Hitchhiking In The Afternoon

One must always try to help one’s fellow creature, but it’s hard not to have your guard up when letting a random stranger into your car, or when getting into a car with someone you’ve never seen before. For the paranoid out there it does little to calm the mind when someone mentions that you are statistically unlikely to be kidnapped or harmed when asking for a lift from the side of a road. Highly unlikely only implies slightly likely and that has a somewhat different ring to it when you put it that way. I am not generally paranoid, but I can’t say that the thought hasn’t entered my mind on the few occasions on which I’ve put myself in that compromising position.

The first was a few a few months ago when I was returning home from college – a 30Km journey – with a friend in his car. I knew we would stop at the service centre but I underestimated just how slow their service actually was. When we arrived there, the staff were on lunch break so what we expected to be a 30-minute procedure, was estimated to take up to three hours (What kind of a lunch break lasts two and a half hours?). My friend decided to stay the three hours and I was going to take the bus from where we were. Busses at that time of the day are scarce, so I decided to try and hitchhike for the first time, the remaining three-quarters of the journey. Do I just ask the first person I see? Am I going to have to pick who I want to get in a car with? Yes, I should. I let a few people go, and a few people, in turn, went right past my backward curled thumb. After a few minutes, an old guy driving an old but well-maintained car stopped to ask where I was heading. Bingo! We were going to the same city, so I stepped in and off he drove.

The man was a very jolly fellow. He spoke to me the entire journey. He told me that he was just returning from his favourite restaurant where he’d gone for lunch. He told me about his son who was working in the UK and that he was going to visit him soon. A retired widower, he spent most of his time travelling the country in his little car, in search of new experiences, serene views, exquisite cuisines and meeting new and interesting people. It’s nice when old people are so lively. In that old car, I found a breath of fresh air. You are never too old to enjoy yourself, never too old to seek joy and happiness. Experiences are what we live for. Why should we make memories when we are young and recall them in old age when there are so many more experiences to be had even when we are old? If you have a wish, go and fulfil it. Visit that city you wanted to see all your life, go lie on that beach you’ve only seen in pictures, call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years, read those plays of Shakespear, the poems of Milton, novels by Nabokov and the other great works of literature that you wish you’d read a long time ago. The pursuit of happiness is a lifelong endeavour. Let us strive when we are old to be just as jolly as that old man in that old car, enthusiastically looking forward to the next big adventure.

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