• Richard Scrimger

hitchhiker's guide


My last day here in the Kootenays, and I am wondering, What's with the elderly hitchhikers? That makes three I've seen in the last two days. No derelicts, either. Their outdoor wear was better quality than mine. They were on their way from town to town, and figured that the thumb was faster than the bus. Pleasant companions all, except perhaps for the lady who insisted on rolling down the window because she was claustrophobic. I apologized for the size of the car, shivering slightly in the chilly breeze. It's a rental, I said. If I'd known you were out there I'd have asked for something bigger. I meant it to be sort of, I don't know, humorous and cutting at the same time, but she just nodded grimly, head out the window, gulping.


My other two passengers were very nice, one of them pointing out the best bookstore in Nelson and the other explaining details of cabinetry to me, in French. I think they were details of cabinetry. He was a carpenter, and I tried to reply suitably. Gee, wouldn't it be funny if he had actually been giving me his opinion of Hegel or snack foods while I was talking about cedar and oak and glue (that's la colle, right? Collage comes from it).


I used to hitchhike, of course - heck, that's how I got to high school half the time. I was very smooth, gliding up the street with a shy smile on my face. (I used to get a lot of older ladies stopping from pity.) But it's been quite a while since I've, um, tried my hand. I must say, there's something appealing about the freedom of the roadside, the complete dependence on the upholstery of others. I'm tempted, I tell you. Of course out here in the BC interior people seem to stop for middle-aged hitchhikers (apparently none of my guys has ever had to wait more than a half hour for a ride). In the GTA you'd probably be faster to crawl, or maybe to wait until you got run over and the paramedics arrived.


Tomorrow, Vancouver and no more rental car. I'm looking forward to the Sky Train, but if it's taking its time, I may go down to street level, stick out the old thumb and see if it has retained its charm.

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Richard Scrimger | scrimgerr@gmail.com | Toronto, ON, Canada