Time: 6 am and 1 pm
Where: Uintah Exit (Colorado Springs to Denver)
Wait: about 4 hours total
I would have hitched back to Denver on Sunday night, being that it tends to be easier to get a lift on Sunday nights rather than Monday mornings. The Monday morning traffic tends to be rushed and stressed, and people generally seem unobservant, complacent, and irritated that they have to be going to jobs that they often hate. Who can blame them?
I needed to finish working on a group project for one of my classes, so I opted to stay at my brother’s place to finish it Sunday night. One of the outcomes of this decision was that I ended up missing both of my morning classes since nobody pulled over to give me a ride for almost four hours wait total, the longest I have waited for a ride yet.
I counted near 250 cars that passed me by, many without giving so much as a glance, some shrugging their shoulders, a few smiling, many with expressionless looks on their faces, all in the hustle to get to wherever their Corporate Masters instructed them to be on Monday morning.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you get with that many cars just passing you by. You know that a lot of them are probably going to exactly where you are headed, but they just don’t have the time, or think they have the patience, to stop. You learn to take the rejection with a laugh, but there is a certain point where it becomes, alright, why the hell can’t someone pull over? Many people are absorbed in their phones and gadgetry and pass me by as if I was some kind of shrubbery, just the same. It’s hard not to get frustrated and reminds me of a psychology experiment I have read about where they place a hurt man in an area of a town where there is not a lot of traffic and people stop to help him and they perform the same experiment in a crowded city and find that nobody even stops, despite the immense traffic. It’s some kind of psychological frame of mind, since people think: oh, well somebody else will tend to it, I’m too busy. This, I think, is the mind frame (unfortunately) that most people have today. Not all, but most.
So once it became clear that nobody was going to stop at this hour, I finished my coffee and walked back to my brother’s place and fell asleep, not that it mattered, since I had already missed both of my morning classes. I napped for a few hours and then set back out at about one o’clock, hoping that the morning rush was over and there would be some more relaxed traffic passing by.
Little did I know that this hitching experience was about to get worse. If only one of the good people that didn’t think they had time had picked me up, if only.
I must have waited close to four hours total, when a somebody finally stopped in a small grey car and offered me a ride. Maybe it was due to the fact that I had waited so long and was becoming agitated that some of my usual guards were off on judging the person before I hopped into the car.
By the few seconds it took to throw my bags in the back seat and jump into the passengers’ seat, we were already driving off and I could tell right off the bat that something was wrong with this guy. He was Hispanic (not that this is really relevant) and his speech was slow and slurred, his mental state dull and wasted. After trying to start some kind of dialogue with him, any kind of dialogue, to no avail, for a few minutes, came to the confident assumption that this guy was on some kind of pills or hard drugs. I knew I had to find a way to get out of that car right from the start.
The beginning of our conversation went something like this:
“Thanks for picking me up man, I’ve been waiting almost four hours for a ride.”
“Ohhhh… Yeah?” (You’ve got to imagine this spoken four times slower than the average human.)
“Yeah, so I really appreciate you stopping.”
“Yeahhhhhh….. yeah.” Spoken in slow-motion, and then a delay in the firing of his brain. ” Oh yeah, I saw you at first, and then I turned around at Fillmore cause I thought I should pick you up, eh.”
“Yeah, I don’t know why people don’t just stop, maybe that watch too much depressing stuff on the news or something.”
“Yeah, if you attacked me, I’d just taze you.” He laughs dryly, and pulls a small taser that he was hiding in between his legs, hidden from view. He chirps it for a second and laughs lazily.
It’s at this moment that fight or flight instantly kicks in and I’m embracing myself for what might come next, expecting the worst. I’ve had some taser training before, so I know what it feels like, and it doesn’t feel good. Then it also dawns on me that this guy is just a complete idiot fuck-up trying to appear like a tough guy.
So I don’t say anything, and just laugh along with him mildly, trying not to appear nervous even though my heart is beating heavily and rapidly inside my chest. I’m in the hot seat in the most literal sense. I tell him to drop me off at the next exit, as it’s a “good place to hitch from for the rest of Denver”, even though I just want to get the hell out of the car. You know it’s bad when the thoughts going through your head are how can I take this guy out? And how am I going to be able to land a punch on his jugular?, and how will I keep this car from crashing if that happens? The worst case scenarios are flying through my mind.
