I’m standing on the side of the road with my hand stretched out at a 90 degree angle to the verticality of my body. The thumb is prominently sticking out. It has to be visible. Jon is standing 4 meters behind me, it’s important that the passing cars see me first. It’s one of the tactics we’ve developed. It makes sense. Between the two of us I probably look less intimidating.
The smile is also important. You have to look as though you would be good company to every passing driver. And the bags, you can’t forget about the bags. They have to be visible too, so as to make it clear what the hell we’re doing, smiling at passing cars in the middle of nowhere.
Alright, here comes a car. Remember about the smile. It’s almost like being a model on the catwalk, only more interesting. No, in fact it’s nothing like it. Remember about the smile.
The car is getting closer, I can see the driver, it’s a woman. Bugger. They never stop. This one didn’t stop either. Never mind, here comes another car. Here it comes… As it’s passing by I can see the driver considering taking us on board. With some drivers you can sometimes see it very clearly when they’re thinking about you. Weighing it up. Pondering upon advantages and disadvantages. And when they eventually decide to stop for you and start pulling over, you almost feel overwhelmed with joy. It’s like you’ve earned it, like you’ve deserved it.
This one stopped 30 meters behind Jon. Now I have to grab the map and run to speak to the driver. It’s my job as, again, I look less intimidating.
The driver is slowly lowering the side window. I have some time to prepare the map. And here comes the ultimate question: do I tell him (or rather show him, as chances are he’s not gonna speak English) where we’re actually going or do I pick a town that’s not too far? Choosing the first option I risk that if he’s not going that far, he might refuse to give us a lift at all, thinking that we want him to take us all the way there. People who never hitch-hiked sometimes don’t realise that even 20 km make a difference to us. If I decide to choose the second option and tell him we’re not going that far, I risk that if he’s actually going to our destination or even further, he will leave us where we had initially told him we were going and he wouldn’t understand that we want to continue the ride with him. It’s all very complicated.
I show him the map and point at the dot that represents our destination. He says he’s not going that far, but he understands the concept of hitch-hiking and points at the crossroads where he’d have to leave us. It’s fine by me. I nod my head and say in his native language that we don’t have money. This is one of the few phrases you must know in every language if you want to hitch-hike without hassle.
He smiles. He knows hitch-hiking is free. I go back to get Jon and help him with the bags. ‘We’re in!’ I shout. In 30 km we will have to start it all over again, but till then we are sorted.
written by: Ania