Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monday, January 24, 2005


I did quite a bit of hitchhiking in my younger days, and I paid little attention to the experience. I remember it, but mostly I tried not to process it. I just endured the rides. More recently hitchhiking has become very difficult to do, at least in the areas of California I've been in, and I attribute that to a combination of my age and world events. People enjoy picking up teens, either because they want to exploit them, or because they want to protect them. People don't much like picking up tall, imposing men in their twenties and thirties. All the stories of axe murderers come into their heads and they just drive on by.

The other day, though, I had a roadside emergency. I locked my keys in my trunk. I was only about five miles from home and a spare set of keys, so I set off at a brisk walk and started thumbing halfheartedly for a ride. To my surprise, less than three minutes later someone stopped.

I looked in and said, "Hi." No guns, no knives, no obvious weapons, tire irons, baseball bats, ejection buttons, cans of mustard gas. The guy wasn't wearing camoflage. He was big and muscular, but it looked okay. "You going to SmallTown?" He was, and I got in.

And then it began. The all-over-gaze. He never said anything wrong, never made any proposals, never made an advance. We talked about how hard it is to get a ride in the age of terrorism. All the time, though, the guy slimed me with his eyes, and I really remembered my teen experiences. In those days the guy would have tried more than looking. I felt violated in a vague way.

This is an illustration of the problem of charity. A ride is pretty small charity, but it is charity. Those who give charity always have an agenda. That agenda does not necessarily match up with the welfare of the recipients of their charity. When it doesn't, it can leave you feeling violated, insulted, or damaged. It can waste your time. While you are getting the charity, you aren't finding other solutions. Even the mildest forms of charity often turn my stomach.

Beware the hand that gives out of pity.


At 7:56 AM, Blogger שרון said...

#1 rule about hitching rides in the Israeli army:

when hitching a ride, never ask "are you going to location X?"

if you ARE dealing with someone who might have other plans for the ride, he's quite likely to say "yes" even if he isn't headed that way at all.

instead simply ask "where are you going?"

-- Sharon

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Great tip. Thank you, Sharon.

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had this experience too, and it isn't pleasant. But I find your conclusion sad. I found the experience of hitchhiking to be a testament to the reality of human kindness, and think back to it when i have a bad day and people seem like a collection of expletive.


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