I support the concept of hitching. I always take a good look at hitchers as I approach. I automatically accelerate when I see hitchers with no teeth, hint of hemp, nakedness, and/or excessive hair. Also any staring dudes hefting a blood-stained axe in one hand and a handmade sign saying ‘Axe Murderer’ in the other. And those that look like they have sweaty testicles.
Sometimes I’ll brake to pick up someone before I notice them flicking me the birdie in the wing mirror.
I reverse over those.
I rarely pick up hitchhikers.
Perhaps my elimination process is too rigorous.
Driving back to Christchurch from Blenheim, I spotted a hitcher on the outskirts of Kaikoura. I peered at him through the windscreen. He was standing beside a rucksack roughly twice his size, fresh faced, creases ironed into his shorts, positively brimful of youth.
I pulled over and offered him a lift to Christchurch. He was nineteen years old, coming to the end of a year travelling around New Zealand, anxious about what he would study in university, and so earnest I just wanted to rumple his hair.
Ten minutes later, we hadn’t got around to exchanging names when I came upon some roadworks. As the car rolled to a stop, I absentmindedly put my hand on the gearstick to shift it into neutral. Except that I completely missed the gearstick and put my hand on his bare knee instead.
It wasn’t as if my hand merely and fleetingly brushed against him. No, I’m sorry to say there was nothing ambiguous about it; I reached across with the customary aggression I apply to changing gears, and clamped my wrinkled, middle-aged hand firmly on his knee.
Of course I snatched my hand back immediately. In fact, I was so embarrassed I actually let out a little scream.
Mike (he introduced himself shortly after I groped his knee) was kind enough to forgive my indiscretion. At least, he didn’t rip open the door and leap out of the car and run away heedlessly leaving his rucksack behind.
Coming into Christchurch, I stopped at a fruit & veg shop to buy a bag of cherries for $8.99 a kilo. I KNOW! – can you believe that value?
Naturally, I had to offer some to Mike – I mean, I couldn’t just scarf them in front of him, could I?
It was only much later that the suggestive symbolism of the ripe, outsize, gloriously purple cherries occurred to me.
I am sincerely hopeful the implications either went right over Mike’s nineteen year old head, or didn’t make it past the cultural and/or language barrier.
Yet I suspect Mike’s retelling of the story in the backpackers lodge in Christchurch that night went something like this:-
Mike: Ich kaum entging mit meinem ganzen shirt. Sie war eine Cougar!
Avid group of twelve year old backpackers: Hur hur hur.
Mike: Hur hur hur.