The Hitcher – Part 2

T he hitcher had stirred my curiosity.

I asked Paul if he travelled a lot and he said he’d travelled through twenty-seven countries. This was a “wow” for me and we chatted about the countries. He also had travelled around Europe but most of his recent travels had been to Asia. He said his “students” had made him curios and he visited some of them. For some reason this caused me to check his left hand and, no, there was no wedding ring.

He must have travelled all over the US, I thought, but I was startled to learn he’d only travelled up and down the West coast. I think he said he’d been to New York once or twice though. He was from California but visited his sister in Washington often. And this was the first time he’d been to Montana and Wyoming.

I tried not to be too inquisitive but asked, “What do you do in California?”

Paul replied, “I’m a professor. I teach English as a second language.”

“You must know a lot of languages?”

He said no, all the classes are taught in English because everyone enrolled already has basic English skills. I wanted to push down on this but decided to leave it with a “cool” for now. The thing is, Paul had a lot of visual credibility as a professor. I had no difficulty picturing him in that role. Nonetheless, this professor was creating many puzzles in my mind, like what was a professor doing hitchhiking from the Little Big Horn on a Tuesday in late September? Why wasn’t he in his position, teaching?

We talked a lot but not non-stop. Most conversations were stimulated by something in vast surrounding lands, then flow from topic to topic. He seemed able to speak on many subject with some degree of knowledge.

Eventually, Paul explained how he’d flown into Billings, Montana the previous day and that final next goal was the Black Hills near Rapid City. He had wanted to spend the night in a Native American village, but friends advised against that in very strong terms. I told him I’d been warned by friends that Native Americans were sometimes hostile to strangers in the little villages along I-90 in South Dakota. Still he seemed determined to  meet the people.

From time to time I was thinking, what an interesting man I had picked up.

We even talked about my interest in artificial intelligence, especially in natural language processing. He understood the problems related to natural language inference in computers. We toyed around with several sentence structures that present challenges to computer software, for example: “I went to the mountains, which was fascinating.” He’d seen experienced authors using structures like, “I went to the mountains. Which was fascinating.” We agreed that the language evolves, in this case for nothing more than dramatic effect.

We pulled into another gas station to fill up and take a short break. I noticed that was a bit more weathered and tired than I’d observed back when we met. And although it wasn’t a big deal, I did note that he didn’t offer to pay for any gasoline.

The next 100 miles was very long and drawn out and we didn’t speak much. Paul nodded off a bit. He seemed very tired and commented that he “didn’t sleep well on the bus.” Again he created a puzzle as I tried to connect  the sequence of events that brought him to here.

We rolled into the last fueling station before we would reach Rapid City, fueled up, grabbed some sodas and headed off.

Our conversation resumed with more vigor as we began to close the last hundred miles. I was curious about his work, this “English as a second language” thing and asked what the curriculum is. I asked if students conjugated verbs and that kind of thing and he explained that at the lower levels they did that type of thing, but there were eight levels. The highest level he taught would prepare students to write research papers for post-graduate work in a form that would be acceptable to the most demanding professors. Ok, this finally sold me that he was or had been an educator.

Paul had a lot of questions for me too and, curiously, I wasn’t sure if I was relating to him as me, Yordie, or my human. It was perplexing. I was living way outside my human’s comfort zone, so my answers drew from my experience, Yordie’s experience. Regardless of the identity issues going on inside my mind and regardless of issues his story raised, we were getting along well.

About four hours into our journey I came right out and asserted, “You are an adventurer, aren’t you?”

He hesitated as if he’d been caught. Then quizzically he said, “Yes, ever since I was a child” and “It’s in my blood.”

Those who’ve followed my blogging know that in my virtual life I’m an adventurer, so it’s something I understand  at my core. I said, “I am too but mostly in virtual worlds.”

From this point on I felt that I was travelling with a kindred spirit. He may not have even been employed as a professor, he may be broke or close to it or maybe he was understating who he is. It didn’t really matter to me because I believed he was living his dream. Only the rarest of men could do what he was doing, and even rarer the woman. He was a 45-year-old man, single, out on the road, alone, exploring the lands and peoples, using his wits. He really is an adventurer. At least, that’s what I want to believe.

