Sunday, July 02, 2006
Remember hitchhiking? Ok, if you are less than 40 years old, you probably don't. Either because you already knew how dangerous it was, or because you are dead. (in which case, I'm delighted that my blog is popular in the afterlife)
For those of us who grew up in the hippy-dippy 60s and early 70s, hitchhiking was practically a rite of passage. I had friends who thumbed their way across the country, with nary an incident. (Oh, a pantless guy here and there. But they *usually* passed on those rides.)
My best friend "Minnie" and I (she has made me pinky-swear that I will never use her name on this blog) would regularly hitch rides from our Brooklyn neighborhood to Rockaway Beach. This usually entailed flashing our 16 year old bodies on Cross Bay Boulevard, in bikinis. It was a wide expanse of a road, three lanes in each direction, with several traffic lights before the causeway to the beach. Those lights were our only nod to safety. They were our exit ramps, if need be.
For the most part, we'd get picked up by cars full of rowdy and randy boys, who were completely manageable. Once in awhile, we'd accept a ride from a man driving alone, and could usually tell within the first 30 seconds if we were going to jump out at the light. (Thankfully, these were the days before automatic door locks.) Aside from the technology, things were no safer back then. We could easily have been abducted and killed, but we were convinced that we were too savvy to die.
The most memorable ride we took did involve death, just not ours. While cruising back to the funeral home from a cemetary, a hearse driver thought (correctly) that it would be a hoot to pick up the two kooky nymphets on the side of the road. He let us ride in the back so we could pop our heads through the curtains and wave to the startled drivers behind us. OK, so it wasn't quite "Girls Gone Wild", but I assure you, the reaction was almost the same.
The hardest thing about raising teenagers is knowing what "invincibility" felt like. Outside our homes, we felt free, powerful, and utterly convinced that bad things only happened to stupid people. We'd learn otherwise, and soon. But our hitchhiking memories remain untarnished.