My dad always told me to never, never pick up a hitchhiker; he told me to lock my doors while driving, and to never ride a motorcycle, along with all the standard driving safety tips dad's give their daughters. Being the often-obedient and scaredy-cat girl I am when it comes to strangers and steering wheels, I've adhered to his advice.
But yesterday was different.
I was driving along the most scenic boulevard in our waterfront town, winding toward the water. As usual, I was listening to sappy love songs, feeling all swollen inside with gratitude for my husband and kids, when I was distracted from my daydreams by a figure I saw in the distance. Had my kids been in the car, I don't think I would have broken the don't-pick-up-a-hitchhiker rule, and I certainly wouldn't have picked up a man under any circumstance whatsoever, but it was an elderly man and for some reason most old men ring sweet and endearing with me, whereas old women so often seem cranky and irritable. A few seconds passed and I slowed as he came into clear view.
His head stooped down below his hunch back. His down-trodden gait communicated defeat and hopelessness, his thumb the last part of his body that was looking up, barely.
My grateful emotions liquified and escaped through my eyes. For the first time in my life I wanted to pick up a hitchhiker; I wanted to share some of the love I was feeling. I wanted to help this old man get where he was trying to go.
I pulled over about a half-mile after I'd driven passed and swung a U-turn. I rolled up beside him and said what I suspect most people who are picking up a hitchiker say--"Need a lift?"
The man slowly lifted his head toward me with a disturbing grin on his face. I was surprised to see that grin. His body language had been so sad. I expected him to tell me that his wife was dying and he couldn't afford the gas to get to her (because gas prices are so high, you know), and so I was going to take him to her so he could tell her he loved her that one last time.
But no. His face didn't say that. His grin was all wrong. His staggar and demeanor were suddenly a show and his slurred speech told me he'd been drinking. This "sad" old man went from helpless to dangerous upon eye contact.
The peaceful road I was driving, the road that was void of signs of the scary world we live in, and that music, that music that was making me feel so much love, was making me want to do something kind and samaratin-like, and I almost did. I wanted to, but when I saw that face, I just couldn't. I wish I could have because certainly he needed help--he certainly needed a lift.
So, scratch that title. I almost picked up a hitchhiker--in my imagination.
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