Author: Colm Brady

A hitch-hiking voyage.

The drizzle started when he got to the hitching spot. It was a couple of miles outside town at a crossroads so it caught all the traffic heading North from Galway and the South. Right here traffic naturally slowed and there was space for a car to pull in safely. Enda left his bag down and got out the cardboard sign. The sign consisted of two panels hinged together. Galway, Athlone, Dublin and Longford. He flicked the cards until Longford was visible and stuck out his thumb.
The idea behind the sign was to try and get a direct lift and avoid a series of short hops. Farmers were notorious for dropping people in the middle of nowhere. They meant well but it usually involved walking at least a mile to find a safe spot. The other purpose of the sign was that it demonstrated literacy, people tended to stop sooner for people who could read.
New Red BMW ! Not a notion. The guy was on his mobile phone and didn’t even glance over at him. Posh cars were generally not much use .  There was a profile that worked. The ideal was a Rep, they covered a lot of ground and were chatty. They eased the process a lot but it was raining now so anything would do.
People had sympathy when it rained at first. If a hitcher is soaked to the skin only the best of good Samaritans was going to stop. Out of the mist came a Rusty Mark I Ford Escort . A Farmer. The guy had a shock of white hair and a Collie dog on the front seat. The Escort creaked to a halt and the Farmer greeted him.
“Getcha ta Ballymahon if that’s any good ta ye.”
This was fifteen miles progress and a bit of shelter so he went to hop in. The dog whined and refused to move so the farmer grabbed the blue rope that hung from the collar and pulled the animal into the back seat. Enda sunk into the poorly sprung dog seat and pulled the door shut. They achieved the Escort’s cruising speed of forty in sixty seconds and the Farmer demanded his bit of conversation.
“They found yer man  in the lake.”
The art of good hitching conversation is to tune into the driver’s subject, regardless of how boring, offensive or absurd it is.
“Oh yeah, was he dead then?”
“Of course he was dead, he was in the bottom of the Fuckin Lake. They had to get divers in to find him.”
Enda left a respectable gap so the Farmer would give him something to go on. The Farmer obliged.
“Those Divers are serious, they can get the bends.”
“The Bends?”
“Yeah when you go down deep enough your blood boils and comes out yer eyes.”
“I heard about that all right, I don’t suppose the Lake is deep enough. The blood would only warm up a bit.”
The farmer looked at Enda and at the dog behind him. His forehead wrinkled as he pointed at Enda’s bag on the floor.
“Are you a student in the college?”
“I just finished there in June, I went down to sign on today.”
The Farmer nodded in approval at this course of action.  Getting money off the government was to be applauded in his opinion.
“I heard some of those student wans are gamey enough.”
The farmer left room for Enda to elaborate but Enda just grunted. These conversations made for long lifts and were not to be encouraged.
“It said in the paper that some of them wear rubber underpants with spikes in them.” said the farmer. This was obviously a subject that he had dwelled on for a while. Enda saw that they would be at the next hitching point in a few minutes. He decided to burst the farmer’s illusion.
“I never met any of them in four years.”
The Farmer didn’t look too worried anyway.
“Who will win the County final this year?” asked the Farmer.
They were on the border of two counties so conceivably he could be talking about either. This is where hitching etiquette cuts in.
“I would say the other crowd will shade it.”
“You are right – the Bastards won it last year too.”
They approached the metropolis of Ballymahon and Enda picked his bag up from the floor. The Escort slowed down and he opened the door.
“Thanks for the lift. Good luck.”
“God bless and I hope it doesn’t piss down on you.”
The dog hopped back in the front seat and the Escort left in a belch of blue smoke.