Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hitch Hikers

|| one ||

"I used to do it all the time," Philip said, "It was how I got around Australia when I was your age."

The Boy and his friend, The Companion, looked at each other.

"So, are you going to do it?" Philip asked.

The Boy and The Companion shrugged shoulders.  They were in Pottsville [no association with marijuana, actually] for the next five days with next to nothing planned before the dance workshop with Restless and Heartbeat would take place.  Why not?

"Yeah, we'll hitchhike today.  All the way to Byron Bay, and back.  It'll be today's adventure."

|| two ||

The Boy and The Companion had been waiting for half an hour on the side of the road, thumbs sore from being held erect for an unusually uncomfortable amount of time.  Philip had dropped them off at the midway point between Pottsville and Byron Bay, just to get a 'running start.'

"This is humiliating," The Boy said, "It's like all of my attempts at relationships in college.  All rejected before they even get to know me, based on just a passing moment."

"I don't know," The Companion replied, "Isn't it kind of exciting?  It's like an adventure!"

The Boy did not share the same opinion about rejection as The Companion.  "Maybe we should make a cardboard sign like they do in the movies."

The two searched the side of the road before finding a reasonably-sized piece, which The Boy picked up.

The cardboard already had the words "Byron Bay" written across it.  Whether this was [literally] a good or bad sign, they would find out soon.

|| three ||

"So you're a carpenter?" The Companion asked Driver the First, who bore an uncanny resemblance to John Locke on Lost.  A business card lay on the dashboard, and The Companion had taken the opportunity to strike up conversation with the kind man who had offered both travelers a ride to Byron Bay.

"Nope." He replied.  

Silence followed, and an awkward one at that.

"Oh.  So you're a farmer?" The Companion asked, noticing a second set of business cards on the dashboard.

"Nope." Driver the First replied again.

Another silence followed, more awkward than the last.

Please, please, please stop asking him questions.  The Boy mentally shot at his friend.  This guy clearly does not want to converse with strangers, [even though he did pick us up].

"... But you do like chocolate?" The Boy realized this came out of his own mouth, regardless of what he had been begging his friend to do.  Driver the First looked down at the dashboard, and there lay a semi-full wrapper of chocolate.

"Actually, no." He replied.

|| Four ||

Driver the Second was a delightful man from Copenhagen, Denmark, and moved to Australia with his wife three years ago.  He just had to move to Byron Bay, as he had momentarily saw it years ago when he traveled as an flight representative.  In addition to Australia, Driver the Second had been to the Philippines, Malaysia, and generally a good part all over eastern Asia.

He had never been happier in his life.

|| five ||

It had started to rain, and The Boy and The Companion had been standing on the side of the road for twenty minutes.  It was decided that the weather was the reason she had picked them up.

"Thanks heaps," The Boy said, trying out a recently learned Aussie mannerism.

"'Course," she said, "It started raining.  Felt bad for the two of ya."

"Yeah, it would've sucked to walk home all the way to Pottsville from here."

Since that morning, The Boy's learning curve for bringing up conversation with the drivers had improved exponentially.

By end of the relatively short drive, The Boy and The Companion knew all about Driver the Third's time in Byron Bay: how it was a fantastic place before the tourism made its way there, how she used to be able to sleep on the beach without having to worry about beach patrol, how she had gotten into seed collecting/agriculture, and what she was doing with a mysteriously large sack of goji berries [making jam], and how her boyfriend had come to live in the area [started an aboriginal artwork shop].

This was key: although part of the hitchhiking game was getting a driver to trust you in their car, the real trick was learning about as much of the driver as possible.  In the end, the one behind the wheel would be more interested in talking about themselves than learning about the crazy morning or weekend or month or year of travel you had.

|| six ||

Driver the Fourth and Last - a considerably free spirit with blonde dreadlocks - would bring them less than a couple of miles away from where The Boy and The Companion had started that day.  With The Companion in the passenger seat, The Boy found himself in the fetal position in the back amongst a propane tank and four dirty tires.

White shorts were a poor choice that day.

"Sorry about that, Man." Driver the Fourth and Last apologized, and The Boy only nodded and waved him away.

|| seven ||

"Hi," The Companion began, "Today's our first day hitchhiking, and we're actually really lost now because we can't get a ride, and we've already walked ten kilometers, and we're still a ton of kilometers away from Pottsville, and we were just wondering if we could use your phone so we could call a friend to pick us up at a pub nearby."

The Boy looked away from The Stranger's doorway and grimaced.  The introduction, the charm, the buildup, the explanation, and the request for a favor weren't as eloquently executed as he imagined, but then again, The Boy wasn't the one who was at the doorstep.  The Stranger tilted her head in suspicion, and led The Companion upstairs.

"I'll just stay here," The Boy said.  No one was going to offer him drugged water.

|| eight ||

"Sorry, Philip," The Boy and The Companion said, looking up from their half-empty glasses of beer, "We tried, and we failed.  We suck at hitching."

"No, no no no.  Today was good.  It was a good effort for a pair of first timers."

"Really?  Thanks, Philip.  You know, at one point, we were thinking of what it would be like to hitch around Australia for a year."

Philip shook his head.  "Yeah, at the rate you were going, it would be ten years before you made it around Australia."


COMING SOON:  Hitch Hiking, A How To!

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