Please join me in welcoming CarEnvy’s new Contributing Editor, David Little.
by David Little @dlittle21
My shoes sank into the soggy grass as I shifted my weight impatiently. An easterly wind pulled low, heavy clouds passed my peripheral gaze. But we wanted to go west.
Isabella (a Danish friend with whom I was visiting) and I were planted by the side of the highway exiting Copenhagen. To save some kroner and have an adventure, she suggested that we hitchhike the 303 km to Aarhus. I was skeptical. Back home, hitchhiking is seen as a very reckless undertaking. We Canadians will avert our eyes from the dusty, motherless roadside stranger as we drive on by, thankful for a distraction so that he can promptly be forgotten. In Denmark it’s different. Trying to dispel my incredulity, Isabella, along with her mother’s corroboration, assured me that autostoping is very common and often encouraged. Indeed, even drowsy children will extend a thumb if they happened to have missed the bus to morning classes!
So there we stood, taking 10 minute shifts to rest aching shoulders and sore thumb joints. It occurred to me, as I tried to catch the eyes of passing motorists, that this was a task of attraction and confidence. Like posturing for attention at a bar, I immediately became conscious of my appearance and demeanor: “well, how do I look? hood up or down? is my beard scary? would YOU pick me up?” With a weak sun low in the sky, I eventually settled on an affable, yet stoic squinting grin, backpack resting against my knees. In contrast, Isabella donned a demure smile, chin held high, hand on hip.
The minutes shuffled while traffic sprinted. Unlike their squeamish Canadian relatives, Danish drivers were fully involved in our entreaties for transport. The mischievous returned our thumbs. The sympathetic gave pitying shakes of head. The merry waved hello. We weren’t invisible and all were curious. After 45 minutes of waning hope, a black Ford S-Max briskly pulled over. I babbled my thanks and eased my sore knees into the back seat. I felt like a rescued orphan puppy. While my companion chattered, I inspected our saviour and his vehicle. He was a blond young professional with small hands and decisive eyes. I negotiated more legroom by gingerly pushing papers and children’s bric-a-brac aside. Upon reaching the first of Denmark’s Great Belt bridges, I noticed our savior’s eyes glinting excitedly in the rear view mirror.
“Our bridges are very impressive,” he spoke with unabashed pride.
“Uh, yeah, for sure,” I returned, “This must’ve been a huge project.”
“Oh, yes!” his chest swelling, volume rising. “Danish engineers are the very best. We have designed some of the longest bridges in Asia and North America. It is because we have so many islands and rough water.”
Isabella nodded enthusiastically.
Never underestimate a Dane’s love for bridges. It is so great, in fact, that a bridge adorns their 1000 kroner note.
Smeared foliage and rushing pavement. I was awakened from hypnosis.
“Hey. He has to drop us off at a rest-stop up ahead. His father is sick and he’s going to visit him.”
We were deposited at the entrance to a shiny white gas station. I shook our driver’s hand, thanked him for his charity, and wished his father well. This wasn’t a huge obstacle, though. The parking lot was full of slumbering semis and the convenience store contained several couples caffeinating. We sat on painted metal chairs anchored to the floor while watching the clinical light shimmer on orbiting frankfurters. I purchased and greedily consumed my usual travel comfort food: a banana, King-Size Snickers bar, and a Powerade.
I looked outside. The sun was losing its strength. In a few hours it would drown below the tree line. I followed my friend to the far corner of the lot. We stood on a triangular piece of boulevard in which two lanes—passenger car and semi truck—converged into highway. I presented myself to the former while Isabella wooed the latter. After about ten minutes soft footsteps sounded behind us. A beaming young man in a formal coat and polished round-toed shoes approached us.
“Hello, my friends! I’m sorry my car is too full to carry any more passengers, but I wanted to come over and ask about your journey. Where did you come from? Where are you going?”
We spent an agreeable few minutes detailing my travels through Europe and our attempts to make it to Aarhus before sunset. He listened intently with wide eyes and discharged jovial sounds of understanding.
“Well, my friends, I thank you for sharing with me. Now I have one last question before I go… have you accepted God’s truth into your life?” He then stuck The Watchtower pamphlets in our hands and swiftly went back from whence he came. Thankfully I didn’t need to peer into the labyrinthine of Faith and Truth, because within minutes a trucker hissed to a stop beside us, waving us aboard. LOT LIZARD flashed across my mind’s eye as I lunged up the colossal steps.
Lime green dash lights obscured the rushing night. Big rig drivers are kings of the road and we had been accepted into their nobility. The Volvo’s air suspension bounced and its Jake brake intermittently chattered—this was fun. Clearly our sovereign agreed: his free meaty hand never left his sweatpants. Or perhaps it was simply amphetamines.
I was perched on the edge of the cabin bed. I uncomfortably rested my elbows on my knees and followed the truck’s snout devour lines of road paint. One of three mounted mobile phones rang. He grunted assent after listening with down-turned moustache. Hesitating, Isabella eventually informed me that, due to a scheduling change, he could not take us all the way into Aarhus. Another rest stop was selected on the GPS.
The train of yellow and red beacons had finally escaped my view as we trudged heavily across the fluorescent tarmac to the café. It had been a long day—and only a couple kilometers from our destination. We were marathon runners who gasped and fainted on the final stretch. Perhaps there is no such thing as a free lunch (or commute). We stood in the café entrance, between In and Out, surrounded by cork board advertisements. A cash register was being tallied and chairs getting stacked. Pausing, but finally acquiescing, the call was made.
[Photo credits: author]