I pulled into a private drive. I only realized after the fact it was private; I thought I was pulling into the business next door’s double drive. But the snow was too bad. It couldn’t be helped. I had decided quick enough to act, but not quick enough to pull over correctly.
The yelling commenced.
“Where are you headed?!”
“I’m going to Saint Germain!”
“We’ll take it!”
And so I ended up with two passengers on my drive to work.
My Facebook memories told me that two years ago we had a huge snow that day. So I was trying to be a little more stoic about the current wet, slushy mess. For the most part, this spring has been easy. And snow was all but gone.
But that day there was snow. And two guys walking down the road in it.
Their names were Jamie and Rob. I didn’t ask. We exchanged that unimportant info when the ride was over.
Rob, in a suit made for riding snow mobiles, sat in the back and pretty much said nothing. Jamie was lankier, had a black eye, and more talkative. The black eye was from his son. The talk was the usual hitchhiker banter.
The walk was because of jail.
This did not surprise me. The county jail is in our city and I picked these guys on the typical “The Walk of Shame” out of town.
Jamie admitted to it pretty much as soon as I got the car back in drive. “Had a fight with my son. Have one of those breathalyzer tests to start my car. Got so mad I had a few drinks, blew into it, and told them to come pick me up.”
Now I did not know his name, but I knew “his” story.
“Hey, I’m here to drive, not to judge.”
And so I drove. We passed two bad wrecks. I couldn’t take my eyes off the road but Jamie reported the second one was horrible – car was totaled after swerving off the road, down a ditch, and into a huge stand of pines. At least they didn’t go in the river.
Picking up hitchhikers is something I decided to do after I’d been a hitchhiker. When you are a hitchhiker, you have stories of the angels on wheels that save you from miles of road walking. These aren’t the stories of hitchhiking shown on after school specials. For good reason, I suppose. But I like the idea of being that angel on wheels for someone. I like the idea of filling up my hitchhiking karma bank for the day when once again I need a hospital or a meal or a hotel room that is miles down the road.
I apologized to the gentlemen that I couldn’t take them further. I had to work. They nodded and understood. Jamie let slip that Woodruff wasn’t their final destination. But if they got there, they could get to Minocqua. And if they got to Minocqua, someone was always going back and forth from “The Res” and would pick them up.
This falsification could have been because of the length of the drive or because they wished to curtail prejudice against the tribe. Either way, it reminded me sometimes it’s good to lie to strangers. No one is making you tell the truth to every person you pass on the street. They weren’t applying for a job or asking me on a date. I wasn’t there to judge, just drive.
After we arrived at my work space, we exchanged names briefly while getting out of the car. I shook Jamie’s hand. They said thanks, but were already halfway across the parking lot before I got my purse out of the trunk. They had miles to go before they slept.
I went ahead and locked the doors of my car, and the door to the office after I was inside. I wasn’t there to judge, but I did a bit anyway. I told myself I was only being smart; protecting myself against the possibility that picking up two guys fresh out of jail wasn’t the smartest move in the world.
It’s really easy to think that in my hitchhiking, that is not a thumb I will have to stick out. That I could not land in trouble with no one to help me but passing cars full of strangers. I hitchhike because I want to get into a town from a hiking trail or vice versa. My hitches are about conveniences, not requirements.
But really, no one is that far from it. The mighty fall, and the less mighty only need to stumble. One too many drinks…one too many arguments…one too many mistakes…and anyone, including me, could be out there with a thumb up hoping someone else won’t judge and just drive.