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Open Mic Essay: Mother Would Not Be Pleased

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I’ve always told my children, “Don’t hitchhike and don’t pick up hitchhikers.” But, in truth, from my own experience, I’ve found that hitchhiking can lead to some interesting adventures.

Not many of my brain cells were working while I attended college. One weekend, my friend and I decided to hitchhike to Boston. One quick trip up I-84 from the University of Connecticut. Piece of cake. We could have taken the bus. We both were resident advisors and had the money; but no, adventure beckoned. So, we made it to Boston just fine with no untoward events, but neither of us brought cash for food or lodging. When night came, we were hungry, cold and exhausted. So, we went into a large department store to warm up. Then we parked our grubby selves on comfy chairs in a fancy furniture display. We woke up to a darkened store and a grumpy watchman threatening to throw us in jail.

Another hitchhiking experience resulted in my breaking up with a college boyfriend. During Christmas vacation, we decided to hitchhike to northern Vermont to hop the rails. Needless to say, “hopping the rails” happened to be illegal and also could result in loss of life and limb. But, we two were not the smartest people at our college. Easily distracted, we never made it to the train station in northern Vermont.  Instead, we climbed a small mountain or really a large hill in southern Vermont. Near the summit, we encountered a bear, who, in my opinion, should have been hibernating. It was the dead of winter, for goodness sake. My boyfriend spotted the bear first. He yelled, “BEAR!” and ran down the mountain without looking back. Not once. He ran lots faster than I. When I finally arrived at the base of the hill, he looked at me and said, “I was running for help.” 

I didn’t not gaze lovingly at him and say, “My hero.” Instead, I decided right then that he could just keep on running.

Many years later, when my own children were in school, I inadvertently picked up some hitchhikers. As I paused at a street corner, three women jumped into my van, one in the front seat and two in the back. Each wore a headscarf and a long flowing brown dress. They obviously were not from around here. However, they did not seem dangerous; they just seemed like somebody’s mother, not from around here.  The woman in the front seat said, “Krohgahhhg!” in a commanding voice and pointed to the right.  I followed her hand gestures and we wound up near Barracks Road shopping center where the three women unceremoniously jumped out as I stopped under a traffic light.

“What just happened?” I wondered.  Charlottesville is home to the International Rescue Committee. Someone suggested that these women might be from Turkey.  It seems like all they wanted to do was shop at Kroger.

I have other stories, ones when I’ve hitchhiked and picked up hitchhikers and lived to tell the tale. But, if my mother is listening to this essay, her head is probably about to explode. And, we can’t have that. So, I’ll stop here.

For the benefit of one and all, let me just say hitchhiking is a TERRIBLE idea, DON’T DO IT, but I have to admit, it can lead to some unexpected discoveries.

More of Deborah Prum’s work can be found at www.deborahprum.com

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