“I need to refuel before I forget,” I mentally noted as I flowed with the current of the weekday traffic. I was just entering Monroe, a ‘not-quite-small-town’ that everyone passes through or parks their car at in order to carpool when traveling East on Highway 2 for the day. ”Stop by Safeway and pick up some coconut water - Dammit, I need to take a piss again? - I can’t believe I forgot my mp3 player!” I continued, mentally rattling off more thoughts to myself.
It was a long silent drive from my house to the Steven’s Pass Ski Resort, about 2 hours or so. There was no music in the car, some low-life stole my radio 2 years ago, but that didn’t seem to phase me. When you’ve made a long drive enough times, it starts to feel shorter after the 4th time or so. Its like my brain recognizes landmarks as I pass them, letting me know where I am, how much I’ve traveled, and how much further I’ve got to go. At least that’s what I feel is going on, because usually I arrive at the destination before I’ve even realized that hours have gone by.
I was almost all the way through Monroe when I decided to pull over for gas. As I turned into the gas station, I noticed a girl close by the bus stop bench with her thumb up in the air. “She must be out of bus money…” I thought to myself as I pulled along side the gas pump. But that’s as far as that thought had gone. I don’t normally pick up hitch hikers, I’ve heard too many stories. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a hitch hiker.
The cool chill of the fuel pump’s metal lever ran up the tips of my fingers, through my body, down to my feet, and back up my spine like a shockwave, leaving behind goosebumps and tingly-feelings. I shivered half involuntarily. With my back laid against the car, I patiently watched the pennies tick away at the pump, imagining the money in my checking account shrinking away with every drip. Before I knew it, I was day-dreaming, but not quite. It was the kind where you’re just blankly staring at nothing, almost as if you’re looking through everything, and you’re not really thinking about anything.
“Hey man -hey are you headed east?” a guy walked up to me and asked. I snapped out of my trance, “oh. hey. what was that?” I replied hastily. “Can you give me and my girlfriend a ride to Gold Bar man?” he asked. I hadn’t anticipated talking to anyone at the gas station, let-alone a hitch hiker. As quickly as I could, I went through a mental checklist. “I have room in my car, I AM headed east to Steven’s, these guys look to be around my age, huh… why not take a chance, they seem okay,” I thought to myself. So I answered, “yeah… yeah, sure, just let me finish pumping this up and we’ll be on our way.” He seemed pretty stoked.
As he swiftly walked away to flag his girl down to let her know they managed to get a ride, I thought to myself “wow, this is really happening. cool. I hope they’re cool”. The pump clicked, I took my receipt, and cleared the back and front seats of random junk and garbage, then we were on our way. We exchanged names and all that jazz. You know, the normal small talk type of bullshit that we do when we meet strangers. “Do you rock climb?”, the girl in the back asked. She must have seen the micro nuts I had dangling from my rear-view mirror, swinging from side to side with every turn. “Yeah, I do actually. For 2 years now”, I replied. The guy in front, Sam, seemed pretty psyched to hear it. “Really man? Me too, do you climb at Index?”, he asked. “Yeah dude! That is my absolute favorite place to climb, I LOVE that fucking place!” I announced enthusiastically.
We continued driving for another 15 minutes or so, exchanging stories about the routes that we’ve done there. From our racks to our projects, we talked about climbing the rest of the time. It was pretty rad. So it’s probably obvious to you what happened next. We exchanged numbers, and now I have a new climbing partner for Index that I can pick up in Gold Bar on the way there. Fucking awesome! What luck, right? I feel like this was the world’s quickest turnaround for karma. Fucking… Awesome.
Take what you want from that story. For me, it was a life lesson of some sort. I’m now less reluctant to pick up a hitch hiker. So long as they don’t look super sketchy that is.