THE HITCH HIKER
By Gary Sorkin
Everyone will agree that it is not a good idea to pick up a hitch hiker. We’ve all seen those movies on TV where the driver stops on a lonely highway to pick up the traveler on the side of the road. We all know what is coming as the hitch hiker gives our naïve good samaritan an evil leer, as the shiny point of a knife peeks out of his jacket pocket.
Picking up a stranger was the furthest thing from my mind as I was driving to the store one hazy cool Sunday morning. A thin well-dressed man, (I will explain the well-dressed part later) was standing alone on the side of the road. He held up his hand as I passed him. His thumb seemed to be up in the air. I slowed up and then stopped.
What’s wrong with me? I watch TV. I don’t want my decapitated head found in the woods somewhere!!
He shuffled slowly over to the passenger side of my car and pointed in the direction I was going. I unlocked the door.
Rules to live by:
Never take candy from strangers. Don’t run with scissors. Never go swimming on a full stomach. And NEVER pick up a hitch hiker.
I looked him over as he slid into the seat next to me. He was elderly, at least 20 years my senior. I looked at his breast pocket for “the bulge.” It didn’t look as if he was packing any “heat.” I looked for the “evil leer.” There was none; just a pleasant smile.
He was dressed impeccably. A well made sports jacket, neatly pressed trousers, white shirt, a shine on his shoes, and a perfectly made Windsor knotted tie pulled up to the exact corner at the triangle of his neck. The kind of knot I only wished I could tie.
“Where you going, mister? Just coming from church all dressed up like that?” says I.
I’ll let him tell it. I’ll paraphrase it into my words.
Thanks for picking me up, young fellow. I’m just going down the road about a mile to the store for my morning coffee. I was getting a bit winded.
(An aside here: Boomer men just love being called “young fellow”).
Go on, sir.
I dress like this everyday. It’s the way a gentleman should look. (I was self-conscious of the rip that was showing at the knee of my jeans.) I was in the haberdashery business my whole life until I had to retire. We made quality in those days. There’s workmanship and pride in every stitch we ever made; not like the garments they make today. I have over 45 suits in my closet. Here, feel the lapel of this coat. Pure Gabardine, - today, it’s all fake stuff, a mixture of this and that. Not much is real. Overpriced too.
I felt the lapel on his jacket. Indeed, it felt quite strong and, uhh, Gabardine-ish. It felt like quality. We passed a patch of woods. The image of my head rolling next to a tree did flash before my eyes, but we pressed on.
Feeling like a gentleman
I think a gentleman should look his best at all times. You’ll never see me outside without a shine on my shoes and the best suit on my back. Nice clothes do make a man feel more like a man, you know? Do you want to feel the lapel again, youngster?
I had to laugh. We were almost at the store. His name was Harry, mine you can see at the top of this page. We laughed at the sound of our two names together.
I pulled up to the curb in front of the store. I told him that I had to do a few chores and would drive him back if he wished. He checked the knot on his tie, the crease on his trousers, and said that it was unnecessary, he’d walk back. Before he opened the door to leave I asked him how old he was.
“I was 94 two months ago. Not bad, huh?” He did a slight twirl, the big show-off.
I smiled, “Wow, 94, that’s wonderful. If you were a woman I’d give you a birthday kiss.”
He got out and thanked me. He said, “If you do, I’d have to tell my mother on you.”
I watched him walk into the store. I waited to hear if there were any gun shots. There were none. I guess he wasn’t going to hold-up the store after all.
Okay, I promise never to run with scissors.