Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In defense of hitchhiking

Today on CBC’s ‘The Debaters’ the topic of discussion was hitchhiking. One debater suggested that picking up hitchhikers was basically an invitation to murder and rape - which the police wouldn’t bother investigating on the grounds that you should have known better. The other debaters did not so much defend hitchhiking as suggest that even if you were murdered by a hitchhiker, at least you died doing someone a favour and would have good karma going into the afterlife.

I, however, would like to defend the practice of hitchhiking – albeit with a very healthy dose of caution. Sure, when my daughter is 16 and tells me she plans to hitchhike across Canada, I may feel differently. But I would like to agree with the point made by one debater – not all hitchhikers are weirdos, and not all weirdos want to kill you.

When I lived in France, my friend and I would hitchhike to the coast or to little villages surrounding Bordeaux. We used common sense and a couple times got out of a car that didn’t feel right. But generally we got lifts from kind, regular folk who took pity on two young girls.

When I was walking the pilgrimage there was one day when I had to make a detour of several kilometres to go by a village where there was something waiting for me at the post office. I had a swollen ankle at the time and was walking with a young nurse. She reasoned that since we were off the pilgrimage trail, it wouldn’t really be cheating to hitch a ride. Figures that it was a priest who picked us up and, upon learning we were pilgrims, jokingly scolded us.

A couple days later my ankle was so swollen that my friend insisted we hitch a ride to the next city where I spent a couple days recovering. The kindness of strangers was very appreciated.

It’s only been in Canada that I’ve been the one in the position to offer a ride to hitchhikers – and I actually did so a couple times. I was alone both times and yes, many people flipped when they found out. But my karma is solid.

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