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The Hitchhiker's Fear About Hitchhiking

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Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

If you've ever hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker then you'll know it can be a very rewarding experience for all parties concerned. But hitching recently I realised what the ultimate worst experience for any hitchhiker could be.

No, its not being abducted and tortured and killed by the driver but something more concerning, more confusing and more humiliating, if you will. Causing an accident is the worst possible experience for any hitcher, and my new fear. Think about it. You're standing on the side of the road with your thumb out and a generous, maybe bored, driver begins to slow down and pull across to the side of the road to pick you up and then BANG! someone crashes right up their bum. No matter who's fault this incident is, the hitcher has to take some blame, if not all. If the hitcher wasn't there then the approaching car wouldn't slow down and then car behind wouldn't ram up their bum.

I haven't done any net research into guides for hitchhikers because I've been spending too much time doing my own research on the West Coast with my freezing thumb outstretched waiting for rides. Being the ever courteous hitcher I choose my side of the road carefully; not too close to intersections, enough shoulder space for the driver to pull over safely and most of all, place myself in plain sight, preferably on a straight to give the driver plenty of time to make the correct safety precautions before pulling over. 

Hitching is obviously all about safety and that is the main reason only a few outgoing souls pick up hitchers and why so few people opt to stick out their thumbs. We've all seen the horror movies. The last time I heard of a hitchhiker killing someone or a driver killing a hitchhiker was, well, not in my lifetime have I heard of this happening.

The stigma attached to hitchers suggests we're all a bunch of cheap travellers or poor, unwashed, unemployed destitute loners who need to be somewhere but can't get there by our own steam so we need to borrow someone else's. Oh, and that makes us all dangerous as hell so be ready for a knife fight. Sure, I could buy a bus ticket to get from point A to point B, C, D then E but what fun is that? None. Furthermore, what challenge is that? None. How many genuinely great and interesting people do you meet on a bus? None. How many genuinely great and interesting people do you meet on the road? Every. Single. Person.

From ex-cons to millionaires to ex-travellers to physics students to engineers and all sorts in between, I've been lucky enough to spend time with them and swap stories as we travel a road towards a mutual destination whilst at the same time trading company and conversation for a ride. There is something totally indescribable about standing on the side of a road, seeing a total stranger stop by and then hopping into their car for a bit of a road trip. The fact that people will just want to spend time with a stranger and at the same time help them out, not out of charity - but because they can, strengthens a faith in human kindness and belief that the few who do pick up hitchers share the same view that some small joys and rewards in life come on the side of the road from total strangers. 

Now, I'll just write you a cheque for that damage because it was my fault, I shouldn't have been standing there, sorry. Uh, just don't cash that cheque for about another three years because I'll have to work that long to pay for your written-off SUV. Sorry again.

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