I was miserable tired after spending the night in the Memphis Union Mission. A light April rain for hitchhikers is mucho bad mojo.
Yet I was surrounded by good mojo. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House were around the corner from my hitchhiking spot along Interstate 40. The Ronald McDonald House gives the sick kids a free room and St. Jude’s gives free treatment.
“No one has ever become poor by giving,” I kept thinking, the architecture around me was built by charity.
After a couple hours I thought of trying to look more needy. Then a young man in a grey Toyota Corolla pulled over and I ran down the highway shoulder with my packs dangling on my arm.
The driver told me that he wants to be an oil man working in the Middle East or an American police officer. His family is from Yemen and he’s the 10th son of a 10th son.
He admires me, he said, because I dropped everything and am hitchhiking and working hard in carnivals in pursuit of my dream.
“Sometimes you just have to go for it,” he said.
He is a serious man in his early twenties, Muslim, devout. I only mention his religion because he doesn’t mention God lightly.
He asked me what kind of people pick up hitchhikers these days and I essentially said ‘all kinds.’ On that hitchhike from California on my way to New Jersey, I’d already been picked up by an inventor, lawyer, two grandmothers, several unemployed men, a painter, a male nurse, a power station worker, hippies, a preacher, retirees and more.
“Do you know one type of person I haven’t been picked up by but I’m still waiting?” I said.
“A young, beautiful, blonde woman,” I said. “I’ve read about it happening (in Penthouse Forum) but I’ve never been picked up by a young, beautiful, woman.”
Then I acted angry.
Always serious, the driver looked over from his seat.
“Oh no, that’s too much to ask from God!”
Recently, someone posted my main photo art for Eyes Like Carnivals on Pinterest. So I decided to check out the site in general and hit ‘search’ for “hitchhiking.”
Pictures featured scantily clad, beautiful young women.
Fantasy hitchhikers, people you’d pick up in the April Memphis rain.
Ten months after getting that ride, being warned it is too much to ask of God, I realized I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the lack of highway hotties.
I’m not eye candy either but I got rides. On that rainy Memphis morning surrounded by monuments to good will, I got a lesson in charity.
Still, God, if you’re listening …
*The “giving” quote is from Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.”
My year working in traveling carnivals and hitchhiking between spots ends this month but I’ll continue to file weekly until I finish the backlogged stories. I’ve hitchhiked from the Pacific to the Atlantic to Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico. With 15,000 miles under my belt, I am the #1 hitchhiker in America for 2013-14.