Monday, August 10, 2009
It was the summer of 1968 and we had just finished playing tennis and swimming .My dad and I went for a walk in our neighborhood.About 7-8 minutes in to the walk and probably realizing that I may not be up to the task of completing the 1.6 mile loop to the top of Rose Hill and Beechwood Avenues in Cincinnati's North Avondale my dad proposed an alternative.
Dad said if I stuck out my thumb that soon enough someone would drive by .They would stop,ask where we were headed and take us home safely.
Hitchhiking tip #1....it is easier when you know the people that give you the ride.
It helped that this was the same neighborhood and streets that my dad had grown up on as a young boy.Basically everyone knew everyone.
So we stuck out our thumb at the first car that passed and as promised by dad our ride was secured.Another time my dad's hitchhiking/negotiating skills got us a ride home from an NBA game in Cincinnati.For some reason I do not remember.Broken down car, no snow tires,empty gas tank?Oscar the" Big O" Robertson was coming out of the game and dad approached the big guy. It turned out my mom was in a dance class with his wife and this translated to a connection and we hitched a ride in his MGb.My brother and me contorted into the back seat for the better part of 15 minutes.
Hitchhiking tip#2....make sure there is ample room in the car for you to sit (not in the fetal position)Tip # 2A......asking people you don't know but can convince them you do to get a ride is acceptable and in my mind hitchin' a ride after all.
So I began to delve deeper into the hitchhiking phenomenon that had entered my consciousness.I sought out advice from a higher authority.There was no Ask.com or Google to consult.No hitchhiker blogs or forums.Like the one I read about in the Sunday NY Times travel section on August 9Th 2009.The source was .....Grandma Emma Pastor a.k.a. Mamoo.
She probably had been doing it all her life.Growing up in Cincinnati without a car I can imagine Mamoo sticking out her thumb when rides were scarce and money for the trolley was scarcer.
As a teenager she had told me on a number of occasions how she went to this place or that place."But Mamoo",I would say,"You don't drive".Then she would fill me in on her M.O.(modus operandi).She would spot a neighbor getting into their car and as they pulled away Mamoo would stick out her thumb.Once at her destination she would find her unsuspecting ride home.She would start up a conversation with someone she had sized up in let's say the supermarket.Then as she checked out she would watch them as they left the store and then go towards where their car would exit the parking lot and then her hitching digit would protrude.
At the time I thought I had the coolest Grandma in the world.I never really had to use my thumb since I had a car,a bike,my parents.I also found that when stranded I would use it as an opportunity to train for my tennis by running to any destination.After moving to NYC in the 80s I frequently walked or ran everywhere.Which leads me to the next bit of advice.
Hitchhiking tip #3......getting rides from strangers may be hazardous to your health.
In 1989 my Grandma Mamoo passed away and with her she took all of her great stories of life and growing up in Cincinnati.Tales of renting real estate to hippies during the late 60s.Working with a guy named Alvin Youkliss(Great-grandpa of the fiery Red Sox player Kevin..Go Yankees!) tales of my Grandpa Roy going hunting and fishing with gangsters.Her tales of romance from boyfriends before my Grandpa Roy(oversharing?),life during the Great Depression and two World Wars.
Which leads me to this next conclusion.....................
Hitchhiking tip #4...........write down all the stories that are told by engaging older relatives.Once they leave this earth you can't ask them to retell their tales.
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