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National Editorials & Columns

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hitchhiking

The other day I was driving down the interstate counting the number of fellow motorists who were endangering my life by sending meaningless missives on their electronic gadgets. Suddenly, a severe case of boredom struck me like a freight train.

There were no good songs on the FM dial and talk radio offered not a single phrase of hate or vitriol. There were no tasteless bumper stickers to read, nor any proud and obnoxious parents informing me their child was an honor student.

I had grown tired of playing “how long can I drive with my eyes closed.”

Up ahead on the asphalt horizon I spotted a lone hitchhiker of questionable origin. He was holding up a cardboard sign like a limousine driver at an airport. The sign simply read: Floorida.

For the briefest of moments I didn’t know if there was a city called “Floorida” that I had never heard of or if spelling just wasn’t this gentleman’s strong suit.

I thought this was odd and immediately deduced this man was no mental giant. He was, after all, hitchhiking in the northbound lane.

It could have been my self-destructive nature talking, but I felt like picking him up, even if the Sunshine State was in the opposite direction. At the very least I could teach him an important lesson regarding how critical a good sense of direction (and correct spelling) is for would-be hitchhikers.

For most people the decision to pick up a hitchhiker is a decision between wanting to get stabbed with a rusty piece of metal or not wanting to get stabbed with a rusty piece of metal. That seems like a pretty easy question to answer, but the discrimination shown toward hitchhikers by a fossil-fuel-burning society is mighty lofty if you ask me.

In fact, in many states the mere act of picking up a hitchhiker is against the law. How preposterous! Apparently it’s a crime to help your fellow man out. Why don’t we make it illegal to help an old lady cross the street or for a man to place his coat over a mud puddle for a woman, and other outdated acts of kindness that haven’t occurred since the 1920s. While we’re at it why don’t we make it a crime to leave a penny, or for that matter taking a penny, too?

It’s my vehicle. I should be able to choose who I let in it. Let me be the judge of whether or not I stand the risk of having my naked body chopped up into pieces and shoved in a storm drain like the brutal aftermath of a mafia hit.

I partly blame hitchhikers themselves for their poor stereotype. The hitchhiking community has done little in recent years to reassure the public concerning their tarnished reputation.

There are many things a would-be hitchhiker could do to improve his chances of getting a lift, like buying a pair of dark sunglasses. Since every hitchhiker in the world has crazy Charlie Manson eyes, I find that a dark pair of shades should be of great importance.

Just as paramount is mouthwash. Mouthwash has just about as much alcohol content as a bottom-shelf bottle of liquor, but with the added bonus of leaving one’s breath fresh, clean and unassuming.

Personally I wish hitchhikers would go back to their roots. Just once I would like to see a non-threatening hitchhiker with belt made of rope and an old-fashioned bindle slung over his shoulder.

And for some reason I have never witnessed a female hitchhiker. Hitchhikers are predominantly male. Female hitchhikers — not that I know this firsthand or anything — only exist in adult entertainment movies, I assure you.

I never did stop to pick up that hitchhiker though.

At the end of the day, self-preservation won out over a random act of kindness. I find that’s a pretty good rule of thumb to live by.

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