Conversations, Part Three
Random bits and pieces of conversations with people I’ve met along the way.
Just Need Someone to Talk To
Hitchhiking is not as easy as it was 40 years ago, but there are still people who will give a ride to a stranger. Their motivation is most often a simple desire to help another human being. I got the impression that a few gave me a ride because they wanted someone to talk to. I know things about strangers. About relationships that didn’t work out. About parents who are worried about the choices their kids are making. About parents who have kids serving in the military, who miss them and worry about them, but are so proud of them. I know about lost jobs, lost homes and lost loves.
People are the same everywhere in this world. We want a good life for ourselves and our families. We want to feel safe and we want to be happy. Sad that these simple desires seem so elusive. This world just needs more love and compassion.
The driver of a late model van went to a lot of trouble to cross over from the left lane to the right, then over to the shoulder to offer a ride. As I approached the van I noticed a bumper sticker on the back that read, “I’d rather be shooting Yankees” and one on the passenger door that read, “Choctaw Confederate”. I didn’t learn his name – Steve – until he dropped me off.
Me (as I climbed into the van): “Thank you for stopping. Should I be nervous being a Yankee.”
No reply from Steve.
Me: “I’m actually from Utah. Pretty sure the Mormons stayed out of that war. They were busy trying to set up their own country back then.”
Steve: “I don’t talk much. Just enjoy the ride.”
Steve cranked up the volume on “Sky Pilot” by the Animals. Loud enough that conversation was not an option. He held a remote to the stereo in his hand so he could adjust the volume for each song. If he liked a song the volume was set to loud. If he loved a song the volume went up to very loud. He took me about 20 miles, but we didn’t talk until he dropped me off. As I was getting out of the van, he handed me some papers about Lincoln’s War.
Steve: “You might find this interesting to read.”
Me: “You know one of the things I have enjoyed about my time here in the south has been the opportunity to learn more about American history from another perspective. I believe that the history written by victors of wars tends to be incomplete.”
That’s when Steve smiled, introduced himself and shook my hand. Perhaps we could have had an interesting conversation if not for my Yankee comment when I got into his van.
I had been walking for quite a ways without a ride. It was late afternoon, so I started thinking about where I might camp for the night. Plenty of trees along the road, but also plenty of No Trespassing signs. On foot, the next town would not be reachable before dark, so stealth camping would be my only option if I didn’t get a ride. But I did get a ride, from a guy named Rick. Long hair. Full beard. The rough voice of a smoker. When I told him I was on my way to New Orleans he offered to take me all the way there.
Rick: “Heck, it’s only 50 miles. I used to live there and always happy to have an excuse to go back. I just need to stop by my house first to let my son know.”
Before we got to the turnoff to Rick’s house, we passed a county jail.
Rick: “That’s where my wife is staying. For awhile anyway.”
Me: “Does she work there?”
Rick: “No. She’s a guest.”
Rick is certain that his wife is bipolar. I heard the story about the night she became violent and was arrested. I also heard about Rick’s service to his church. He attended bible college and became an ordained minister. I heard passages from the Bible and I heard Rick’s interpretation of those passages.
Rick: “You know the Bible says in the book of Revelations ….. Oh, you see that house right there? That’s where I buy my pot. There used to be a place across the street called the Moon Bar. You could go around the back of that place and buy a joint from a guy, but it isn’t there anymore.”
Rick drove me all the way to New Orleans, into the city to the French Quarter. During the drive he pointed out various landmarks and how things changed due to Hurricane Katrina. He also pointed out three places where he had car accidents in the past. He came close to having a couple more while I was with him. Each time he told me about an accident the memory was triggered by something I pointed out to him. Like the school bus with red lights flashing. He didn’t notice until I pointed it out.
Rick: “Man, I almost hit one once. I had to swerve to miss it and hit a brick wall instead. The cop asked me if I had been drinking. I couldn’t really lie to him. I couldn’t even stand up.”
When Rick dropped me off he asked if I needed anything.
Rick: “Will you be ok, man? Do you need some money? Do you have a place to stay?”
Me: “I’ll be fine, no worries. In fact, here’s $20.00 for your gas. You really went out of your way for me and I appreciate it.”
Rick: “Thanks man, I really appreciate it. I’m broke. This will go right into the gas tank. God bless you. I’ll be praying for you.”