“Does your mother know you’re hitchhiking?”
It’s rare I get into a car with someone who doesn’t remind me of my impending death or rape (or both) by hitchhiking. My drivers complain enough for ten mothers.
Today, I’m getting into a truck with 66-year-old Wolfgang.
“I sure hope you’re taking precautions, aren’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if I were you, I would’ve taken a picture of my license plate while I was in the gas station just now, and sent that picture to my mother.”
I briefly think about how freaked out my mom would be if she suddenly got a text with a license plate.
“Well, you wouldn’t feel good if you knew I was getting into a car with you, but at the same time suspecting you of being a rapist, would you? And if I suspected you, I wouldn’t get into your car. That would just be terrible for everyone.”
It’s ironic how little faith my drivers have in humanity, because all of them are about the nicest people you could meet, and I sometimes wish they could get to know each other the same way I get to know them. They trust themselves, and they trust me, but they don’t trust all the ones who’ve come before them, or the ones who will come after. It makes sense, of course. We always hear about the hitchhikers who got murdered, but never about all of them who didn’t. Who made it home safely. Who had a nice chat with their driver.
For a second I entertain the thought of the picture Dad took of me that morning being my last.
But then I also think: That’s a hell of a last picture, and I would’ve died doing something I love. I think about how hitchhiking has opened my mind about so many things. How fearless it has made me, how many people I got to meet I would never have talked to, of different genders, ages, professions, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and political views. This is the real world of real people, filtered only by the common denominator that is a car and a willingness to pick me up. I find subjects to talk about with anybody. Sometimes, we bounce ideas off each other like in a tennis-match. Sometimes, we exchange music. Sometimes, we inspire each other to be ourselves and find our place in the world. Sometimes, we keep in touch.
People keep asking why I’m not scared. My drivers: worried. Others: accusing. How dare she? How dare she not put safety first, like I do? And sometimes: How dare a woman claim space for herself?
Listen, I could stay indoors all day, knowing that to be the safest way to live. Avoid going out at night, never speak to men, never make eye contact, never travel.
Or I could get over my fear and see all the amazing places and people this world has to offer. Making choices out of fear is not a life worth living to me.
If I ever die hitchhiking, remember me for this. Remember me for all the people who were good to me. Remember that I was happy. That it was worth it.
featured image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melynaguona/818100571/