Stick Your Thumb Out and Go

by Leigh Anne Jasheway
Leigh Anne Jasheway

Women aren’t supposed to hitchhike. It’s too foolish and risky.

The first time I hitched, I was in the fourth grade. I stood out on my front lawn and thrust out my thumb. It was something I’d learned from an episode of The Mod Squad (go ahead, Google it. I’ll wait…) I hitched all the way to my best friend Sue’s house two blocks away. Okay, so it was my dad who gave me the lift. But in my mind, I was hip. I was cool. I was and independent woman of the ‘70s.

The second time I hitched, in the early ‘80s, I made it a little further. I was riding the bus to work in Houston when it broke down in the middle of one of the busiest freeways in the city. The 59 other passengers and I had three choices: sit in the bus and wait three to four hours in the heat for another bus to make its way through the traffic, hitchhike, or rappel down the side of the overpass using pantyhose and high heels as makeshift mountaineering equipment.

I was wearing neither pantyhose nor high heels (such a rebel I was), so I opted for sticking out the old thumb. I ended up getting a ride with a deputy sheriff who regaled me with graphic tales of the unpleasant ends female hitchhikers often come to as he fiddled with the gun in his holster.

Needless to say, both of my hitching experiences have stuck with me and nowadays, I tend to either use my own transportation or just stay home and watch the Weather Channel. “See, it’s raining in Iowa, so there’s no point going there…”

The main reason I’ve given up hitchhiking is fear of rejection.

I just know I’d be standing out there with my cardboard sign that says, “Not a criminal” and the guy across the highway with a machete would get picked up first. That’s the way it’s always been. Softball teams, proms… the guy with the machete was always beating me out.

But I don’t want to stop you from having your own big mistake, uh, I mean, great adventure, out on the open road. With the high costs of vacationing, it may be the only way you can visit the Grand Canyon, Dollywood, or the Antique Vibrator Museum in San Francisco.

But before you head out on the highway, let me give you a few tips. After all, I have experience.

  1. Dress for success. If you wear a ratty old bathrobe or a clear plastic raincoat with an orange mohair dickey, you’ll be lucky to get a ride with a long-distance trucker with marital troubles and a semi-truck full of kale. On the other hand, if you dress in tennis whites, or, better yet, black tie, you improve your chances of getting picked up by a tanned couple in a Tesla with a sunroof and in-car WiFi. Avoid the most common hitchhiking fashion faux pas – a jacket that says, “I don’t care. Do you?” or a pair of nylons pulled over your face.
  2. Make sure your sign is clear and suitable for the task. You are a lot more likely to get a ride while holding up a grammatically correct sign that says, “I’d be most appreciative of a lift to San Diego where I’m scheduled to present a paper at a major conference” than if you hold up one that says “Dude, I’m a Libra, I’ll go wherever.”
  3. Never, ever, attempt to make eye contact with passing motorists. This makes you appear needy and desperate. As you know from trying to get picked up in bars, needy and desperate almost never works. To maximize your chances of getting a ride, act busy, like you have better things to do than to worry about whether anyone is going to stop for you. Set up an easel and paint, Tweet pictures of the dusty road, or plant a small herb garden in the median.
  4. Don’t travel with animals. Chances are, drivers will want to give your dog, cat or miniature pony a lift, but leave you behind. That kind of extra rejection you don’t need.
  5. Never have more than one bag (and keep it small and clean). If you appear to have too much baggage, drivers may pass you by for lack of room or fear of getting sucked into your drama. It’s also advisable to never travel with a steamer trunk or a coffin.

And if you do end up at the vibrator museum, please post pics.

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