Kerouac styles. The boys took me across the 15 minute state of Delaware, and actually all the way across the line into Maryland. They brought me to a major truck hub, and we said our goodbyes. Promises of keeping in touch hardly seemed enough, as like I have said, were new friends all of them. (Que precious 'awwwws') But for cereal.
I watched them drive away and then wasted no time in finding a ride. I immediately began my quest, seeking out each and every trucker.
Each and every trucker couldn't give a flying shit about my appearance, story, or who or how I was.
I wandered around for quite a while, flocking between both exits. I begged, pleaded and did whatever I could do to convince any rigger I wasn't a threat, and to take me as far south as possible.
I went back in and chilled in the truckers' lounge for a bit. Some of those dudes are shadier than a trench coated playground man. They reeked of beer, mumbled to themselves and played shooter games in the arcade. Intensively. Despite this, I was still so desperate to get the hay out of Maryland and south, I would have taken a ride from serial killer number 1.
I ran into a Mexican driver who would have taken me, but had his wife and kids in the car and even though he still would have taken me, it was just too full. He was the only person I could have a conversation with, and English was his second language.
If that was any indication of how little of a chance I had, I was frustrated. I ended up asking the most gangster dude I have ever seen in my life for a ride in his Cadillac. I'm not judging, but I KNOW he had a gun in the car, and for that reason, he said 'naw cuz'.
Agitated and losing precious time, I wasn't going to find compassion or a generous open mind among the Nascar jackets, beef jerky sticks and stinky, buzzed truckers, so I walked to the highway. On the way through the parking lot, I asked a southern black man to radio in the lot if anyone was Florida bound. One dude crackled back over the radio "only eif eits a cheick".
Ummm yea, I thanked him and kept on amidst my frustration. It was over 2 hours in an incredibly active truck hub.
Where I got my ride from Dave, the truck stop is just to the left.
I wandered to the highway and posted up just before the I95 on ramp. Im confined to the on ramps, as it is illegal everywhere to be on the interstate. Mega sucky. Ive researched everytime I'm on the Internet ways to get around it, but niente. I cannot afford an arrest or ticket throughout the entire duration of this project, as it would completely shut down my progress. I could be deported once they figure out my visa-less passport. I guess thats whats making this so fun.
I propped up B1 and B2, as they're my tickets of credibility in the 2 second discretion window of the 100 m/h passerbys. I held up the sign, and thumb out. Streams of cars flew by, most too scared to look at me. It was roughly 3ish and I remember thinking Ill be staying here for the night, if the people's reactions are any indication of my prospects. I remember one woman looking and when my eyes met hers she swung her head so fast, it was as if she had just walked in on her parents.... People are deathly afraid of the idea of a hitchhiker, and this is why I'm so fascinated by the concept.
I was out there cursing skyward after about a half an hour, when a shiny black Lincoln Navigator pulled over. He asked where I was going, laughed when I said Africa, smiled when I said Miami and said hop in when I said as far south as he was going. I tossed the kids into the back, and climbed aboard. It was quite cold out, and I never wear a hat or gloves while hitching, so people can see my face. The warm heater in the car was heaven sent.
Dave was a mild mannered, well spoken and well dressed man from nearby. We struck up a good convo, and I was just chuffed to have gotten a ride. He wasn't going too far, but anywhere but there was good in my books.
He was a consultant for new businesses in California, but had been out east for a bit since his parents died. He also confided I was the first person I had ever picked up, and it was my 'outdoor magazine image' and adventure traveler sign that did it for him. I was happy to hear this, knowing it had opened someone out of their element.
We talked about all kinds of stuff, and carried on through the Maryland countryside. He took me to another rest stop about 30mi away. He offered to buy me lunch, and I was so hungry, I accepted his kind gesture. He bought me a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a coke. He went from never picking up a hitcher to buying them a meal, and sharing his afternoon. He kept mentioning how 'new' this was for him, but I was happy, as this was the EXACT scenario my filming was after. Utilizing the extremely unorthodox method of hitching to provoke compassion amidst its dark reputation. We talked about all things hitching, society decay and the prospect of him doing it again. He was honest, and said he wont pick up another hitcher. When I asked why, he told me seeing me was a spark of adventure into his life, where it normally lacks. He had a taste, and although he enjoyed it, once was enough. It wasn't totally what I wanted to hear, as I hope that my positive experiences will allow people to open up again to another hitching teen, but I appreciated his honesty.
