Technically it wasn’t always safe

The audio for “Technically it wasn’t always safe” is featured in this episode ☝️ of the Without a hitch podcast

Introducing a trilogy of hitchhiking stories

I used to hitchhike a lot, and I always told those close to me that it was safe. They worried. It wasn’t a blanket lie – most of the time this was true. But sometimes it wasn’t.

Most of the people I drove with, zigzagging around New Zealand, were wonderful. The human resources manager for the New Zealand Police was a nice chap. His car was of a calibre that, if you’re unaccustomed to such luxury, feels like you’re riding a flying manta ray from the future. Miss Hutt Valley, New Zealand, picked me up – a paragon of friendly loveliness. My own grandparents once stopped for me, with a bemused, what-are-you-doing-here look on their faces.

I brushed off the warnings, especially from my parents – they had revealed too much of their own reckless youth, which deflated their appeals to caution. Risk was an abstract concept, a term for old people. Naught could touch me. The form of magnetism I possessed sucked adventure towards it and repelled all harm. Plus: I was skint, and hitchhiking was free.

Sometimes people were drunk. Or high. Or drunk and high. Once, I had to drive a guy’s van for him because he was too far gone to continue. Even though I couldn’t really drive at the time, it was still the safer option. Sometimes they wanted drugs. I was frequently typecast as 1) someone who used drugs and 2) someone who could supply drugs on demand. They always pouted when it became clear that neither case was true. (People continue to see me in this way. I had a migraine with flashy lights at work and they said I must be having acid flashbacks.)

And sometimes it was worse than all of that. Weapons. Threats. Misaligned intentions. The one consolation I can offer (to those who may have worried, over the years) is that I am sitting here, alive, writing these accounts in the past tense.

Read the trilogy

  1. Advances Up the Line
  2. Blade Runner
  3. Beyond a Joke