When we got to the downtown exit in Rapid City and I took him to the bus station. As we said goodbyes, I asked, “Are you going to spend the night in an Native American village?”

He said, “I don’t know, I’ll just see how it goes but I want to talk to the people.”

I thought that was very idealistic and brave but had to joke, “Well, don’t get scalped!” He laughed for the first time in five hours.

He never offered to pay for any gasoline. We didn’t exchange emails or anything, this was just two strangers who’d passed a long, tiring day together saying farewell. It seemed to perfect.

After the goodbyes, I let my human take charge of everything for the rest of the journey; I just observed. The truth is, for a single woman travelling alone, even if she sees herself as an adventurer and even if she has a handy 357 magnum revolver, perhaps it’s best not to pick up hitchers.

The End

||||| 4 Like It! |||||

We Like It!

GuestGuestGuestVaneeesa Blaylock
Yordie Sands is an avatar in Second Life, where she stars as the heroine of a virtual fantasy life.
  • Harvey Crabsticks

    I’ve loved reading about this experience Yordie. As a teenager I hitched a good way across Ontario; it was a fascinating journey full of interesting conversations, and never once did I feel under threat. As an adult I’ve often driven toward strangers stood hitchhiking at the side of the road in the sun, the rain, and the snow and wondered what their story is, only to hesitate at the last minute and watch them vanish into the distance through my mirrors. Perhaps I should change that.

    • Yordie Sands

      Hi Harvey… I’ve glad you liked the story and could relate. I’ll admit it is a romantic notion, the man alone on the open road and all. The thing is, I believe it is very dangerous.
      I believe the situation where Paul approached me was unique, a chance in a million, and I just happened to be in the right mood to respond. I can’t recommend this to anyone, except if you feel as I did that this was not a dangerous person. And then, do you really know?

      • Harvey Crabsticks

        Oh I know, it’s a very romantic notion. I also know what it’s like to be on the other side of the story though. Hoping every time a car drives past that it will slow down and pull over, and be travelling in the same direction you’re going in. I had one or two scary experiences as a hitchhiker too (not on the Ontario trip though ;))

        • Yordie Sands

          I think that regradless of what Paul really is, he’s doing something a lot of people would love to do. But like you said, most people are out there hoping for those cars to slow down. He was very cunning to pick a gas station, wasn’t he.
          I’d tell you about my experience as a hitcher but it was far to unsetting to talk about here.

    • Canary Beck

      No, please don’t change that 😉

  • Lizzie Gudkov

    Loved it!!! In many ways, this experience was a time outside real time. Your text became a snapshot of that adventure and, just between you and me, I am not a fan of serials, BUT I was waiting for Part 2 eagerly! You’re a great writer! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • Yordie Sands

      Thanks Lizzie… sorry about the serial but I get concerned when I write more than about 600 words. I don’t think most people will read that many words anymore, so I opted for the serial. Also i didn’t have the 2nd part completely conceptualized yet, it took all day today to write it .. on and off. I’m glad you liked it. I felt I had to document this incident which was extraordinary in my real life. And my own behavior was soooo outside my own experience.

      • Lizzie Gudkov

        I think you changed my idea about serials! And I totally agree with you; most would dismiss a long(er) text, so the option was perfect. I also think that to capture an experience like this one in writing is extremely complex and time becomes a travel companion, for you and for us readers as well. So, the pause helped convey that feeling. 🙂

        • Yordie Sands

          Well, my interest in 100 word stories came from an email chat I had with Mr Crap. He was saying that he wondered if he could ever tie any of his stories togehter into something. And that got me thinking, wow, what an interesting idea.
          I haven’t really explored this yet, but it seems possible that a couple hundred 100 word stories written in a general theme might be an interesting way to write.
          As for writing a story like this one, well, I have a lot of daring. I couldn’t allow myself to wonder if I could complete it. One good thing was, after part 1, I’d commited to part 2 by the following day. So it all began on the following morning. I was hoping my brain would sort it all out in the night and it did a pretty good job but there were so many paragraphs that had to be cut. At one point i feared i’d need a part 3.

