When : Monday, February 4, 2013
Time: About 7:00 am
Wait: About 1 1/2 hours at Uintah exit, about 20 minutes at Monument exit
Hitcher (s): Colorado Springs police officer (in 40s?) and man in 40s
Profession: Colorado Springs police officer and computer programmer
Vehicle: Police cruiser and white car
On this particular day, I would have rather hitched out of Colorado Springs on Sunday to ensure that I made it to my Monday morning classes promptly, but the incentive of watching the Superbowl (San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens) with friends while drinking beer, eating pasta, pizza and some delicious ravioli made by Mary Beth was too much to turn down.
So I woke up to my bothersome alarm on my cell phone, and walked the half mile or so in the cold to the Uintah exit around the corner from my brother’s place. I find myself jumping up and down and moving around frequently to combat the cold as the sun inches its way above the horizon. It’s just becoming daylight.
Cars , sedans and SUVs pass me by tentatively as always, some throw their hands up as if to say they can’t for whatever reason, or maybe they’re not going to Denver ultimately. I hear the sounds of cars whizzing by me, everyone in a rush to get to their job, I smell the exhaust fumes as people stomp onto the accelerator in an attempt to keep up with the flow of traffic, I feel the pulse of the Colorado Springs working class as everyone revs up their engines and the wheels of the neverending Rat Race roll onwards.
I just wish that I could somehow find myself into this maze; I’ve got a 9:30 class and time is passing by!
As I fall into the groove of “Band of Horses” on my Ipod, I wonder if there was a time before the media was saturated with axe murderers, rapists, serial killers, and all that other crap that people would have had not thought twice about picking up a stranger. A time when people could trust each other at first glance, without doing a double take. A time when people had time for other people and it wasn’t a rush of madness in this illusion of progress we have made for ourselves.
Yeah, my mind wanders.
It seems like “back in the day”, people would have had a subconcious thought and picked someone up. Now people that find it in themselves to be a part of something like picking up a hitchhiker have to make a huge concious effort. There are so many distractions in our society telling us to avoid danger.
A yellow school bus filled with kids passes me by and I laugh at the thought of this, and so does the bus driver, albeit a tentative, uneasy laugh. Well, you never know, he might be an axe murder even though he looks clean cut, I imagine her thinking.
It’s been about an hour of waiting in the cold, and the temperature is beginning to rise. I’ll admit I’m growing impatient, although I shouldn’t be. I chose to hitchhike after all.
Across Uintah Street, I see a police cruiser its lights and approach me. My first thought is that I’m about to be told that I have to leave and there are some rules that say you can’t do this.
The Colorado Springs police officer gives me a pleasant surprise.
“Where you trying to go?”, he asks.
Denver, I tell him.
“I can give you a ride to Monument if you like”, he tells me. I wonder to myself if maybe that bus driver or somebody called the police out of fear. The whole situation is kind of funny. I can’t help but laugh a bit, even though the officer is maintaining professionalism and I tell him that I greatly appreciate his offer and accept his ride, of course.
He tell me to hop in and I go to jump in the front seat.
“Oh no”, he tells me, with maybe some slight resentment in his voice. “You have to ride in the back though.”
Rules are rules, I think to myself. Safety first.
I figure riding in the back of a police cruiser isn’t all that bad; as long as you’re not handcuffed!
He tells me that he has been on the police force for 27 years, and when I thank him for the ride and tell him that it’s not every day you get offered a ride from a police officer he just shrugs and says ” Well, you know, I wrote a few tickets already today, and I can balance writing tickets and doing kind things for people.”
He says he needs to take my drivers’ license for the record, I tell him no problem and hand him the plastic.
He asks me how I came to Denver original, inquires about my schooling. I tell him I’m going for journalism, and that I originally moved here for a girl I loved.
He brushes on the topic and comments that it doesn’t change as you get older, the relationship between men and women. We talk about the Superbowl a bit, but like me, he doesn’t follow football at all.
He drops me off at the Monument Park & Ride and I try to get out of the back seat by opening the door, but forget that I’m not riding shotgun and the backseat of the cruiser has no handles. The officer comes around and lets me out.
We shake hands, I thank him again and he just says “no problem.”
I eventually walk over to the Monument merge ramp and after about 20 minutes of waiting, a man pulls over and tells me he’s heading to Denver. He introduces himself as Sameer, and he is from New Delhi, the capital of India. “You don’t have a dog, do you?”, he says. “One time I picked up a hitchhiker and he had a stinky dog with him and I had to ask him to get out of the car because it smelled so bad.” He is a generous and outgoing spirit, and we seem to connect right away.
We exchange small talk for awhile, and he tells me that he is a computer programmer. He went to school in India, and moved to the United States after his computer programmer schooling, during the tech boom. He has worked 9 years in the industry, and he said that during 2003 was a hard time with lots of industry cuts and some job losses because the market was then becoming oversaturated with candidates, since everyone was trying to go to school to get the in to the computer industry.
I ask him about India, and he says that India is growing rapidly now with the modernized industrialization process. Families are now driving two cars instead of one, the population is ever increasing, and people have (in general) become more materialistic.
“I think it used to be better when I lived there”, he tells me. “People used to want to know their neighbors, to spend time with them. Now, it just seems… it just seems that people want to argue with their neighbors more.”
He says that the concept of central heating is not wide spread in India. He laughs and tells me one of the things he regretted doing while living in India was waking up in the morning and having to shave in the cold, since their house had no heat. It’s common for people to walk around the house wrapped in layers of blankets during the cold months.
“Although the cold isn’t that bad”, he tells me. ” There are only certain months where it might get to , say negative two below zero.”
Since India is rapidly becoming a modern place to live, the pollution has increased because more people are driving than ever before. Families that used to live on one floor now share the same space with four familes maybe, and floors are being added to already existing building. The impression I get of modern day India is that maybe they are going through an industrial growth spurt, similiar to what the United States went through in the mid-twentieth century. Again, this is my impression, and it’s all relative to whatever your experience might be.
Sameer is one of the nicest guys I have ever met at first impression, and approaches everything we talk about with an open mind it seems. He has no problem laughing about anything we talk about. He tells me that although train travel is very common in India, the commute can be time-consuming because there are no “Bullet Trains”, as there are in France and Japan. For example, it can take six hours or more to get to northern India from New Delhi.
He drops me off at the Dry Creek exit. I thank him for the ride, he thanks me for the interesting conversation. I grab my bag.
“Have a wonderful day”, he says with clear dictation, and drives off.
Looks like I’ll be late to class, but I’ve got to say that the wait was well worth this experience.