It was getting late in the afternoon when I walked away from the amorous plant salesman at a roadside tavern somewhere in the Illinois countryside. By the time I got rides back to Interstate 80 it was getting dark.
Always aware of flying under the radar, I knew to keep my thumb on the ramp of a freeway rather than hitchhike on the highway itself. But alas, just as I approached an entrance to I-80 a brown car had a blue flashing light put on its dashboard. Although the police were not in uniform there were the uniform questions: what was I doing? where was I going? have any ID? I had a sense these Chicago-suburb police were looking for something to fill up a quota. Perhaps drugs? No problem there. If I made a point of only hitchhiking on the ramp of a freeway can you image me being stupid or ballsy enough to be carrying any sort of drug? Ha! That’s a good one!
Still, it was getting dark and having police rummaging through my pack and perhaps taking me in for a more personal search would leave me abandoned on a suburban street in the dead of a cold November night.
Just as I was overthinking these things there was a crackling from their police radio. It sounded like static to me but they seemed to understand the language, handed me back my driver’s license, and left without a word.
That was not the only time I have been rescued from an awkward situation by the Gods of Good Timing – and I thank them profusely.
As soon as that brown unmarked car had driven off I walked a few yards down the onramp to Interstate 80 heading west. My intention was to get a third of the way down the ramp so folks would have a chance to check me out and pull over before the freeway. I didn’t make it. Instead, a long semi truck pulled in front of me. I scurried to the cab, climbed up to the handle, opened the door, and was invited in.
I got out in Utah.
Ballsy, indeed. I’ve never had the courage to hitchhike.