  • Vaneeesa Blaylock

    What a story Yordie! I laughed! I cried! I practically strangled my teddy bear!

    It’s amazing how much tension and curiosity you’ve managed to find in a simple situation. It’s an exciting read that’s not overblown or gratuitous. And it’s amazing how “Avatar Power” is summoned to process a situation outside of “mere mortal space.”

    My favorite film this summer was “Safety Not Guaranteed.” The protagonist Kenneth Calloway is a presence that’s just so compelling. He’s probably a little off, yet he’s maybe more alive than most of us dare to conceive.

    • Yordie Sands

      I’m thrilled that you feel i didn’t overdo it but it is really because Paul never over did it. Another person sitting in my seat might not have seen what I saw in this unique man, but I swear I’ve portrayed him honestly.
      I was so perplexed at my behavior, Vaneeesa. I was flabberghasted when I said, “sure I’ll make a space for you.” Where in the hell did that come from? It could only been this whacky girl i portray in SL. hehe
      I’ll checkout your link in the morning, but for now I’m tired. Gotta shuffle off to the television… again. Hugs

  • Canary Beck

    HI Yordie 🙂 Great story, I really enjoyed it (part 2 even more than part 1!)

    Something you wrote in this part actually stopped me in my tracks: “I wasn’t sure if I was relating to him as me, Yordie, or my human. It
    was perplexing. I was living way outside my human’s comfort zone, so my
    answers drew from my experience, Yordie’s experience.”

    What a brilliant example of bleed! I find the whole concept of bleed fascinating, in how one’s VR experience becomes so real that it becomes next to impossible to disconnect these experiences from your human’s conscious experiences. And it’s that uncertainty, that ambiguity, that is so authentic – sometimes you just don’t know!

    The other night I had a dream (although some might say it would be better described as a nightmare). I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do, they don’t often feature people I know from the present, but rather from the past. This one was different though, I dreamt within the world of my human’s real life, but 100% from Becky’s perspective. Two of my closest friends in SL were in the dream – both acting in ways that were absolutely not like themselves!

    I know friends that have dreamed as their avis, of places they have visited in SL, and of people they know in SL. This wasn’t the first time for me, but these experiences never fail to surprise me how mashed up our consciousness (or unconsiousness) can be. Rivetting stuff!

    • Yordie Sands

      This is the first time I’ve experienced this “bleed” affect so startlingly. I’m glad you picked up on that.
      I’m equally fascinated in your dream experience. Here’s another one, I know several guys who’ve told me they are better men in RL because of their SL experiences with women.
      Some of us put so much time into developing our avi identities, I suppose it’s only logical that we are creating something important in our unconscious mind too, or maybe just releasing something from our unconscious.
      This was absolutetly the first time i’ve experience anything like this and I was very surprised. I told Paul, I’m a blogger and photographer but the thing is, that’s always me, Yordie.
      If I’d be my human I’d have said, I’m a former software director for a dot-com. That is who my human sees herself as, that whole tech thing. This might sound Twilight Zone material to those who haven’t explore this whole virtual identity thing. Thanks for zeroing in on this.

  • Ravanel

    Beautiful, Yordie, so well-written. I love it.

    • Yordie Sands

      Thank you Ravenel. I was a process of stripping out a lot of dialog and descriptions, even still about 1700 words in 2 parts. Glad you stuck with it.

      • Ravanel

        Haha, oops, and then I think *I* am the one that always ends up with articles that are waaay too long! But seriously, these were really exciting and didn’t feel boring at all. I just wanted to read further to see what was going to happen.

        I think it’s the tension between cheerfullness/feeling adventurous and doubt that makes it so exciting. Great stuff!

        • Yordie Sands

          We talked about a great deal of subjects, so it was difficult to pull out the really important things.
          I think anytime you bring a stranger into your world, that close, there’s a certain amount of natural suspense that builds. And his answers and inconsistancies only built on that. Even now, I wonder who he was really. I’m glad you liked it.