The dude gets a call from his homeboy (this is what he called him), and the conversation goes something like this:
“Oh yeah, yeah, I just got back from the visitation an’ shit. They cremated him, he didn’t want no visitation or anything I guess, tha’ shit was fucked up, eh.” The music of 2 Pac blares from the speakers.
God, I want to get the hell out of this car.
Thankfully, he pulls over and doesn’t try to bring me to some strange resident or field. Yet, the idiot stops the car in the middle of traffic and I suggest kindly to him that he should “probably pull off the main road, as there are cars behind us.”
I thank him for the ride to Monument, and pretend that nothing happened, with a secret sigh of relief that I didn’t have to fight for my life or anything crazy. I grab my stuff and wish him well, even though the dude on a scale from 0 to batshit crazy is absolutely batshit crazy. Not only that, but on drugs and driving like an idiot.
So this is what you get sometimes, when hitching, it’s the risk one takes I suppose. Most times, the people that pick you up are amazing and well-meaning people with interesting stories. One must use solid judgement, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. I won’t let one bad experience deter me though, not ever. If I were to do that, that means that I’ve given up and failed to experience many more positive experiences only because of one negative experience. As my old man neighbor would say later, after telling him the story, “Well, sounds like you’ve crossed the threshold, and that’s something you have to do. You’ve gotta have a negative zero to reach a positive 100, it’s inevitable. You’ve crossed the threshold.”
All things considered, and despite the fact that this guy probably should not have been driving, I’ve got to give him props for turning around and picking me up. He may have been slightly off-color and had a few screws loose, but that’s maybe just who he is, and he had the decency to stop, which almost everyone this particular morning did not. I have less respect for the business man flying by in his Lexus than I do for this guy. It must be said, and acknowledged that he did stop, and not only that, but actually turned around just to grab me.
So I get off in Monument, and I only wait about five minutes at that exit till a guy with a newer truck picks me up. He introduces himself as Solo and says, “man, you wouldn’t even know how many hitchhikers I have picked up. I pick up about one to two hitchhikers every month here.”
Solo makes his living through making hip-hop beats for other rap artists and selling the pot he grows (legally, in Colorado). “I won the Cannabis Cup two years in Denver”, he tells me. I didn’t even know that there actually was a Cannabis Cup.
“It’s the biggest competition for weed in the world, and fast growing”, he says, no pun intended. ” People from Amsterdam are actually starting to come out here. I won the first and the third year.”
I tell him about the seedy guy that grabbed me, and he tells me about his only 2 bad experiences hitchhiking out of “over 200 experiences” that he had. There is something about humans and there ability to always easily retain the bad experiences without any effort. It is why the media does such a good job, and it is easiest to good a job, at selling us lies and over-exaggerating negative press.
“One time, my buddy and I were in the middle of Kansas, the middle of nowhere basically, and an actual pedophile picked us up”, he said. “He was actually driving a van.” He laughs. ” The man kept going on about where we should go to, telling us some perverted stuff so my friend and I were looking at each other like ‘how are we going to take this guy out’, and I ended up telling the guy,’ look, if you don’t let us both out right now, I’m going to take over the wheel and we might crash this van…. well, the guy let us out.”
Another experience, one of the few bad ones, that Solo tells me about was when they were with some guy that his gut told him was “strange.” He offered some pot, and told Solo and his friend to go through the glove box to get it ready while he was in the gas station. “Well, I opened up the glove compartment and all of this cash came tumbling out, all crumpled up and stuff”, Solo says. “It freaked me out, there was something really weird with the guy and so I literally jumped out and hid in some bushes when he came back… those were the only two experiences that were off color though, everything else was extremely positive.”
Solo says that he “forgot his weed” and goes back to his house, which is not too far from the highway but in an area that is densely forested with pine trees and feels like there isn’t even a city nearby, if not for the occasional sound of a car passing in the distance. His wife comes out and bring him his plant supply.
“Thanks honey!”, he says, and we drive back off.
He puts on some of the music that he was created, working with rappers that I had never heard before, Haystack and Ritz a few of them. On the way back we stopped at a car wash and ran his truck through and listened to the entire Haystack album From Start to Finish with his pristine subwoofer system.
I tell him that I’d like to put some guitar on his music if he’s interests and we exchange business cards. “We needed a guitarist on some of the songs, but we had to put the album out and I just didn’t know anyone at the time”, he says. “I’ll give you a shot.”
Solo drops me off at Bellview, and I jump out at the red light, thank him. “Peace.”