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Monday, 19 November 2012

Time Out

By Marcy Belson

"Time out." Tthat's what one of my daughters used to say to her son when he was particularly naughty.

My time out was our condo in San Diego. In the fall, during football season, I would drive alone leaving Gordon to announce the game in our hometown.

It was an hour and a half, door to door. I'd stop at the deli, a block away from the condo, pick up a turkey sandwich and a pint of Hagen Dazs ice cream.

When I got inside the door, my week was over. Clothes dropped on the floor and not picked up, newspaper, sandwich and ice cream were carried to the bed and I spent the remainder of the evening there watching a little TV, reading the newspaper and eating my stash of favorite food.

Gordon would arrive about midnight dead tired and it was lights out.

We spent Saturdays on our Hobie Cat if the weather was good, and ate most of our meals out with friends or family. Mass, on Sunday morning at the tiny church and by Sunday afternoon, it was time to clean up, pack up and hit the road for home back to work on Monday morning.

On the trip home, we usually made a pit stop at a cafe in the mountains. One day, I mentioned to my husband that I had seen a young man hitchhiking at the road junction we would be taking to get back on the freeway. I told him I wanted to give the kid a ride to the valley, that he looked okay to me.

Gordon agreed and said he would stay behind me on the road and to signal him if I had any problems.

This wasn't really unusual behavior for us; Gordon was very good about helping anyone who appears to need help on the road. The desert area is unforgiving in the warm months and people used to be more willing to help one another. The mountains between the desert and the coast were not populated with many, meaning that you might spend a very long time waiting for help.

One nice woman from Oklahoma sent him homemade cookies every Christmas after he stopped and gave the man and wife a ride into San Diego, taking them to the Navy hospital where a member of their family was dying.

Another time, a woman rang our doorbell and delivered a big basket of candy for Gordon as thanks for stopping and helping her with a car problem.

We also stopped, late at night, to help a young girl with a disabled car. She had been in San Diego playing with the Junior Symphony Orchestra. She recognized the radio station logo on the side of the car and agreed to be taken home.

Lucky girl, she lived in our home town and her father worked for the local newspaper. We loaded her cello in the back of our station-wagon and took her home.

Years later, someone told me that she said she kept us in her prayers, that she knew she was lucky we had stopped that night to help her.

Back to the young man at the junction of the road. I was driving a tiny Fiat convertible. I stopped and the boy got in, thankful for the ride. As we went down the freeway, he asked me why a woman alone would stop for someone hitchhiking.

I told him, my husband and I believed in giving a hand when we could.

He told me, he had come to California looking for work, hadn't found anything and was going home to Texas. He had a duffel bag at his feet and he said all he had was a jar of peanut butter to eat.

He again mentioned that women alone normally didn't pick up hitchhikers. I explained to him that I felt okay about it, since my husband was the driver of the car directly behind us and that he had a car phone linking him directly to the city we were nearing as we sped across the desert. (That car phone was only connected to the radio station and used for news reports but I didn't mention that to my rider.)

By that time, we had reached the city limits and I dropped him off with wishes for a speedy trip home. He didn't have my name or any other information, so I will never know if he made it back or if he was other than an upright citizen. I hope he was.

I am a firm believer that "what goes 'round, comes 'round" but I know you have to use common sense. I never stopped for another hitchhiker after that encounter.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Quite a story, about the hitchhiker. I've had a few of my own, and I stopped giving rides years ago. Sounds like you could be a "neighbor". I am in Palm Desert.


Before they built the Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel you had to take a ferry boat across from Norfolk to the North shore (Cape Charles).

There would always be a few sailors from the naval Base who needed a ride so they would approach your car to ask for the ride while you were waiting for the ferry.

They got turned down more than they were accepted so they didn't have much hope as they came to our station wagon and looked in the window.

What they saw were two adults,four kids and two cats all crowded in.

As they started to walk away without asking, we would call them back and tell them they were welcome to ride with us if they didn't mind squeezing in with the kids and cats.

Almost all went with us at least until we got across the water where they had a better chance for a ride North.

My kids loved it because some of the sailors told them great stories of sea adventures. Only downside for the sailors was cat hair all over their Navy Blue uniforms.

I enjoyed your story and I sort of miss the old days when it was reasonably safe to give a young person a lift.

I hated it when they outlawed hitch hiking. When we were kids, about 12 that was our only way to get to the grocery store at the beach, 4 miles away. Everyone always stopped and picked us up, but when my parents found out what we were doing, they hit the ceiling. Then we had to listen to terrible tales of what might happen so decided it was better to quit. But my own sons did a lot of it, but being boys I never worried and thankfully they came through unscathed by it.

Very nice story Marcy. Long ago when I was in my 20s my truck broke down in a bad snow storm. I bundled up and started hitchhiking. I was surprised that a young lady with two small children gave me a ride to the next gas station. I never forgot that lady; her courage; and her kindness.

Linda, yes, we were in Imperial Valley almost 50 years, good people in those little desert towns!
I've had several people stop and help me, you don't forget the kindness.

As kids (starting about age 10)we hitchhiked to swimming areas almost every day during summer. I never had any problem, and never heard of one.

One wonders if society has changed so much for the worse, of if we just hear of a few sad stories and overreact.

In blizzards, Dan, you don't leave someone walking. It could be your death sentence. I once had a friend pick up a guy who asked her if she was nervous about picking up a hitchhiker. She said no and when he asked her a little while later, why, she replied that if he looked carefully, he could see that she never took both hands off the steering wheel. She also didn't encourage him to buckle up. She told him nicely that if he tried anything tricky, she'd slam into a tree and was pretty sure she'd live and he wouldn't. He was very quiet after that and left without saying much when she dropped him off. I still admire her quick thinking. Great story.

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