Sunday, June 30, 2013 (Colorado Springs to Denver)
Time: About 1:30 pm
Wait: 5 hours and counting– over 500 cars! (Not good.)
This hitch was off to a shaky start, with a storm passing through and rain pelting my face as soon as I stepped foot onto the merge. Should’ve known the Gods were out for me from the start, but I just laughed and stuck out my thumb in the rain. In the first hour of waiting, I counted over 380 cars and only three stopped; they were only heading a few exits up though, and I declined based on my experience of finding these spots harder to get to Denver from. Finally, I got fed up with it and accepted a ride offer to Garden of the Gods exit from the fourth car that pulled over. I was soaked to the core, and the majestic scenery was even starting to look dreary after all that time waiting. You try to keep a positive outlook about people, despite them passing you like a piece of debris. It’s a challenge.
I don’t find much opportunity to talk to the first guy that gives me a lift; he’s mostly quiet, has a kid in a car seat in the back that is so quiet I don’t even notice him till we’re a mile down the road. “I think you’ll have better luck at the next exit,” the guy says. “There are more college kids in the area, maybe.” I take his words with a grain of salt, and I’m just glad to be moving away from my original location.
At Garden of the Gods, another 200 or so cars pass me by and the traffic is fast-paced; not conducive to hitchhiking whatsoever. I take cover behind the guardrails for safety and make sure that I’m plenty visible. There is a small dirt area where people could pull over if they wanted to– apparently they don’t want to. An hour and a half or so later, a car pulls over and the dark cloud that has been forming over my chest is lifted and a huge smile shoots over my face.
I give him a huge thank you for picking me up. The clock is ticking and I’m supposed to work at six o’clock. The clock now reads 4:45. “Not a problem!,” he says. “My name is Nick. Until about a month ago, I went to that college up on the hill,” he says, pointing to a college up on the hill as we pass along the highway. “I just made a decision recently to join the Navy,” he says with excitement and pride.
Nick is a skinny kid with glasses and a nasally voice– one can’t help but to instantly like him. “I’m going to be doing intelligence, hopefully,” he tells me. “It all depends on how I do on the ASVAB test in Denver come Monday and Tuesday at MEPs. I’m super excited, I’ve kind of been floating around in my life I feel like lately and this is going to give me some solid ground.”
Nick tells me that his job for the last year or so has been working on the wiring for backup generators; he shows me some awesome pictures of computer technology I have never seen before on his Iphone. A lot of what he says I can grasp a basic understanding of, but most of it is only surface level unfortunately. It’s hard to get schooled completely in a 15-minute car ride, as we inch along in congested traffic. He tells me that he is going to Monument, and can drop me off there.
Nick tells me of his stories traveling to Italy and Australia when he was younger. “I was lucky enough to be able to travel when I was young,” he tells me. ” Traveling overseas as a boy gave me a different perspective on the world, I think. It was awesome in Italy to be able to drink coffee on the bus, even a bit of alcohol with the lax liquor laws. I went and saw the Pantheon, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, all of that stuff in Rome. Loved it.”
Instantly, we have something to really relate to.
Nick drops me off at Monument and I hope over the barricade to the North merge ramp on the other side. I wish him the best in his military career, and tell him that I know that he’ll do well, and I mean it.
Once again, cars just pass me by and soon enough it’s already 5:30– not any chance that I’m going to make it to my shift on time. To much genuine disappointment (as I needed the hours), I call in sick to work. I decide that from now on, I will always hitch the day before I have to work to avoid this situation again. I might start using the sign again too– because one ride straight for the long stretch is better than three little rides overall.
This is when it got interesting– an hour later, I watch as some guy carries a huge plastic square of toiletries and two bags of who-knows-what and hops over the barricade. At first, I’m not sure what the guy is doing, but then it becomes evident that he is also a hitchhiker, and he cuts me off and start hitching in front of me. This is rude and very bad form– there is no way I’ll make it to Denver at a reasonable time now. People in American are hesitant to pick up one hitchhiker, let alone two at the same spot. If I had been in that guys’ shoes, I would have been considerate since I was there first and at first talked to the other person; which he does not do. Instead, he shoots up his left hand with a “one” signal at cars passing by and his right hand thumb up. It dawns on me that he’s trying to lie to the cars passing by that he was there first.
