Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I Hitch A Lift

In an episode of  Radio 4's 'Four Thought', Jono Vernon-Powell talks about the long-lost art of hitchhiking.  He found that the majority of those in his audience who were over 45 had hitchhiked, whereas the vast majority of those under 45 never had.

Fortunately, I am over 45.

I loved hitchhiking as a student.  I loved the risk and the freedom of it.  The risk of meeting people. The freedom of cost-free travel and uncertainty.

I have memories.  Of Brendan, his careful answers to my questions from the back of his sage green BMW whilst, unfortunately, my boyfriend sat next to him in the front.  Of John's red umbrella on  the seat next to me, whilst, unfortunately, my friend Helen sat in the front, chatting with him about the pleasures of Newcastle upon Tyne.

And I've never forgotten the lorry driver and the moment he produced a long knife.

Last August, I gave two beautiful women a lift from Edinburgh to Church Stretton.  Chatting to Lien and Marit rekindled my desire to stick out my thumb, take a ride.

On Sunday, I went for a walk that turned out to be longer than expected because I couldn't work out which way up to hold the map.  By the time I reached my destination, I was running late, had marking to get back to.  I decided to try to hitch a lift. It was a rural area.  Local traffic.  Low risk.

My thumb felt awkward.  I couldn't remember which way to present it - should it point up or out?  My arm be extended or bent?   Once I'd worked it out, I grew more confident.

In the next ten minutes, thirty or forty cars went past.  I became less hopeful.  Then a 4x4 passed, stopped a few yards in front of me.  The familiar feeling of triumph.  The trot to the open passenger side window.  The brief exchange of information.

The driver shifted stuff off  the passenger seat, apologising for the mess.  She was on her way to visit her father in his new nursing home, and she talked non-stop about his move: about how she'd eased the process by telling him the home is a posh hotel, that the staff provide room service; about how happy he is.

When she dropped me off, I felt the loss of a parting.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely piece... there's something ghostly about hitchhiking I think...