Rides From Strangers.

It was early in the year and early in the morning so I was standing at the bus stop in the dark. This was before a new bus shelter with a light had been installed–I was just next to the BUS STOP sign, and while the bus drivers always stopped for me I wondered how they even managed to see me there in the dark. Traffic zipped by so fast I figured I was a passing blur while I waited to be a passenger, but whenever I saw the bus coming I stepped up and waved to make sure I’d be seen. I was standing back, though, when a guy in a white pickup truck stopped and rolled down his window.
“You wanna ride?”
I wasn’t hitchhiking or even walking–there were times when a neighbor would see me walking home and would pull over to offer me a lift since they were going my way. And this got me thinking about hitchhiking, something I’ve never done. It’s funny that I can only think of two hitchhiking stories, both fiction. There’s Roald Dahl’s The Hitch-Hiker, which is a fun story about how he picked up a hitchhiker with an extraordinary talent (there’s an audio version here), and also Larry Niven’s The Deadlier Weapon, which is a fun story about a guy who picks up a hitchhiker who puts a knife to his neck, but it turns out the driver has, well, the title kind of gives it away. Anyway I thought it might be interesting to have a story of my own from the rider’s point of view, and while some people would have good reason to not hop into a stranger’s car I felt like I’d be able to take care of myself if things took a wrong turn. And I knew that, as a driver, I often see people at bus stops, some of whom I recognize from having ridden the bus with them, and I think about offering them a lift, but only if I happen to be going their way.
Then I realized I didn’t recognize this guy, but at the same time what were the odds that someone with nefarious intentions would happen to be just passing by me at that moment? And it’s not like I was standing on a streetcorner in a miniskirt at two in the morning. I’m not sure I’ve got the gams for a miniskirt so I’m going to wear something at least knee-length, but that’s another story. I was doing all this mental calculus at a rate I’m sure exceeded the speed limit–it probably took you longer to read all this than it took me to think it is what I’m saying, but while he was waiting for an answer I saw the bus coming along.
“No thanks,” I said.
“Sure.” He sped off down the road, which kind of confirmed for me that it was a friendly offer. If he’d wanted something, I reckon, he would have been pushier.
The bus stopped and I got on.
“If that truck hadn’t made me slow down I might have gone right past you in the dark,” the bus driver told me as I got on, and I sent out a mental note to the guy in the pickup truck. Thanks for the ride.

4 Comments

  1. Arionis

    Don’t forget about the classic “The Hitcher”. Of course I am talking about the 1986 version with Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and C. Thomas Howell.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Somehow I’d forgotten that classic, mostly because I’ve never seen it. That must be rectified post haste. You had me at “Rutger Hauer”.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for the ride, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m always glad when you join me on the ride.

      Reply

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