Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hitching in the rain

My column this coming Sunday is about picking up a hitchhiker last week. It was an old cold rainy day. I'm not doing a spoiler here, but giving this guy a ride reminded me of when I was in the Army in 1971.

I was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and my friend lived in New Hampshire. "It's only about 350 miles that shouldn't take us too long," he said. I was a hick from Sloss Hollow, Alabama and I hadn't traveled much. He could have told me it wasn't too far to walk and I would have gone.

We planned to head out when our classes ended just after lunch. It was a long weekend and we thought we'd eat supper at his mom and dad's house. 

We wore civilian clothes but we packed our Army uniform and field jacket in our bags in case it got cool. 

Looking at the forecast seemed like overkill because we'd probably be in New Hampshire by sundown.  

Outside the gates of Fort Monmouth, we stuck out our thumbs and a salesman picked us up in a matter of minutes. He took us just north of New York City and we caught a ride with another soldier a few minutes later. Bam! We were on our way. 

But the soldier had a couple stops to make. Time slipped away. We made it somewhere close to Worchester, Mass and the soldier let us out at his exit. It was dark and as luck would have it, a cold rain began to fall. We walked a few hundred feet up the Interstate and took refuge under an overpass. 
We put on our field jackets to help block the rain, but we didn't want to put the hood up because we wanted potential picker-uppers to see our faces. 

It was near midnight before a woman took pity on us. She pulled to the emergency lane. She rolled down her window to have a look at us before she unlocked the doors. We told her we were soldiers headed home for the holiday. 

She clicked the door open and let us in. Turns out, she had a son in the military too. She knew it was risky picking up two young men in the middle of the night, but she wanted to think that someone else would offer the same courtesy to her son if he needed a ride. 

That act of kindness took a lot of courage on her part. My friend and I were both grateful. My friend had family in Boston and they had agreed to take us on the final leg of our journey. I have a feeling that had they know how late we'd be arriving they would not have been so accommodating. 

These days with all the horror stories, most people simply will not pick up a hitchhiker. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and can't stop to give someone a ride. But when I see someone by the road standing in the rain, I remember the lady's kindness and offer a ride.

How about you? Do you ever pick up hitchhikers?

This has nothing to do with the post, but I shot this picture this evening as the sun was going down


  1. I suspect that the hitchhiker is at least as much at risk as the driver. And possibly more.
    I hitched, decades ago, but doubt I am brave/foolhardy enough now. I can't remember the last time we saw a hitchhiker. Would we pick one up? Perhaps.

  2. No I've never picked up a hitchhiker, but like you my DDH would hitchhike home when he was in the service. While it may not always be a safe thing to do, it is a kind thing.

  3. I've picked up a hitchhiker once but only after I recognized him. I pulled over and waited for him to catch up to me and told him to get him. He was an alcoholic and he looked very frail, so I didn't feel at risk. He was very polite and thank me when I dropped him off down town. I've learned that he died not very long after that.

    As a rule, I don't pick up hitchhikers.
    Hugs, Julia

  4. Dear Rick, I haven't picked up a hitchhiker for at least 40 years. I agree with the first comment--that both the driver and the hitchhiker are at risk. I did hitchhike once--when I was in my early forties--up in the Twin Cities. My car broke down. A car with about 6 people in it picked me up. The sat on one another's laps so I could sit down in the back seat. Then they took me to a filling station where I could have my car towed and fixed. Like you, I've never forgotten their kindness--and it was about 11:30 pm when all this happened. Peace.

  5. I do not pick up hitchhikers. I wish I could but I have never beem in a position to not also endanger others if I did. Passengers need to be considered too. I sympathize and would have hoped for someone to give a ride to my brothers when they were in the military. A catch 22 is what it amounts to.

  6. I haven't picked up a hitchhiker in ages. We stopped and picked up a young mother with her girl, who were stranded long ago.

  7. I am smiling. Been there done that as a 17 yr old military guy in the 50's. Great memories!


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