I used to hitchhike everywhere in my mid to late teens, and people used to pick me up. There were times when I’d have to wait for 15 or 20 minutes but someone always pulled over eventually. Those were the days. The last time I thumbed a ride was ten years ago in Park City, and the only reason anyone stopped was because the Sundance Film Festival was on and I was wearing a press badge and my cowboy hat and I looked reasonably sane. Otherwise hitchhiking died…what, sometime in the late ’70s?
I was hitching north on Route 7 in Wilton, Connecticut. An old friend who was a girl (as opposed to a girlfriend) was with me, and dusk was starting to settle into night. The cars were whizzing by pretty fast (25 or 30 mph) but I was situated near a big gravel shoulder that made it easy to pull over. So I’m standing there and all of a sudden I was hit in my right shoulder…thunk. Like some boxer had walked up and punched me. It didn’t exactly “hurt” but definitely felt like a blow of some kind. I grabbed my shoulder and felt something gooey. And then chunks of something brittle, like potato chips or pieces of plaster.
That’s right — a guy riding shotgun in somebody’s car had hit me with an egg.
There was a traffic light about 100 feet in front of where I was standing, and that’s surely where he spotted me from. A friend was driving, of course. They must have been shopping at a nearby supermarket.
Imagine how fast the shotgun guy had to react. “Look at that fucking guy!” He immediately dove over the back seat and reached into one of the grocery bags. He ripped open a carton of eggs, grabbed one, rolled down the passenger window and told the driver to slow down a tad. It’s not that hard to hit something from a moving car but you can miss if you’re not careful. Did he throw the egg like a baseball or did he do an underhand lob? Was he aiming for my head?
“The fuck…somebody just hit me with an egg!” I yelled. The girl who was a friend (i.e., Nancy) found this hilarious. Gales of laughter. I was mystified. Why would anyone do that? I was scraping the yolk and the gooey clear fluid off my jacket and throwing tiny gobs of it to the ground. Nancy couldn’t stop laughing.
For whatever reason I’ve never forgotten this moment.
Posted on 4.15.15: “I embraced sobriety on 3.20.12. Every so often I’ll look back and go, ‘Whoa…that happened in my drinking days.’ Which were only occasionally wild. Except for my vodka-and-lemonade period from ’93 to ’96, which involved two alcohol-related car collisions, I never felt as if my life was all that negatively affected by drinking. Nor did I ever decide in my 20s and 30s that things had become problematic due to pot, hallucinogens, quaaludes and cocaine toots.
“I saw my nocturnal adventures as purely supplemental. I never partied during work hours. I saw myself as someone who worked hard, always woke up early, killed myself to become a half-decent writer, kept myself in shape and led a more-or-less disciplined life.
“Yes, I behaved erratically and irresponsibly at times, but when I was younger I believed that a life without Jack Daniels and beer and quaaludes and revelry represented a kind of death. On top of which my romantic life was fairly spectacular back then so there was that besides.
“One night I was at a party in Wilton with the usual assortment of drinking buddies. I started to feel tired around 1 am or so (I had to work the next day) but the guy I came with wasn’t in the mood to leave. I went outside for whatever reason and noticed that a friend who lived about a mile from my place was preparing to leave. He began to get into his ride (an LTD Ford station wagon) with his girlfriend and two other couples. I asked for a lift and he said ‘Uhm, I don’t think there’s any room, Jeff.’
“So without telling my friend (i.e., Pete) I decided to sneak a ride on top of his car, lying spread-eagled and holding on to the luggage rack. It was a moonless, pitch-black night and I somehow managed to gently crawl on top without anyone noticing. Don’t ask me.
“The car took off and it felt great at first. Then the LTD hit a straightaway and was moving a good 50 mph or faster. The ride lasted a good 15 or 20 minutes. No, I didn’t get thrown off by a sudden tromping of the brakes but I began to worry about something like that happening. That’s drinking for you — you do something stupid and then it hits you midway through the episode that you might get hurt. High-velocity air molecules were slamming my face the whole time, of course. I climbed off when Pete unloaded the first passenger and walked the rest of the way, or another half-mile or so.
“Right now I’m thinking if I hadn’t been a spirited party animal I couldn’t look back and say, ‘Hey, I rode on top of a station wagon at 50 mph through pitch blackness with eight or nine beers in my system.’ The situation was what it was.”