Just for fun I will periodically riff on peculiarities or changes I’ve noticed as time has passed me by. As the title attests, the first topic is hitchhikers and how few there are anymore. I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone by the side of the road with their thumb out.
At one point, when I was growing up for instance, hitchhikers were ubiquitous, along with cheery stories of people thumbing their way across America and dark tales of pickups gone bad or deadly. I, personally, did little hitchhiking -didn’t need to, and wasn’t terribly interested- but I did pick up a rider every once in a while, and I knew people who did in fact thumb their way across the US, but that was way back in the murky 70s.
Seems fairly quaint now.
Mostly, it seems to have been done in by our great fear factory intent on making us crazy about the dangers in the world even as the world paradoxically becomes more safe. Fiends in the guise of either the hitchhiker or the guy in the car -and it’s almost always guys- trolling the tollways for his next victim. Think The Hitcher, In Cold Blood, fun films like that. The other thing is the ubiquity of the motor vehicle; there are cars o’ plenty if you need one, which lessens the need to thumb a ride.
It also true that hitchhiking is illegal on highways, though not on the on and off-ramps, and in many states it’s not allowed on roads (?), which begs its own question, but we won’t tackle that here. So in the end, trying to hitchhike may only provide endless opportunities to rap with the Fuzz. Yet beyond scary ads and bad movies, it turns out hitchhiking isn’t anymore dangerous than going to the mall. If anything, since you’re in a car, you’re more likely to be in an accident than the victim of foul play.
However, much as the old passes into the mists of time, the act becomes subsumed by the app industry and so getting a ride someplace is now the province of one’s phone and willingness to take a chance on strangers, which is ironic as the stranger, and the fear of, was one of the driving forces curbing the thumb.
Out with the old, you may use your thumb for this, and in with the new.
©2020 David William Pearce