We exchanged information, and I added him to the growing mailing list.
As darkness fell, I knew my chances were slim, so I immediately headed to the ramp in hopes of getting that last ride, 30 miles into Baltimore.
I posted up while the sun set, and it wasn't long before two troopers arrived on the seen. Not at all what I wanted to see after a fairly frustrating day.
The first officer climbed out and approached me in his most intimidating manner. His dorky hat complete with bum chin in a chin strap voided any and all fear I normally would have had. Not really, I'm just trying to be cool. I was pretty nervous.
He asked me how it was going, and that he had a complaint I was walking to the interstate. Noooow people see the hitcher. I was so pissed when I heard someone had complained. Americans can suck so hard sometimes.
He was a real prick, and after a minute of him hassling me, I was able to decipher I was approximately 64.8% smarter than him, and I hadn't said a word yet. I let him say everything he needed to say. I corrected that hitching is only illegal on the actual I95, and the on ramps are fair game. He knew this, and then asked for some ID. I showed it to him, and he looked at me, down at my bags(poor B1, he had like 3 knives on him and was probably worried sick) and realized I was just some foreigner with an adventurous mind, and not a threat. I think when he got the call he was all amped to bust some drunk stumbling around, not some kid with a legit story and nothing incriminating. The second officer could see this clearly, and didn't say anything, and eventually left halfway through, realizing I was exactly that. Officer Textbook still wanted to give me some hassle. He was just doing his job, but I had put to rest any clouds and let him know I had no plans to go any further than where I was. He had a very unfortunate skin condition, and had a large growth on his right eye. I was too quick to judge, thinking in my head he had been bullied his entire life, and became a cop to bust all the high school has-beens that ruined his childhood. I don't know if this was the case, but it certainly seemed so.
I asked if he thought the place had wireless, and his response was "I don't know if you read the news, but here in this country, we're poor". WHO SAYS THAT, honestly? Well Sir, I do read the news, but that doesn't answer my question. He would be lucky to win a round of Jeopardy against the sorority girls.
He called in my ID, and when it came back clean, handed it to me, and asked me to walk 10 steps back, just for safety reasons. He just had to get in the last move, compensating for a small you know what. -is my resentment towards authority prevalent yet?
As they drove off, I muttered to myself how happy I was that I'm not a cop, as I would take the police issued pistol and put it to my temple, realizing I had sold my soul. ( I wouldn't actually, but then again, I would never become a cop)
Do you think they'd read the blog?
It was freezing, dark and no chance of me getting a ride. I could be a pin-up model, and probably still not get a ride. Maryland sucked.
I walked into the building, pulled out my laptop, and logged onto the Internet. Who would have thought?
After an email check and checking the soccer scores to escape my current situation, I had to find that ride, I was determined to get as far away from there as possible.
I wandered around, and held the doors asking people for easily 2 hours. Maybe 1 in 5 would say thank you. It was appalling. After giving up on people, I walked in and sat on a bench, and it was one of the low points in the trip so far. Here I was at a very busy spot, people flowing through, 20 mins from my daily goal and not a single person was able to use their discretion and see that I was just an adventurous teen and not a serial murderer.
I overheard a man saying he was happy to be done work, and thought that was my chance. I approached him as non-threatening as possible, and asked if he was heading to the big city. He told me know, but the way he said it, I could tell he was lying. He was a nervous, nerdy, portly man who was extremely worried about me being anywhere near him. I told him my gig, and emphasized the human compassion bit, that I was a writer, and the only reason I was doing this was by choice as a social experiment. True for the most part, but embellished.
He recognized I wasn't the average hitcher, and finally agreed. PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIMEEE. I was so happy. I will never adjust to the mentally draining roller coaster this trip is.
