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January 30, 2023

Overland

By Pete Armetta

As I popped out my thumb I was hoping to get a quick lift, as some of those other vagabonds were lurking around all day yesterday and I didn't have any strength left to entertain them anymore: too tiring, gets on the nerves. I have places to go and my time around here had become incredibly boring and droll. A real yawner.

The morning traffic is noisy and harried, like usual at this hour, what with folks off to their tight-noose jobs and today's weather finally tepid. Off to the malls and other destinations I suppose, too. So be it -- I've no ill will. Let people be as they are. I'm no longer impatient about them not responding in kind.

Abstention from interference.

So my knapsack is light, which is good -- it makes for easier tripping. Yesterday I buried the little money I have with my sentimental effects, nothing of any value to anyone anyway. I'll return for THAT on my reverse out of THERE I suppose -- or after I transition to the great beyond.

Whichever comes first.

My thumb attracts nothing. Those other rovers and homeless guys too put up signs, announcing their burdens and suffering. That's not my style really. I don't care when or even if I get picked up. I'll pose here for a while, as I do entertain myself this way. Hey, if I didn't laugh at myself who else would? A Toyota pulled over, well, a Prius, I guess. Didn't Toyota get fatally maimed awhile back with some flaw or mistake in their design? I don't know. This car looks new anyway.

"Come on son, hurry up if you want to get going here," said the man doing the driving. He strained his neck to talk to me out the passenger side window. I jumped in the front, throwing my knapsack in the back. "Thank you," I said. It did feel good to sit down on a cushiony seat, and the aesthetics of the vehicle were pleasant enough.

And this man came off as nice enough. Conventional, you know. Not like a week or so ago when that crazy redneck, drunken and looking-for-trouble kid picked me up.

My mistake.

The man asked, "Where you going?" looking me up and down and in the eyes. We set out on the highway heading west.

"As far as you're going. Where are you going?"

"On my way to work, over in Springfield."

"Okay, that's good then." I smiled at him, showing him my toothy grin.

"Well, where are you going?"

"Well, I'm going there. To Springfield. With you."

This man changed over into the fast lane, gunning his little econo-model. These are the cars that people buy to save the planet, geesh. Well I won't bring that up. He was a bit nervous too. I mean not like a nervous type -- he just didn't know what to say to me. I'm used to that though and generally am glad. I don't really have the need to talk or engage much. I'm content being silent. The man was fooling with the radio, with his cell phone wiring coming out of his head, and his papers and Burger King refuse littering the back seat. Must be the busy type, yeh. Funny, I used to be one of them. I leaned my head back on the headrest and placed my eyes on the passing panorama. I'll miss this place, it's prettier than most.

"Do you work around here? Have family around here?"

Oh gosh.

"Well, I have some around here, and no I don't work here. I'm just visiting."

Silence.

"Well, how do you make do then? I mean how do you make money?"

I looked at him, pausing to measure my words. "I don't make money. I make do without money. Often it's the kindness of people like you who are generous enough to give a lift and some company," with other niceties thrown in.

Car drone.

"Well what are your plans? I mean when you get to Springfield?"

Lord.

"I don't have any plans. I'll know when I get there."

I guess confounding people is something I'm so used to, that it doesn't give me much pause nor concern anymore. I confound me too! I'll use the time I have in Springfield to find a shower and maybe a friendly meal with another roamer (when will they learn not to carry their money with them?) That'll suit fine. I've much further to go anyway. I really need to hightail it back west as quickly as possible. Things have gotten too green around here. When my thumb's out again, I'll hopefully get a bored and overworked trucker looking for a little excitement (and hopefully not more this time), who's going for the long haul. That'll give my itchy feet a reprieve from this relentless itching.

Back when I was a rubber tramp, things were a bit easier. But keeping up with the old beater car was something I quickly learned was impractical. Going overland is less of a hassle. Besides, cars cost money and I sure the hell ain't gonna find some shitty-assed job to support all THAT!

I'd rather not put socks on if I don't have to.

The man and I crossed over the gap in the mountains and descended down to Springfield, exit for the center up ahead. "Where do you want to get off?" he asked.

"Wherever you're going."

He looked at me and I could feel his growing impatience. "You can drop me off right at the exit if you want, I mean wherever you're exiting the freeway."

This satisfied him. He was ready to be done with me anyway. At the end of the off-ramp he said, "Here?" He pulled over to the side of the road and I opened the door.

"Wait a minute son," he said, holding out a tenner my way.

"No need," I told him smiling. "Thanks for the ride!"

No envy here.

I crossed the feeder road and headed into a little dive-luncheonette, asked and was pointed to the restroom. I sponge washed myself, took off my bandana and washed my hair some, fussed a bit to change my pants, and went out and sat in a booth. I dropped my knapsack on the bench next to me, pulled out a paperback and opened the zippers to reorganize my gear. A waitress came over and asked for my order, and I smiled and asked for a minute; told her I had to get myself together some. She smiled back, genuinely too, with a warm and curious eye contact. The bells hanging on the front door chimed, and I looked up and saw a guy walk in. He was askew and beaten down -- a drifter for sure. He saw me and headed over, cautiously sitting down across from me.

The waitress came over and asked him if he wanted anything, putting ice water on the table for both. I slurped some down and he asked for two coffees.

"Coffee's okay with you?"

"Coffee will do just fine."

Article © Pete Armetta. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-01-07
Image(s) © Sam Parr. All rights reserved.
1 Reader Comments
Sand
01/14/2013
06:49:57 AM
Great job, Pete and Sam. When I was 16, this was my goal in life.
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