Hitchhiking, or meeting new friends?

Question: Have you ever hitchhiked? Would you ever pick up a hitchhiker?

While my answer to both is no (though as a child in the ’70s, I used to beg my parents to pick up the poor, forlorn hitchhikers on the side of the road), I did manage to freak out my parents by catching a ride with a perfect stranger one afternoon.

I had been visiting my sister, who was on bedrest with her first baby, helping with household chores, preparing and freezing meals, etc., and was driving the seven hours home one summer day. I came to a place Oregonians will be familiar with – two-thirds of the way up Cabbage Hill on Interstate 84, when my car decided to give up. It had done all it was going to do for that day. Mind you, I’m still three hours from home, and this was before cell phones. I got out of the car, and opened the hood – I knew about three different things to look at, based on past experience – but saw nothing I recognized as out of the ordinary. I’d been there just a couple minutes when a semi-truck stopped, and the driver asked if he could help.

“Are you going through Ontario?” I asked, and he said he was, so I asked if he could give me a ride to the truck stop there. He did, and when we arrived, I called my parents to tell them where I was, and ask them to come get me. Forty-five minutes later, my parents arrived to take me home, and the entire way, all I heard was how stupid I was to get into a truck with a stranger. Did I want to be raped, murdered, cut into tiny pieces and stuck into someone’s freezer? Don’t I ever watch the news?

Not only was I not raped or murdered, I spent three hours chatting with a very nice man, who, it turns out, lived in the town next to mine, and was known to several of my dad’s friends. We spend so much time worrying about what bad things might happen to us that we don’t take small risks that might lead to a fun, interesting new experience.

So, with that in mind, have you ever hitchhiked? Any stories about a time you picked up a hitchhiker? Do you wish you had?