He told me to sit tight as he finished his paperwork. I was just ecstatic at the idea of leaving this awful place, the stares from onlookers was enough to boil my blood. I cant believe how close minded some people are. I asked well over 100 people in the time I was there in an uber polite manner for a ride to the city, even offering to tap into the money I had been given along the way to buy them a meal. Nothing. Luckily I now had my ride, and could stop worrying about my future.
He came over and told me we were ready to go. I could tell he was still really nervous at the fact of driving me, and he was completely out of his element. He awkwardly introduced me as Tony, and led me to his Toyota Camry. I tossed the gear in the back, and we jumped in. As we drove off, I had a quick worry that I had left my laptop behind, always paranoid about my crap while travelling. While I was reaching back fumbling through B2, he snapped. "What are you doing?!" he asked in a panic. Realizing exactly what had happened, and that he thought I was reaching for something malicious, I told him I had merely thought I forgot my laptop, and that it was there(it was) and calmed his nerves with conversation. He was in a full sweat. He reminded me of Milton from Officespace, and looked like him minus the moustache. Mumbly, nervous and socially awkward. He was very well spoken and an obvious intellect. He possessed all the characteristics of a book worm, and was only growing more nervous, despite my attempts at diverting it with a distracting conversation. His wife called, and it was really weird. He told her he was giving someone a ride home, and told her to call back in 5. She did, and he said the same thing. He did this the entire way into Baltimore. In between check ins to confirm he was not chopped up and being stuffed into the trunk, he told me he had been working selling sunglasses(that's where he was working when I met him) his entire life. He told me Baltimore was beyond dangerous, and the minute he dropped me off to get out of the streets, as I will be mugged or worse in less than 10 minutes. I'm pretty sure he doesn't watch the Wire but if he did( its a crime drama filmed and set in Baltimore which is very gang/hiphop influenced) he would shit bricks and board up the windows. He took me through the tunnel and into downtown and dropped me off at a posh hotel.
Time warping the tunnel into Baltimore with Tony the stressball.
Oh, by the way, IT WAS F*CKING VALENTINES DAY. In 20/20 hindsight, maybe this was why people didn't want to pick me up; the headlines were too easy. 'Valentines Day Massacre' or 'Hitchhiker paints the roads red'. Maybe they were all just too keen on running home and jumping between the sheets.
I thanked him, and the minute I closed the door, I could almost hear his sigh of relief. Tony was a lifesaver, and took me into Baltimore, and prevented me from sleeping a very frosty night outside, but hes going to give himself a heart attack if he carries on stressing in that manner.
I walked into the hotel, whipped out the laptop and needed to find a place to stay. Baltimore was rough -I googled it, and decided to take some of the money I had been given along the way and go to the hostel a few blocks away.
As I walked in to the very cool, quaint hostel, I was greeted by a very cute hippie-ish girl at the front desk. I checked in, and chatted with her about a bunch of stuff. She told me to come back up for a cigarette when I was done, so I went down to my private room, and took a much needed shower. I went up and we stepped outside and talked. It was the first like-minded person I had met in the states. She was tres cool, and into many things I was into. She offered me some food in the kitchen, and told me she was done at 11. After ranting about the failure of America, I went down to blog, and take another hot shower. While I was chowing on some chaaacken she came and told me she was off, and invited me upstairs to smoke a joint.
We went to the managers apartment, as she was out of town. We smoked the Baltimore goods, and talked and talked. She was really cool, and gave me some great tips of places visit in town, although I was leaving in the am. It was getting pretty late, and as much as I was thinking about asking her down to my room, I was thinking of a girl back home. We vegged on the couch and smoked a buttload of cigarettes and shared a beer. It was so great to unwind and chill with someone really cool after such an aggravating day.
We ended up saying goodnight, and I headed downstairs to my room. Sure there was a small apart of me that wanted to continue hanging out with Julia, but it just reiterated my feelings for someone else.
I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass of water and went to bed.
It was quite the day. I left the boys of TKE, internally bursted in frustration for hours, shared a generous meal with my only 'hitch', stressed Tony to near cardiac arrest and met my first American hippie.
P.S. the Baltimore Hostel is one of the coolest H.I.'s Ive ever stayed in.