Australia, March 13, 2000
The next time you see one, STOP!
When was the last time you picked up a hitchhiker?
As Americans, we are taught that only fools and freaks pick up random people standing by the side of the road. Nowadays, only my friend Billy, is brave enough to criss-cross the USA with his thumb.
Urban legends, common sense, and protective moms have scared the rest of us into flooring it if we see a smile and a sign on the side of the road. Yes, you can tell me of the crimes, the murders, rapes, and muggings that happen, but even though planes crash, ships sink, and drivers crash, we still use those tried-and-true methods to get around.
I think the USA hitching tradition, for it was very strong until recently, died when the car and license became affordable to the majority of Americans. Then, only poor, and therefore undesirable people didn't have their own car or bus/plane ticket to get around.
In Germany today, an advanced western nation with high road, car, and license taxes, (and murders/rapes/muggings) one can still hitch w/o even a second's hesitation, for owning a car is still prohibitively expensive for a majority of the population, especially the youth.
With all that in mind, and me in Australia, I decided to use the age-old method that my parents used in the early 1970's to get around this country. So far, I've heard the same 1990 Sydney hitchhiker-killer horror story replayed by each driver. Yet, I easily made it from Sydney to Canberra, a three or four hour drive, in six hours.
Tomorrow, I shall try my luck again, by heading to Melbourne via the famous "dog on a tucker box" statue. I hope this email does not jinx me, for I am dreaming of hitching, not only to Melbourne, then Adelaide, but to the city on the western edge of the continent, Perth.
Oh, and this is no small feat for Perth is 3,000 miles and one large desert from here (think DC to LA).