Date: Monday, February 18, 2013- Colorado Springs to Denver
Time: before 7:00 a.m
Wait time: Over 4 hours
hitcher: construction foreman, about 50
It’s cold out this morning as I walk the half mile to the Uintah merge ramp. I wait on the ramp for what feels like an hour. I keep my hands in my pockets when possible to stay warm. One dude pumps me a heavy thumbs up as he passes by in his beat up orange mini truck. As always, cars zip on past me, some giving approving glances, some (and most of them) not even noticing as if I were just some piece of shrubbery, others giving disconcerting glances.
A guy named Rob picks me up, and he tells me that he is not going that far but can get me past the exit. I tell him sure, no problem. In hindsight, I think i should have stayed at the exit, if only to actually get a ride that was going all the way to Denver. When hitchhiking, the location of your hitch spot is everything.
Bob has gracefully greying hair and a positive demeanor about him. He laughs and says , “you know, back in the 60s we used to all go hitchhiking, in groups of five to eight people and people would pick us up right away. It was a fun thing to do, and a way of life back then.”
He tells me that he attended Woodstock, and this lights me up. Did you see Hendrix perform? I immediately ask him. Jimi Hendrix is one of my favorite guitar players; and influenced guitarists for generations to come and revolutionized the style of rock music.
He smiles. “You know, I actually didn’t”, he tells me, eyes set back in remembrance. ” I was busy having an opium dream during his performance. When my friends and I woke up from it, most everybody was gone and there were cans and trash all over the place. We fell asleep in the mud after mud wrestling.”
There is something in his voice that I can hear that I need to convey. It really sounds like a great time, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I hear a part of it when he tells me the story.
He gets a phone call from someone at the work site, and tells a man on the other line to “lay down the caulk along the wooden edge and I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” Bob tells me that he has been employed with the building of the new homes and apartment complexes in the areas between Colorado Springs and Denver. It has kept him busy with steady work. From wood stock hippie to working man.
I thank him for the ride, and he sets me off just about four exits north, and wishes me “best of luck getting to your morning class on time.” He drives off.
I end up waiting at the exit, freezing cold for over three hours, determined to get a ride. At first I thought to myself that oh well, maybe I’ll just miss my journalism class (which I was really hoping to make on time) and then it became oh crap, I might miss the next class…. and then it became oh crap, I might not even get a ride. Standing in the freezing cold, fancy cars blow past me with straight-ahead-for-the-mission drivers inside.
I become frustrated, inevitably, and all of the stresses of my life build up and I scream at the top of my lungs, over and over again and it feels magnificent. No ride ever comes. With hitchhiking, you put yourself out there and make yourself slightly vulnerable; it becomes a social experiment of some sort as to how tolerable and helpful people are willing to be. I’m sad to report, that on this particular occasion, I did in fact just maybe lose a nano-molecular bit of faith in our society. There will be other chances for redemption, however.Being as stubborn as I can be, I wait out at the exit for three hours until my toes start to go numb and then decide to give in because I have no choice and an important paper is due in one of my classes. This is the first time that I have actually found myself becoming angry at people’s lack of openness and generosity.
My brother and his girlfriend show up, with a cup of hot coffee; Amy grading papers in the backseat. Thanks to them, I make in on time for my second class and don’t miss the pop quiz on Chinese-American relations.