Friday, July 25th 11:50p.m.
I’m almost certain this is not legal.
Sweetheart and I are barreling down the interstate at about 70mph, sitting on boxes in the back of a pickup truck, heading from Birmingham, AL up towards Nashville, TN. Riding freight trains felt pretty crazy, but this is pushing even my limits. But with the wind rushing past, cooling me down after several long hours waiting at the truck stop in the blazing heat, I’m not about to complain.
We spent a lot of the morning waiting for a ride, with sweetheart ever-so-energetically talking to himself in an announcer voice, as he often does while hitchhiking.
“Now, for a limited time only, two hitchhikers!” he shouts.
I sit dejectedly on my backpack and wish for bug spray.
“Who wants to be the next contestant on Do You Want Two Drive These Hitchhikers?!”
His enthusiasm is inspiring, but I can barely muster a smile in this heat.
But really I’m incredibly lucky. Also trying to hitch out of this truck stop is an older man who is desperately trying to make it to Florida to visit his sweetheart. He left Kansas City a week ago and has dealt with cop harassment along the interstate, and has had a really hard time finding rides. I can’t help but feel guilty complaining about the heat when Sweetheart and I have had such easy luck traveling all summer.
One of the really fucked up realities of hitchhiking is that it is not hard to do if you are young, white, able-bodied and relatively clean cut. But if you’re older, if you’re a person of color, if you have any sort of disability, if you look poor, people are less likely to stop and help you out. With hitchhiking, as in all other realms of my life, I benefit from my race and class status, while others suffer oppression and prejudice. And, as in other realms of my life, I feel like that means I have a huge amount of responsibility to do what I can to use that privilege strategically.
So far, the best I have been able to do is talk about these kinds of issues with usually less-than-receptive drivers.
But hey, if any of you readers notice yourselves passing hitchhikers by along the highway, or if you notice yourself watching someone more closely in your store because they “look sketchy”, or if you realize your community is composed primarily of more-privileged people, maybe check that and pick that stranger up. Call yourself on your prejudices. We all have them, and we should all be fighting them!
For a really awesome reflection on racism and traveling, check out this thing some friends of mine wrote: http://sowmanyreasons.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/yup-thats-racist/