all hail the hitch hiking gods

Three hours of sleep, a few rolls, a few cups of coffee, and a cardboard sign, written in thick sharpie marker: “Prague.”

We’d gotten instructions from hitch base to a spot that, a whole bunch of virtual people said, would get us out of Munich in under twenty minutes. We just had to take the U2 to Nordfriedhof, climb through some alleged bushes–“They weren’t really bushes” and “It was more like a green strip between lanes” and “I didn’t see any fucking bushes,” read the comments on the Munich thread–and our luck would find us in seconds. But the directions didn’t say anything about which of the five Nordfriedhof station exits to use (any one is fine, just walk to the enormous, busy intersection with all the yellow signs with city names on them), and we, just as confused about the alleged bushes as the rest of ’em, decided to just try standing at one of the busy intersection corners.

Leopard stood behind us, off to the side, apparently still worried that something about him was scaring people away–though it may have been a simple gender bias. People tell me, over and over again, that it’s much easier to hitch rides as a girl because people are less concerned that you’re going to try to kick their asses and steal their car/money/virginity. Katey and I stood with our long cardboard sign smiling and jumping up and down and making up little songs about the people driving by, cursing the ones who gave us mean looks, giving each other high fives when a driver would give us that “I would take you but I’m not going your way” smile and shrug.

Now me, I like to invent superstitions. Greek mythology and conventional religion have never done much for me, but superstitions, I can drink to. The way I see it, superstitions are a way of helping people mentally deal with things out of their control. They are a way to teach others how to stay happy and healthy. They are mythology, before it gets epic, and religion before it gets dangerous. Most superstitions have a basis in some sort of fact. In one part of China, one of my English students once told me, people say that you shouldn’t put your door on a certain side of your house lest evil spirits smite you and your family. The origin of this little legend, she told me, is that the wind in that area usually comes from that direction, and that putting your door on that side makes for a cold, drafty house. Superstitions turn into myth and religion and legend once we forget what the stories are for, when we no longer need them. Before that they are just stories, invented to help us keep safe, and I’ve always loved making up stories.

So I talk about the dumpster gods like they’re personal friends of mine, and I imagine that, somewhere, there must be hitch hiking gods with enormous thumbs and piles of old cardboard signs watching out for all the nomads and the tramps. I don’t know much about them yet–this trip only being my third trip thumbing–but I imagine they are the sorts who are appeased by things like getting up really early, not turning down rides (except the kind of rides that give you that warning feeling in your stomach), little pictures on your signs, and little dances on the side of the road.

For all Katey and I’s songs and smiles and dances, we couldn’t get a ride. Not in fifteen minutes, not in thirty, and not in an hour. Then I noticed the tall building down a little walking path behind us and remembered that there’d also been something about “in front of the big apartment building” in the internet instructions.

Down the path, in front of the tall glass building were the infamous bushes. Which we pushed through right onto The Official Best Spot Ever for Hitch Hiking Out of Munich Eastwards. In twenty minutes a man had stopped, and he wasn’t just going to take us to the next gas station on the highway, he was going to take us all the way to Prague. Not only that, he was the hungover hitch hiker’s dream: the car going all the way to your destination, with the driver who has no interest in talking to you at all. Sometimes you’re just not standing in quite the right spot.

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