My youngest sister is getting married this summer and I’ll be out of town on contract. The brutal thing about professional theatre is once that contract is signed you do not take time off. We produce a show in four weeks or less; there is no idle time and everyone is indispensable. But it’s my little sisters wedding! Without a car this summer and a really shitty bus schedule from a remote outpost I was trying to figure out how to get to her wedding and miss as little rehearsal (actually tech. Seriously Dana, this couldn’t be a worse day for me) as possible. The simplest thing to do would be to hitch hike. Dust off a thumb that has logged a lot of time on the road.
Growing up in this valley where I live there’s a town, however small, every 10 to 15 minutes by car. Before my friends and I could drive we got comfortable sticking out our thumbs and climbing into the back of orchardist trucks to go see bands or hang out in the park with kids from other towns. As my confidence grew I could hitch hike in 5 hours or less to the city and sleep on roof tops with new found friends and hitch home over the weekend.
I’d get picked up by other hitch hikers -road karma- or the occasional person that would confess to me it’s something they never do but were doing it cause I was a young woman. I could tell they at least got a thrill out of it. A lot of the time it was just old tradesmen on the road, bored and looking for conversation; occasionally curious about what else but maybe my naivety always saved me from further propositions… in reality just dumb luck.*
I trusted my gut instinct to refuse rides. I’d try to find a way to be nice about not getting in the car making up a lie about where I was going. It often resulted in the guy spinning out and spewing gravel all over me while shouting profanities. I’d congratulate myself on clearly a good decision.
One time that didn’t happen. We were 15 years old, my friend and I were in a town about 40 minutes south of home. A car pulled over on the outskirts and she hopped in before I could access the ride. Two guys with huge grins asked if I was getting in. My guts screamed Pull Sara the fuck out of the car but I was tired, it was cold out and late. I got in. The driver kept smiling and saying ‘You like to party?’ Sara was in the front seat falling asleep, head bobbling and mumbling ‘Yeah… sure… I like to party.’ I was in the back seat panicking I have got to take control of this!
He started talking about getting drinks. I finally I spoke up ‘Our night is over. We just want to go home. No partying.’ The smiling stopped. I affirmed this several more times. He pulled over on the pitch dark highway and said ‘Get out.’ Headlights came up behind and blinded us as we climbed out. Two cars full of guys pulled up and that’s when I realized how grim of a situation we were in but gathered all of my will that this was not going to f-u-ck-ing happen.
I figured it would take us about four hours to walk home which was fine but what if they came back? We were walled in by mountains, barbwire fencing and ranch land. The road was the only route home.
A tow truck driver pulled over and offered us a ride. His face was kind. He was freaked out that we were walking the highway at midnight. We told him what happened. He had daughters on the cusp of being teenagers and asked us to promise we would never to hitch hike again.
This seems to be the only picture I have of us actually hitch hiking. After a brief stint living in the prairies in the late 90’s Joslin (left), Amanda (right) and I were getting the fuck out of there and heading home, across the boarder into the mountains. I think Amanda was singing a Misfits song to her bag of jujubes. We were picked up by two guys in a jeep. With no room for our bags, they piled them on top of me and Joslin in the back seat. Our bodies were so tightly wedged we had to hang our heads out the back, faces up to the stars, laughing hysterically how we couldn’t hear or feel anything. The wind tangling our hair together. Our legs fallen asleep.
I spent two & half months hitching around New Zealand. Everyone that picked me up was great. It was summer; people were laid back, curious and friendly. I headed to Australia to visit family for eight months. Australia is similar to the rest of Canada in that the cities are hours and hours apart with little else in between. I flew into Sydney to stay friends in Newtown. I figured I’d just hitch my way down to Melbourne and around Victoria. My friends in Sydney were aghast at my plan. This was shortly after the hitchhiker serial killer Ivan Milat had been convicted, who inspired the horror movie Wolf Creek. Friends and relatives alike said ‘We will buy you plane/train/bus tickets – no one hitch hikes anymore.’ I reluctantly conceded.
I landed back in BC where Highway 16; cruelly known as the Highway of Tears, started getting more press ** Then Robert Picton’s farm was exhumed. I hitched home that Christmas from the city through a snow storm on a desolate road. I was picked up by a trucker who half way through the five hour journey pulled a switch blade to my throat while he was driving. I stayed calm, partially due to shock but also because I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of inciting fear. It called his bluff. As fast and incomprehensibly as it had happened, he laughed and handed me the knife to look at. Switch blades are contraband in Canada. He thought it would impress me. He was fucked in the head but ended up being nonthreatening once the scales were balanced. The rest of the ride I did grip the door handle staring at the winter wasteland wondering when I would jump, yet acknowledging we hadn’t passed another vehicle in miles. It was a white out on top of the mountain. No one was on the road.
That is until I recently watched Joseph Ellison creepy 1980 slasher Don’t Go in the House where the Psycho like killer finds women in need of a lift and takes them back to his mother’s house under the guise ‘It will only take a minute won’t you come in?’ Watching this eerie flick alone, obliterated any romantic notions of the autonomous freedom I had of being on the road.
Don’t Go in the House affirmed if I can avoid it, there will be no more hitch hiking in my future.