The day gets worse. Ten minutes later, two police cars roll up and I casually walk up to one of them. The officer is nice, and I tell him that I don’t know the other guy and haven’t even talked to him. ” Yeah, that guy is a bit… off,” he tells me. He takes my ID, and casually talks to me. “Yeah, someone called and thought it was ‘suspicious’ when the other guy showed up,” he tells me. “Man, people are racist around here… it’s like if they see something they don’t see every day, a black person walking down the street or something, they call us…. it gets really annoying.”
I agree!, I tell him. We both get a good laugh about this.
Once the cops leave, I approach the hitchhiker and decide to try to work something out with him. He motions with his hand for me to walk to the other side of the street. “Listen man, it’s kind of rude to just show up and cut off my spot since I was here an hour before you, in all honesty,” I tell him.
“Why don’t you go to the other side behind a tree for twenty minutes and come back once someone else has picked me up,” he taunts back. ” I have much experience hitchhike. I hitchhike south America.” The guys’ English is broken and he sports a pink tie over a blue shirt that is tucked in and his teeth are yellow, jagged, and hardly there. I avoid getting too close, with the idea that they might smell as bad as they look.
I try to reason and be rational with him, but this guy is about as stubborn as I am, and we’re not making any progress. I suggest to him that he should be the one to go “wait behind a tree” since I was there an hour before; the guy just doesn’t get it.
So I walk on down the road, until finally, as I thought would happen, someone else picks him up first. He passes me by, sitting in the back seat and gives me a nasty wave. That guy was a piece of work, I think to myself. I wonder what kind of lies he told the driver once he got in the car. Oh well, you can’t please them all.
Two hours later, I get picked up, just before dark– finally. The girl kind of stares at me for a minute, scoping me out and then smiles and pulls over. “Hey, I’m Jenny,” she tells me. Five minutes into the ride, she tells me that her “life is like the Truman Show and people are following and spying on her.”
“Yeah, you know Kim, right? Eminem’s X-girlfriend? She lives right next to me in Monument. It’s crazy… this car, it’s a Mazda that I bought from Jay-Z the other day. I know a lot of stars, and I think that’s why people are following me.”
Throughout the ride, she’ll occasionally revert back to talking about this and I just play along with it and listen. I take her truth with a shaker of salt, of course– then again, maybe Jay-Z really had an old Mazda laying around in his 20-car garage that he needed to sell really bad, right?… And he drove all the way from California to sell it in Colorado.
Jenny is a funny girl and laughs often– I’ve come to the conclusion that this is how she naturally is, completely sober. She tells me that she is heading to Aurora to meet her X-boyfriend who owes her some money. It’s at that moment when she asks me if there is a cop following her, and sure enough, I look in the side mirror, and there is a cop about one-bumper’s length from behind us. “Sure is,” I tell her. Twenty seconds later, we’re getting pulled over.
A cop with an overwhelming gut hanging from his belt walks up to us and she hands over the registration and information for her new Mazda. “Did you buy this car at the dealership?,” the cop asks. Yes, she tells him. “Well, reason I pulled over is that your tint is too dark and I couldn’t see you’re temporary tags,” he tells her. Jenny had told me that was the reason he was probably pulling her over.
Five minutes later, we’re back on the road and it starts pouring rain. It’s been a crazy day, and to make it just a tad bit crazier, a hearse car drives by us. ” Must be 2 Pac,” she says, and laughs, and I laugh along with her. She has an interesting way of looking at things. Jenny drops me off at Bellview exit, and I hop out and wish her the best with everything.
She asks for my number, but I have to admit somewhat guiltily that I may have accidentally given her the wrong number. I really do wish her the best, and some of the sadness and beauty of hitching is that you’ll probably never talk to that person ever again– in your entire life.
Finally, over five hours later, I have landed in Denver.