality. I think the everyday evidence of violence and crime also adds to that. I went out to the car this morning and the car five parking slots down was sitting on bricks instead of tires. That's (incredible to me) quite common, with a car being stolen every 30 minutes in our county. The janitors then told me that just a couple of weeks ago, four cars had been broken into for their stereo/navigation systems last week, and the police had to be called for a bloody fight among Spanish-speakers behind the building the same night the tires were stolen. I must sleep sounder than I feel. Thank God I own a crappy 9-year old Ford (that just cost me $400 to get the ignition wiring replaced, partly because of the poor design).
Pump that old lady for all the stories you can get.

Frank Baron said...

Good story. I think you'll probably see her again. Just a hunch.

I hitchiked thousands of miles when young but like you, have only picked up one (to date).

Aaaaaaaaaaand - I've been naked a few times in front of strangers. It's not as much fun as you might think. ;)

Katharine said...

Patty and I are missing your stories. Where have you been lately?

Kappa no He said...

Jean: Yes, I agree.

Craig and Lotta: I've got this vision of an old granny with a double barrel shotgun stuck down her sagging hose.

Imomo: Okay, I have it on my list of questions to ask you when we meet up again. And you guys be careful. Heck, I remember when you had a sniper loose not too long ago.

Frank: I was naked once in front of people. And, yea, it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. Mostly I was trying very hard to keep constant eye contact with all the other nudists. Ha ha. I'm intrigued about your story though...

Katharine: I'm gonna be back soon! I took on a bunch of odd jobs and am trying to reorganize my time. I wanna stop by your blog and comment too!