Picking up hitch hikers is something my wife and I don’t ordinarily do. In fact, after almost ten years of marriage, this was our first time. I’d never personally picked one up myself and neither had she. The only hitch hiker I shared a ride with was in in the 1970’s when my father picked one up while a man was thumbing a ride across the State Line of Idaho, a place where no one was thought to be crazy. I was six, and my two older brothers in the backseat were ten and twelve. My father was in his fifties driving with an open beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. We were all in prime condition for hands on combat with a wandering weirdo. Hand to knife? No. Hand to gun? Negative. I guess it turned out ok, because my father was a pretty good judge of character and maintained faith in the Lord. Those were the odds my father held in his favor when potentially picking up a stranger with lethal weapons. Are there any other kind these days? Well, I’m still here to write about this bold memory, and my wife are I are here cozily tossing and turning with the puppy who was there with us for our first hitcher.
Trying to locate a Veterinary clinic on a secluded island, our global positioning system went on the fritz, so we resulted to the ancient art of prayer to help us find our way. Perhaps God’s GPS wasn’t working that day either, or He was teaching us a lesson for not attending church the week prior……or the week before that, or the week before that, or on Easter and Christmas. We were lost on a land with twisted roads surrounded by a sea of angry waves and AARP drowning victims. We knew the majority of the island’s inhabitants were between the ages of sixty five and one hundred.
Our dog in the back was scratching her head trying to help us find our way. She also had a terrible earache. Seconds felt like hours before we saw a man gimping down the road in front of us with his arm straighten to the left and a thumb in the air. We drove past him before my wife, the driver, felt a wave of island guilt pass within her after glancing in the rear view mirror. Looking at me, she asked, “Should we pick him up?”
I responded, with befuddled fashion, “Seriously?”
She then began to tell me how she knew I had good judgement regarding these situations as though I drove around the streets of any city U.S.A. looking for hitch hikers with the sixth sense of knowing if I’d be hijacked or successfully helping a fellow man requiring assistance. She also thought I’d get that warm feeling wondering if I’d be brutally murdered by a fellow citizen of the street.
I looked back and noticed he was an older man somewhere between 65 and 90. He was also wearing a University of Virginia Tech (Home of the Fighting Hokies) sweatshirt screaming out, “Would a man wearing a Va. Tech pull over ever be capable of killing a wife, her husband along with their stupid dog? People, I implore you!”
Loving the fact my wife held such confidence in me, while shrewdly passing the guilt to me, I told her to turn around and we’ll pick him up. She also stated it was my ass who would be held responsible for making the wrong decision.
Before allowing him into the car, my wife asked him where he was headed and then asked if he trusted us. Trusted us?!! What the hell was she talking about? Do we trust him seemed more appropriate. I simply said, “Go Hokies” thinking this may break the wind, and ease any ideas he may have regarding causing harm to us. Ultimately, he did trust us, and we trusted him.
Not only did this 77 year old gentleman, who had missed his bus ride back to town just three miles away, guide us to the Vet clinic, he then provided specific instructions to a little known breakfast spot only the native islanders knew. We were both grateful and starving.
After bidding one another adieu, he vanished after crossing the street and my wife looked at me and said, “I guess I was right.” It’s still a mystery to me if she was talking about herself or her right hand man potentially making the correct or colossally stupid decision. Letting that go, our dog’s ear was well taken care of and our bellies were eventually full.