It was only a simple action – a small arm motion and the job
would soon be finished. So why was I so
afraid? From where was this apprehension
coming? I reasoned with myself that
thousands had gone before me and safely achieved this ambition. The worst worry could only be the comments
made about me, ones I would never hear. I kept turning around to take note of those who would soon pass me
up. Finally, my tiring feet and aching
back convinced me to raise my arm to the side and with the slightest movement,
stick up my thumb.
Prince Edward Island is a hitchhiker’s paradise. The picture perfect towns, rolling hills of
potato plants, and unending cliffs and dunes give the island its laid back
attitude and friendliness, as well as reasonable safety.
With only one sweep of cars, a local picked me up with whom I
carried on a lovely conversation down the 65 kilometer drive. However, my second day of hitching proved far
more challenging. First, an elderly
gentleman took me a short distance and then left me in the middle of nowhere,
which is almost anywhere on the island! I walked about 45 minutes as plenty of rental cars and a fair
amount of Quebec license plates zoomed by.
A number of red dirt stained dump trucks also lumbered past without
stopping. I began to become discouraged, wondered if the coyotes would soon be my traveling companions. My bag grew heavier with each step; my arm
and thumb anticipated a permanent side-and-up position.
Drawing on my communication knowledge gathered this past
year, I began to think of ways I might better persuade a driver. Should I look more pitiful and thus elicit
empathy? Rain clouds were rolling in,
would this benefit me or would I become miserable and provide free giggles to
cozy children in the backseat of all those half-empty mini-vans?
I started to wonder if it was my technique of seeming
passivity that kept cars flowing. I knew
to be proactive, keep walking but doing so backwards, to give the driver more
time to notice my non-threatening persona, only felt like a stare-down
I soon dug deeper into more far-reaching thoughts. Maybe the angle of my thumb was not wide
enough? My finger was getting tired and
I may have gotten sloppy with the internationally recognized physical
request. As a last resort I thought of
employing the ole stick out and bare the leg method. Unfortunately, I was already wearing Capri’s
so there was nothing more to show and besides, the last thing I wanted was to
remind male drivers that I was a young woman in a vulnerable position. Alas, nothing seemed to be my fault, I could
do no better, but be patient.
Eventually a sparsely toothed man picked me up, then a sweet
elderly lady, then a hay bale truck driver. The latter epitomized my adventure on a heavily farmed island. Four cars and two hours later, I made it back
to “the big city”, just in time to catch my shuttle.
My hitchhiking days began only a month prior to Prince
Edward Island. Out of desperation I
began this new page of my existence while in the Washington-DC metro area. Having missed the last bus by 2 minutes and
with only $4 in my pocket, asking for a ride was my only option. Humans often accomplish unimaginable tasks
when faced with no other choice. Then
too, I was shown good hitchhiking karma when the first lady I asked said yes,
ended up living only a ¼ mile further down the same road as me.
Hitchhiking is nearly a lost pastime. Fortunately, some baby boomers are enacting
upon their mid-life crises by reminiscing and giving a ride to the next generation
of penniless adventure seeking students. My experiences have been completely ideal, though I do not recommend
risking your odds by hitching rides around the U.S. capitol. However, with an estimated savings of $300,
all was well worth it. Will you be one
to step along the side of the road and bravely raise your thumb?