I picked up a hitchhiker once.
I should have known better. If Texas Chainsaw Massacre had taught me anything, it was that hitchhiker’s are scary as f*$% – somehow even scarier than chainsaw wielding maniacs wearing masks made of dead people’s skin.
The thing is, the guy kind of snuck up on me. I’d just finished a night shift at the local supermarket and stopped at a petrol station to fill up the car when he walked over and asked “can I have a lift?” He didn’t look quite like the stuff nightmares were made of, but he was disheveled enough that a few alarm bells went off in my head – alarm bells that sounded a lot like a voice yelling “don’t let this guy get in your car!”
So, why did I give him a lift?
Well, I was a bit worried that if I told him ‘no’, he’d fly into a rage and stab me. I also still had to go inside to pay for the fuel, leaving the car unguarded and providing him a perfect opportunity to express his disappointment by smashing all the windows. Plus there were nagging thoughts in my head of a vaguely political and philosophical persuasion. If I didn’t help this guy out for fear for my own safety, it’d be like accepting that the entire world was full of dangerous people who love nothing more than committing random acts of violence on perfect strangers. I’d always believed (or wanted to believe) that the world was a lot less scary than most of us perceived. Violence between strangers was super-rare and it was the irresponsible news media’s fault that we all found it plausible that murderers and rapists were hiding in every dark corner.
Or something like that.
So, driven by two-sided fear and stubborn unwillingness to migrate away from my world view, I let the guy jump in the passenger seat. “Oh well,” I thought. “Maybe this’ll be a good experience. I’ll have a story to tell and we might actually strike up an interesting conversation. He could be a well travelled fountain of knowledge full of insights into … cooking meth?”
The insights weren’t forthcoming. Words in general weren’t forthcoming. In fact, the whole trip was characterised by a very uncomfortable silence. This thankfully meant a lack of swapping head-cheese recipes (sorry, that’s another TCM reference) but it was also quite disturbing. I kept trying to fill the silence with something resembling conversation but every question was met with a curt two syllable answer or some kind of grunting noise. It was uncannily like this scene from The Mighty Boosh, except I don’t think my hitcher had green skin and he definitely didn’t go into a rant about a wasp-shaman granting him a super-sized thumb …
Then things became even more awkward …
Me: So … where do you want to be dropped off?
Me: Oh … well I’m going towards the hills. There’s not much else around there.
Me: So, you’re not going anywhere in particular?
Hitcher: Just take me as far away as you can.
You know, as far away from civilisation as I possible. Just like a murderer trying to escape the scene of a crime.
Assumedly that reasoning was just me overreacting, but I was suddenly very keen to get rid of the guy. I ended up taking him to a place called the Rock Inn – the only place in the area I knew of that had rooms to stay in. At least I thought it had rooms for hire – I’d never stayed there myself, but that’s what inn means, right?
The place had a bit of a reputation for dodginess. It was apparently popular with bikers, but I figured my hitcher could take care of himself, and I really didn’t know where else to take him.
The Rock Inn was in an isolated, bushy area quite far from town so when I rolled into the driveway to find all the lights out (it was very late after all) I was less than at ease. After all, I’d just provided a nice, dark, convenient place for my hitcher to slit my throat and dump my body. Then, as he was getting out of the car, two shadowy figures emerged from the darkness, looking like members of the Stab Happy Bike Enthusiasts Club.
I got the hell out of there.
As I sped off back to civilisation I felt relief, but it quickly turned to a kind of guilt and fear. I’d gone from worrying for my own safety to worrying that I’d accidentally lead an unsuspecting person into a death trap.
I paid close attention to the news for a few weeks, half expecting to see the hitcher’s face appear as a suspected killer or a victim. I never saw anything though, so assumedly it was all okay.
Still, I won’t be doing that again any time soon.