In a current article from Vox, “The Forgotten Art of Hitchhiking–and why it disappeared”, we learn that hitchhiking has gone the way of the landline phone, the typewriter, and most rules of etiquette. People no longer hitchhike in the same numbers they used to. Interestingly enough, the reason has little to do with safety. The common belief, that one will be picked up by a homicidal maniac with bad breath and worse intentions, and that one’s last moments on earth will be spent listening to dreadful music on his car radio. This is simply not true. First of all, many homicidal maniacs actually have fine taste in music, and hitchhiking is actually a relatively safe endeavor, far safer than crossing a street while texting. A major reason that there are fewer hitchhikers on the road is that people now have just too many darn cars.
While reading the Vox article, Life in the Boomer Lane recalled her sole hitchhiking experience with great fondness. This involved getting from Philadelphia to Trenton, NJ, a distance of 33.4 miles. Janice, LBL’s closest friend at the time, had a boyfriend who lived in Trenton, and she and LBL thought it would be way cool to surprise him. It took them seven rides and several hours to get to their destination. This is an average of about 4 and a half miles per hitch and about six times as much time as it should have taken them, probably setting a new record for hitchhiking inefficiency.
Neither LBL nor Janice had ever hitchhiked before. They were in high school and viewed the experience as an assertion of their independence from parents who cared about their welfare. The reality was that most of the people who picked them up spent the entire drive admonishing them for hitchhiking and warning them that terrible, unmentionable things could happen to them on the road, since most drivers (unlike them) would surely take advantage of two young girls. LBL and Janice started the trip believing they were cool, sophisticated young women who were out on an adventure. By the end of the trip, they felt like two little girls who had just spent hours being berated by their parents.
The only people who didn’t lecture them had a vehicle was filled with bird cages. The bird cages were filled with birds. The birds shrieked at alarming decibel levels, drowning out any attempt the owners would have made to warn their non-feathered riders of the folly of their hitchhiking sport. LBL and Janice spent most of the ride picking feathers out of their mouths and whispering how they could end the ride as quickly as possible.
LBL and Janice finally reached their destination, surprised Janice’s boyfriend (who was otherwise occupied doing something else and not thrilled that Janice has come all that way to surprise him) and then discovered that they had to figure out a way to get back to Philly. During their original planning of the day, they had not considered this eventuality. LBL doesn’t remember how they achieved this, but she is pretty sure it would have involved either a train or a bus and would not have involved birds.