This past week, on my way to the cabin to write, I passed a woman with her thumb stuck out. I picked her up. I've been alive nearly 60 years and I haven't picked up hitchhikers since I was a teenager. In fact, I'm sure I've passed 5,000 hitchhikers in my lifetime and it hasn't even occurred to me to stop and pick anyone up.
Scientifically we know that we subliminally gather clues that let us know whether we're safe or in danger. Maybe since the hitchiker was dressed like me - casual-Colorado with hiking books - and she was holding a Mom-looking coffee cup, I instinctively felt I could and should give her a lift. Perhaps, also, as she walked to the car, I noticed that she looked more nervous than I was - but I'd already stopped by that time.
Here's what I think is more likely:
I've been living in a small town now for a year. It's a place where, when I stopped to buy produce and realized I didn't have cash on me, the owner (Ralph) told me to take my stuff and just stop by later and pay him, even though he didn't know me.
Then the other day Bob and I were out looking at houses and stopped in a little mountain community near us to chat with an elderly couple working in their yard. When we asked about houses that might be for sale nearby, Dwilette hopped in the backseat of our car and showed us around town. "Go ahead and peak in their windows," she informed us at one place. "They're not home and I'll tell them later I said it was OK."
As she tooled around town with us, I had a thought that had been lolling around in my head for the past year. I'm in a little town again, like the one I grew up in. People trust one another. How amazing that I once took that for granted.
It turned out that I was spot-on about my hitchhiker. She'd headed out to work that morning and discovered that her battery was dead. None of her neighbors were around so she just walked out to the highway and stuck out her thumb. "By the way, my name is Robin," she said after we'd chatted about living in the mountains, and discussed our work and families. I dropped her off at the store where she works, a few miles from my writing cabin.
It's true that it could have been all that scientific stuff that made me give a stranger a lift to work that day. But I think I may have just been returning Dwilette's gift of trust.
Not so warily,