couch surfing & hitchhiking
July 27, 2009, 9:20 pm
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411i picked up a couple hitch hikers today for a 5 minute drive across town. they had a sign saying they wanted to get from downtown to the highway, so i thought i might as well. my wife hates it when i pick random people up. you always hear the horror stories about people getting jacked or stabbed or canoodled or what not. she loves people and helping people. but there is something about picking up a total stranger that makes her nervous. and with good reason. especially when you have kids. but my kids weren’t with me, so i thought at least if i died, it could be a cool story. who wants to die in their sleep? i’d rather be stabbed by a hobo. they were nice college age people. she was from czechoslavak-idontknowifimspellingthisright-ia. he was from massacheusetts. what’s with people from hard to spell places? i guess i’m from saskatchewan, which might as well have been an alien planet for these two. with towns like moose jaw, elbow and findlater, i guess we are weirder than they are. they were couch surfing across canada. apparently couch surfing is a huge thing these days, at least according to these drifters who hadn’t murdered me yet. there is a website and everything where you can find people willing to put up weary travelers in their home. cool idea. i dropped them on the highway and pondered my own hitch hiking experiences.

when i was a young lad, you could always count on my dad picking up a hitchhiker. apparently slasher films weren’t invented yet in the 1980’s, or at least he hadn’t watched any yet. so with our families lives in danger, we picked people up on the side of the road. if you can’t read sarcasm through words on a computer screen (which you obviously can’t, because that would make you weird), i am joking about the murderous drifter image i am painting. i believe in the general goodness of people. sure, you’ll meet some oddballs along the way. but that’s part of the fun. i remember dad picking up mr. stanky. that’s what i called him, or at least what i’ll call him now. dad was driving me to grandview for my baseball game. we were already late, and i was stressed because i was the star pitcher of our team (i totally made that last part up, about me being the star pitcher. remind me to edit out this side note later). from a distance, you could tell the guy was drunk. he was staggering half in the middle of the highway. i climbed in the back and let him have the front seat. the door opened, and the stench enveloped me. he slurred his words, most of which i couldn’t understand. but my dad carried on a conversation with him for the half hour journey. while i sat in discomfort and borderline disgust, dad treated him with respect and dignity. i think that’s pretty amazing about my dad. and i remember even as a young kid learning from him that if someone needed help, you helped and treated them with respect. and if that meant giving a drunkard a ride, you did it. Hitch_hikers

a few years back, i saw a young guy on the road to Winnipeg with two husky dogs and a huge backpack sitting on the side of the road in the rain. i drove past and in my rearview mirror, i’m pretty sure i saw him give me the finger. i drove about a mile down the road. after debating the awkwardness level of hours of driving with a guy who just gave me the finger vs. the guilt of leaving him in the rain, i pulled a u-turn and came back to get him. his dogs were awesome. they were shedding all over, but it didn’t really matter. they stunk, but not as bad as their owner. he was a hippy drug addict to the max, if there is such a thing. kind of like the polar opposite of rush limbaugh. i don’t know why i thought of rush limbaugh, especially since he used to be a drug addict. he offered me some weed and i declined. a few years earlier, i would have graciously accepted. he told me stories of being disowned by his family and running away from home to get away. he had left ontario and moved to BC a few years earlier. he worked odd job in some northern town i had never heard of. he made it sound like not many people liked him. and i understood why. he was pretty abrasive and in your face. so maybe he is more like rush limbaugh than i thought. a few days earlier he had gotten a phone call from his aunty telling him his father had passed away. i apologized, but he said he didn’t care. you knew he did, though. because he was traveling across the country to get back in time for the funeral. how can you not care and go through what he was going through in order to get home? we drove together for 4 hours. he borrowed my phone to make sleeping arrangements with a friends mom in winnipeg. she didn’t sound to stoked on him being there, but finally relented and allowed him into her home. i dropped him off, and all he left behind was the smell of his weed and a couple pounds of dog hair.

later on in life, i desperately wanted to go to a concert in Regina. Satanic Surfers was the band. they are kind of like chris tomlin, only not in anyway like him. i had a way there, but no way back. so my friend and i decided to hitch it back. it was a rush. i still remember my brother dropping us off on the side of the little traveled highway (especially mid-week), and he gave me a pen, so i could stab anyone who gave me trouble. thanks for looking out for me, brother. a knife or a gun would have been nice, but i guess you go with what you got. the trip was long and largely uneventful. until about two hours away from our destination. an old beat up pick up truck pulled over about a km ahead. he didn’t back up, but waited. so a few minutes later, we were greeted by an elderly man who was making the rest of the trip to our destination. i was excited to have made the rest of our way home, but that excitement quickly turned to awkwardness as this man shared stories that would embarrass a sailor. at many times throughout the two hour drive, which he drove at 85 km/h, i wondered if we would make it. partly due to bad driving, partly to the awkwardness of the situation and me wanting to stab myself with the pen my brother gave me. he told us his whole life story. and he dove beneath the surface of his raunchy stories to tell us how he had been a bad father. how his daughter was a stripper in the town he was heading and he was hoping to make amends with her. he asked if we knew the bar. not being huge strip club attenders, we didn’t. he asked us what we thought he should do. how should he make amends to his daughter he hadn’t seen in years? i was at a loss for words. an elderly man, pouring his heart out to two 18 year old punk kids, asking for advice on how to fix his broken and messed up life. we shrugged. about 20 minutes from home, he asked if we’d like to stop for coffee. of course, we didn’t. we had been hitchhiking for 9 hours and wanted nothing more than to be at home. but he was driving, and so what could we say. we stopped for coffee. i don’t think we really said anything to each other. he just enjoyed our company. when he dropped us at the edge of town, he asked if we wanted to meet for coffee later. being young and awkward, i politely declined. i don’t know if i’ve ever been as thankful as i was at that moment to be out of a vehicle. and that includes the time my little sister puked on my lap in the middle of a 16 hour car trip. but thinking about it now, i realize the guy was just lonely. desperate for some kind of human connection. he obviously had little to no one else in his life. and he found 2 punk kids who had to listen to him because he was giving them a ride. thinking back, i am thankful for that experience. even old weirdo’s can teach you something about life. and he taught me that i don’t want to live a life of regrets. i don’t want to look back at my life and wonder if i could have been a better father, husband, person. 

i’ve picked up many hitchhikers since then. partly because of my dad’s example. partly because of this weird, unknowingly wise old man who taught me a valuable life lesson. actually, he taught me two life lessons. 

1. live a life that won’t be filled with regrets.

2. when you pick up a hitchhiker and their are 3 of you in the cab of a compact truck, keep your hands to yourself, cause that can make an awkward situation more awkward.

if you have room in your car on a drive, pick up a hitchhiker. don’t look at their appearance. their skin color. their 2 dogs. their hippy appearance. their staggering drunkenness. pick them up. it might make you uncomfortable, but uncomfortable moments are the most memorable. and people need help, so do something about it.

unless it’s rush limbaugh. he should be left on the side of the road.


2 Comments so far
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satanic surfers hey? what a sweet band. still have their songs running through my head every once in a while. and to everyone reading this who has never heard of them…no they are not satan worshippers. its ok. good story blair.

Comment by jerms

I’d pick up Rush…but I’m never without my kids, so I probably won’t pick up anyone for now. Thanks for your stories, I thoroughly enjoy them!

Comment by Tammy

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