Growing up Catholic in Philadelphia I believe I lived cautiously. My life was filled with dos and don’ts and lots of rules. I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and tried not to disobey my parents.
I confess to hitchhiking once. I don’t think my parents ever knew.
I can’t say I’ve had much experience hitchhiking. From the time I was a child whenever we passed someone by the side of the road with their thumb stuck out in the hitchhiking pose my parents would instruct us to “Never, never, never hitchhike!” This was accompanied by lurid tales of people killed by the person who picked them up.
I confess to hitchhiking once. I don’t think my parents ever knew. I lived in Roxborough, a section of Philadelphia. I was in 10th grade. Three of my girlfriends and I decided to walk down Henry Avenue to find Grace Kelly’s house in the East Falls section of Philly. It is about two miles. We arrived, looked at the house, and turned around to walk back home. It was a hot humid summer day and we were tired.
Susan, one of my friends, suggested that we hitch a ride home. Internally, I heard my parents’ voices cautioning me against hitchhiking. I argued that we should continue walking. Mary Ellen, one of my more adventurous friends, insisted that we at least try to get a ride. She said we could always say no if someone stopped. Reluctantly I agreed.
Soon a car stopped. In the front seat were two boys who looked to be about 18 or 19. They asked where we were headed. Susan told them we were going to Roxborough. “Hop in. We’re headed that way.”
We all looked at each other. Inside I was screaming, “Don’t get in. Don’t get in.” But, what could I do? I couldn’t abandon my friends.
The three of us piled into the back seat. My two friends were talking their heads off to the boys. Silently, I sat in the middle scared to death. I was sure that these two boys were going to take us somewhere and murder us.
It was with great relief that we arrived back in Roxborough. Susan said, “Thanks. We’ll get out here.” I was convinced that the boys were not going to stop to let us out. Obviously, they did. We called out our thanks as we walked down the street. I was never so relieved in my life. I vowed never again to take a ride with a stranger and to this date I haven’t. I may have missed some adventures along with way but I’m okay with that.
The other hitchhiking story is rather funny. We had recently moved to Montpelier, Vermont. I was working as a chaplain at Central Vermont Medical Center. Shortly after our move to Vermont my husband had a stroke. He was a home recovering. Luckily, while he had some deficits, he was able to manage fairly well on his own.
It was nearing the end of my work day when I received a phone call. It was my husband. Since he could not drive due to his stroke would often call when he got bored at home. This time he said, “Don’t’ come home after work. I need you to drive up to Burlington to pick me up.” (Burlington is about 50 miles from Montpelier. )
“What?” I exclaimed. “Where are you and how did you get there?” His answer, “I hitchhiked.”
I was astounded. “Richard, are you telling me you hitched a ride? Are you crazy? Do you know what could have happened to you?” He replied, “Everyone in Vermont hitchhikes.” I nearly screamed back, “Everyone in Vermont does not hitchhike! Stay where you are. I’ll be right there to get you.”
During my 45 minute ride to Burlington I could have fumed and obsessed about his foolhardy decision to hitchhike two weeks after having had a stroke. I could have planned out how I was going to berate him for doing such a stupid thing. Instead I chose to look at the beautiful mountains and fields surrounding me and recall how during my one foolish teenage hitchhiking episode I managed to survive.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t question him about the wisdom of what he did. But we now laugh about his impulsive adventure those years ago.
Hitchhiking? I know that many people did it and some still do. I caution my grandkids not to do it just as I forbade my daughter to do it. For once, I think my parents were right.
I am Philadelphia born and raised. I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I married my husband, Richard. We have one daughter, one son-in-law, and two granddaughters. In addition to Milwaukee we have lived in Vermont and now New Hampshire.
I retired from my position as the palliative care and oncology chaplain at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center a little over two years ago.
Now I write, read, sew, knit, and rug hook-not necessarily in that order. With deep appreciation for all that libraries have meant in my life I represent my local library volunteeing one day a week at a local nursing home where I discover the residents' book preferences and bring them library books. Mostly, I visit and listen to their stories.