A Ride for a Ride.

K, so the reactions to my last blog have been… mixed. Which was kind of the idea, but it leaves me needing to clarify how hitchhiking works (or rather worked, for a teenage girl, 20+ yrs ago, in southern Europe — things are very different for different people in different places and times).

A friend put it very neatly and accurately:

“I think that the ‘rules of the road’ are some what more … straightforward than in more ‘organized’ places. It’s a black market economy where pretty much everything has a price – whether it’s money, services to be bartered, reciprocal favors, or sure, not unusually, just good company on a long drive.
He saw an opening, made you an offer. You refused. Life goes on.”

And that is bang on the money.

Hitchhiking is a risky business, widely discouraged – but so’s giving strangers lifts. The vast majority of people do it because they hope there’ll be something in it for them. In my experience (skewed by gender age location era), in order of frequency, you got picked up by:

  1. People wanting sex – not perverts or predators, just people hoping to get lucky. I always thought the main hitchhiking skill was being able to turn into a person they’d want to look after, rather than bonk. Anyone with half a brain can get picked up – it’s staying safe once you get there that’s the challenge.
  2. Bored people wanting company, particularly business drivers. This was my main “market”, as it was generally the safest. Lorry drivers could be a bit rougher around the edges, but they could radio ahead and organise you a whole chain of lifts; so they were higher-risk, higher-reward lifts. When companies started banning their employees from giving people rides (there are insurance and liability issues), that was pretty much the end of hitchhiking for me.
  3. People with a specific axe to grind, most notably the “you look like my daughter” crew. (Funnily enough, the “lemme tell you about Jesus” people would bother you endlessly if you were sleeping rough, but did they ever pick you up or do anything remotely useful? Did they fuck.)
  4. Ex-hitchhikers trying to keep the wheel of karma going in the right direction.
  5. Actual perverts and predators – pretty damn rare if you had a good system for getting rides, but definitely out there.

…and that’s about it.

People did not pick up purely out of chivalry or charity – or, even if they did, it was because they wanted to feel chivalrous or charitable, so it was still about them. In fact, wannabe white knights were pretty worrying. They are invested in a certain script, and if you neglect to follow it they can feel cheated; and the white knight is supposed to get the girl.

Now, if you think I’m being mean and unfair towards humanity, oh hum. That’s how it was, and it wasn’t that dissimilar from the level of attention you got anywhere else as a young single woman travelling for the sake of it.

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3 thoughts on “A Ride for a Ride.

  1. As a reformed “white knight” (in recovery), I’ve got to point out that it is easy to stereotype people and assume you know their true motivation, but like everything I do, I was going about it atypically. First of all, I was neither invested in a script nor did I have expectations. Sometimes, particularly at the very beginning, my thoughts may not have been completely pure, this is true. I see a relatively attractive woman in obvious distress and several lines of thought will be running through my head: “That girl is pretty, she needs help, if I ignore this some evil predator might take advantage, I can probably fix this problem for her, maybe she’ll want to hang out with me for a while and give me her number.” However, I quickly learned that most attractive damsels in distress are crazy . . . and not necessarily in a good way. Usually within 10 minutes I am seeing all sorts of red flags about the person, but I’d already stopped and offered to help so I felt an *obligation*, but holy shit, the stupid it burns, and are you tweaking on meth or are you just bipolar, because I’m more than a little bit scared right now . . . but I digress.

    Anyhow, you are correct that most “white knights” seem to be creeps. These are the same type of guys who will hold a door for a woman, and then start following her out to her car trying to “flirt” when it is obvious she is not at all interested and more than a little uncomfortable. Holding a door for people is just something you *do* in order to be courteous and respectful, and that should be the end of it, but a socially maladjusted creeper does not understand the concept of “respectful” or “boundaries” and then complains on some men’s rights forum about how “bitches” always yell at him when he opens doors for them, not even comprehending that it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact that he held a door open for a woman but all the other creepy nonverbal cues he was sending. She was pissed off that you were leering and staring, then tried to ask her for a date, creep. Shit, I’ve been holding doors for women for over 30 years and the only person who ever got upset was the 400 pound woman with Downs Syndrome and crutches who yelled, “AH KIN DOO ET MUH SELF!!!” but she was retarded so that doesn’t really count. I am probably going to hell for calling her retarded, aren’t I? Sorry.

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  2. Ok. This is highlighting two major issues. Firstly, I’ll join you in hell cos I laughed way too much at that last bit. Secondly, the term “white knight” has started to encompass so many meanings that it’s practically meaningless, and I really regret using it. Blog to follow.

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  3. “Gas, Grass, or Ass. Nobody rides for free.” A well-enough established “rule of the road” that it became a bumper sticker. One you could buy at any convenience store.

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