lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 29 13:31:16 MDT 2003
(This fascinating article stirred up lots of memories. When I was in
high school, my friends and I always got home from the movie theater
five miles from home by hitching. Mostly, we got rides from people who
knew us already, since this was a rural area. In 1965 I hitched from
Dallas to Baltimore and can still remember the people who gave me rides.
A truckdriver in Arkansas who wanted to know if I knew his buddy from
the army, who was from New York also. A guy from Fort Meyers, Florida
who spent 4 hours ranting about "niggers". I got a ride in a hot rod in
Delaware that was going to be raced later that day at a local track. In
1970 when I was up in Boston, I hitched back and forth from Cambridge to
Boston since it was cheaper than the subway. This was a college town, so
hitching was accepted. Over the past 25 years or so hitching has
disappeared for the reasons discussed in the article. That's too bad.)
Guardian, Tuesday July 29, 2003
On the road
Is hitchhiking a thing of the past? Duncan Campbell canvasses global
opinion and finds that, if it is, the world is poorer for it
When did you last pick up a hitchhiker? Or, much more to the point, when
did you last stand on the open road with the wind in your hair and stick
out your thumb?
Last year, on the Pacific Coast highway I picked up a hitcher who had
been living rough. He told me how long he often had to wait for lifts -
sometimes a whole day in the Arizona desert - and how few people still
did it. I wrote a column about it and asked readers if hitchhiking had
indeed died out, if the spirit of Jack Kerouac was dead and if no one
with a name like Bobby McGee flagged down a diesel anymore.
Hundreds and hundreds of replies bounced back. Just as you can tell much
about a society from the way it treats its prisoners, so, too, does
hitchhiking have its own lessons. Here are some of the findings - and my
thanks to the hundreds of people who replied and to whom I have not
written back personally.
Americans confirmed that, for most people, hitching was largely a thing
of the past. People had different theories. Some blamed Charles Manson
for giving people the impression that everyone with long hair might be a
psychopathic killer. Others pointed to the affluence which allowed a
teenager to own a car.
Cuba was cited as a good place to hitchhike as it was officially
encouraged. A recent traveller reported "hitchhikers everywhere."
Indeed, this seemed to be the practice in most poor countries, with
Costa Rica reported as a place where you stopped to give lifts to men
carrying machetes as you know they were coming home from the fields.
Guatemala was cited, too. But is there a paradise for hitchhikers?
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