Date: Monday, November 10, 2014
Wait: about 45 minutes total
As I stand along the I-25 120th merge ramp, bundled from head to toes as the wind whips my face, it’s hard to believe that it was warm enough to go jogging early this morning in shorts and a T-shirt. But that’s Colorado anyways– bipolar in spirit to the core. Soft, cold flurries of snow (the first breaths of winter) blow on the ground, and traffic consists of drivers yapping on their cell phones (about fifty percent) and another portion maybe focusing on a task known as driving (maybe ten percent). I’m not sure what the other 40 percent of people are actually doing, but they definitely don’t stop for hitchhikers.
Two flocks of procrastinating last-minute geese fly west over the Rocky Mountains towards warmer lands. What do they know which we on the ground do not? Where exactly will they land, and when they get there, will they stay? For how long? Some of the snow is beginning to stick. Winter comes suddenly, even though it comes like a calendar.
Rain, shine, snow, or sleet, the Rat Race stops for no one. Cars zip by, trucks sending thick black coughs of fumes into the cold, pungent air. About a half hour later, a few cars do pull over but both are heading towards Loveland (foreshadowing?) and it’s not in the direction to Fort Collins, so I must decline even though they seem like interesting individuals. Another five minutes and a passing yellow school bus passes. The lady driving motions for me to look behind, and I see a white van with it’s reverse lights on that I didn’t see while facing oncoming traffic.
There’s a young guy wearing a Colorado hat (blue, yellow, red colors) and after attempting to slide open the door to toss in the pack and guitar (it’s frozen, he tells me) I hop in the front to an inviting, warm passenger’s seat.
He introduces himself as Casey (my friends call me Casey Jones) and says that he has work installing housing insulation, and it attending Denver Metro college to study aviation while working part-time. “I’m trying anyways,” he says. “I live not too far from here,” he says as we pass along the Rocky Mountain Divide in the distance and suburbia and franchise-filled, empty sprawl of fields and cookie-cut home clusters to our east and west.
“I have lived in Denver my whole life,” he says. “My parents grew up here too. They can remember when downtown was boarded-up skyscrapers and a sketchy, dangerous place to go. A lots has changed, even in the last 20 years.” Denver is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.
It’s a short life and I jump out three exits later. It beats staying in the same spot, jogging in place to keep warm. Walking to the next merge ramp, a guy gets out of a car and holds up a cardboard sign with the markered slogan: ABDUCTED BY ALIENS AND THEY STOLE MY WALLET– ANYTHING HELPS.
At least 50 cars pass me by, the traffic a pace that is not conducive for people to pull over safely. Cold weather generally doesn’t earn the hitchhiker pity– people pass you by just the same. Like lightning, a silver car shoots tot he side and skids along the gravel.
I meet Jake, who tells me (after we coast along the divide for some time) that he is going through a divorce. “We were married for a year,” he says. “I just got a job working for A & W Oil. They’re stocking up on workers right now since everyone quits in January when it gets cold.” He takes a deep breath and shoots out his life story for the last year. The dashboard becomes a soundhole for a confessional booth of sorts.
“I know it sounds lame, but I met her on match.com,” he explains. “I’m a mystic kind of spiritual person and our pastor actually suggested us moving in together to see if things could work with us.” We pass by an exit for a Crossroads Boulevard as he speaks. Jake is definitely at one of those, as we all are whether we intuitively are aware of it or not.
“At first things were really working out between us, so I decided to propose to her,” he continues. “Six months into the marriage, she became verbally abusive, saying things like, ‘you can’t hold a job, loser’ and ‘why don’t you take back this crappy ring.”
In the last few weeks, he had been crashing on friends’ couches in Fort Collins and just began working in the oil field. “It’s good paying work,” he says. “And really not that hard like everyone seems to think. It’s five days on, then two off. The other day I learned how to melt piping together, sort of like welding.” He shows me using his arms how wide the pipes are (one foot in diameter?) and the process of joining aluminum piping. “We’re basically setting things up for fracking,” he says. I wonder if our automated relationships can be a metaphor for automated oil drilling, or the other way around.
He goes on to say that he met a girl at a bar recently who listens to the United Kingdom-based band Alt-J but when he listened to it, he was disappointed despite the hype she gave them. When he told her he didn’t like their sound, she sent him a text that said she was hugely pissed about this.
“Who says hugely pissed off anyways?,” he says. “I sort of knew right then that it was over, even though I’d only known this new girl for a week.”
And so is this ride (over), since we have arrived in Fort Collins. I get off near campus and hope the best for this guy; his spontaneous spirit deserves it.