Friday, March 8, 2013
Wait: Over 4 1/2 hours
Where: 3 areas (first Orchard exit, then Ridgegate exit, then somewhere else)
Hitch: woman heading to hospital, woman heading home, man just out of the Army
After having been harassed by the Lone Tree Police last week (not bescause they necessarily wanted to, only that they were required to do so), they had basically told me to “maybe try hitchhiking out of their jurisdiction.” So that’s just what I did this week, and ultimately I got a lift from three different people to Colorado Springs in a span of over 4 1/2 hours.
I decided to try hitchhiking within the Denver jurisdiction, which transpired to be an immediate failure. I took the RTD lightrail to Orchard stop, which is just before Arapahoe, just on the edge outskirts of the Lone Tree district. I walk half a mile to the merge exit where there is a safe sidewalk, but traffic is fast-paced and it appears it would be hard for someone to pull over, given the small buffer between the road and the shoulder.
It hasn’t even been five minutes when up pulls a Denver police cruiser and flashes its lights. A woman with a short haircut gets out and tells me , “Sorry, you can’t do that.”
Why not?, I ask her.
“It’s too dangerous”, she says.
I tell her that maybe she doesn’t want to hear it, but out of the twenty plus experiences I have had thus far, they all have been extremely positive.
She kind of shuffles her feet a bit, but does not back down the slightest on her opinion or position of authority.
“Well… it only takes one bad experience”, she says. Yeah, I think to myself. One bad experience such as getting harassed by the police because they have nothing better to do. I feel a knot in my stomach and visualize my tax dollars being flushed down a dirty toilet.
I keep my mouth shut, however. She notices my Michigan State hoody. “Did you go to school at State?”, she asks.
No, but I am from Michigan, I tell her.
She tries to make small talk (props for trying), and tells me she is from the Midwest, Ohio to be exact.
If only the laws were not so petty, we could genuinely have connected on this; yet there is a thorn between us and she tells me she would “give me a ride if she could.”
Ironically, while were are talking a guy who’s Craigslist ad I had responded to regarding a rideshare to Colorado Springs calls while we are chatting and tells me that he is “already in the Springs.”
And so, the cop leaves and I find myself walking back to the RTD lightrail stop. So what can I do now? I am frustrated; I have been essentially told that I can’t do what I’m doing in all of the Denver area. You can sign up for the military and kill or be killed, yet somehow sticking out your thumb and asking for a ride is perceived as too dangerous?
Colorado’s finest ensuring my own safety. Bah.
I’m too stubborn to give up. How can someone accept a law with flawed logic? To do so, is an insult to society’s intelligence. It means that you support the imposing of meaningless laws by those in power. In other words, bring on George Orwell’s 1984!
I do not comply; but I decide that I must find a way to walk around these obstacles.
So I move around it, take the RTD lightrail all the way south to Lincoln. I then walk to the next stop south, which is about a mile or two south, along a grassy plain. I hop a barbed wire fence along the highway for access. Although there is a good sidewalk to stand on, few cars seem to be getting on the merge at two in the afternoon, and after an hour of waiting, I decide to walk further south to the next exit in hopes of finding a better hitch spot. I follow a muddy path, passing a Cabelas that is being built, along steep foothills that I assume follow Interstate 25 south. I cannot, however, see beyond the steep lumps of terrain, that obstruct my vision.
I’ve been texting my friend, and he tells me some bad news that the “next exit does not look any more promising.” I’m already about two miles into my walk, trying to maneuver around a cattle ranch, which is private property. It reminds me, that in our country, somebody wants to claim ownership to every single blade of grass. Nothing can go unclaimed or without some kind of grudge to go along with it, such as the threatening No Trespassing signs.
I yell across the valley to a couple walking, in the far distance ahead across the canyon. “Does this trail go back to the highway?”, I ask.
“You have to go back the other way!”, they shout back.
Even more frustrated, but determined, I walk back to the exit I came from.
I make it back the original exit, finally, and stand atop a brick , commanding my thumb to the traffic that passes me. About fifteen minutes later, a cheap shitty little red car pulls over and I jog over to it, relieved. My troubles are over. She is a woman maybe in her mid-thirties, seemingly very happy to be able to pick me up.
Her face is somewhat weathered, and her teeth are a tainted yellow, with a few noticeable gaps. It seems she is a good-hearted woman, and tells me she has had some setbacks in life. Yet, she has the courage and good heart to stop while the comfortable and self-minded in their new shiny SUVs with their Starbucks coffee pass on by!
Katy tells me that she once took a taxi to Colorado Springs and it cost her over seventy dollars, which she could not afford. “I head this way every day for my hospital checkups”, she tells me. She also tells me something incredibly interesting that puts things into perspective. Having friends that are and were homeless, she tells me that one time when the Pope came to visit Denver, the city secretly made a huge effort (with tax dollars) to temporarily house the homeless on the outskirts of the city. This was to give Denver of the appearance as a clean city to the Pope.
I can’t help but think how this exemplifies our overall mentality of trying to sweep our problems under the rug and writing people off. It’s only an inconvenience for wealthy and powerful people to look at poor and less fortunate. It paints a tainted image of the city and, Oh God—- we wouldn’t want to upset the high and almighty Pope!
She drops me off a few exits up, and about ten minutes later I get picked up by another woman presumably in her mid-thirties. She tells me that her husband and her had just bought a home on the outskirts, and tells me “it is now nice living outside the noise of the city.” We start talking about how the cops chase off hitchhikers, and enthusiastically talks about how we all live in seclusion now and in general, the public is afraid of the outside world.
“The mainstream news is brainwashing us”, she tells me. Our conversation is cut short because she has reached the point where she is to head east to her neighborhood. She drops me off near the Palmer Pass, where, for some reason, three cop cars are parked ominously along the overpass bridge.
I stand right beside them and hold out my sign, fearless at this point. I imagine the police assaulting me with their pepper spray and mace and tasers for simply holding a sign. Who created the Us Vs. Them mentality? I never opted for it; maybe ask the founders of the so-called Patriot Act.
Five minutes later, a guy in the dirt parking lot across the street hollers over to me and asks exactly where I am going. ” I can get you to Academy exit!”, he tells me.
Great!, I tell him. So I throw my bags into the bed of his newer pickup truck. His name is Brad, and he wears an old military uniform that is beaten and dirty from a days’ work. His hands are dirty and callused. “We have to wait hear for just a few”, he tells me. From the tone of his voice, he is clearly been having a bad day, and maybe a series of consecutive bad day for some time.
He is waiting to for some employees from roofing company he has just started working at to pick up paychecks that apparently he had to drive all the way from Colorado Springs to Denver to pick up for everyone, without gas compensation. He also tells me that he has been shorted on his paychecks, which is a common thing.
We drive along a Friday rush hour traffic jam along 25, Pearl Jam radio playing. ” I really like the 90s grunge bands. Something about this music feels real to me. I just can’t get into the music that comes out now.”
” I just got out of the Army about two months ago”, he tells me. “This company is run so backwards that I’m starting to wish that I had stayed in.” He says what really bugs him is that there is no steady structure to the company, and he is used to the steady regimens of the military Chain of Command.
He drops me off at Academy, and thank him for the ride, and wish him luck on everything.
What a day. I’m finally in Colorado Springs.