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Hitchhiking in Florida

The votes are in and Hitchhiking it is. But for those who went for #5, I’m going to write about that too because despite the innocuous title, that one is the genuine brush with death story (that and falling off a roof).

For those unfamiliar with the concept, you used to be able to get around Canada and America by delivering cars. On this occasion I got a trip from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale to deliver a ’74 Oldsmobile Cutlass belonging to a couple of Jewish retirees.

Basically I got gas money and free transport and they didn’t have to drive the long distance, it’s all done through and agency and is completely legal. The proviso is that the car must be delivered on time and without any extra miles, there is some slight latitude on the miles but not much.

I had been in Canada for about a year and was used to the hospitality of Canadians, so I wasn’t too concerned about arriving at night, figuring that after bringing their car to them unharmed and helping them unload all the crap that they had managed to squeeze in they would invite me to stay the night. I only had the driver’s seat, everything else was a solid mass of household crap and clothes. Not so, once I had spent 30 minutes lugging boxes of household items into their condo I was wished a bon voyage and shown the door (a first for me as I’m a charming guy, honest).

I was headed for Marshall Fla, a bit further north and stupidly decided to hitch hike in southern Florida after 9:00pm, hey I didn’t say I was a genius. So off I went, my first ride picked me up from under a nice bright street light and 10 minutes later dropped me in middle of nowhere in total darkness. I walked about a mile (it seemed) to find another well lit safe place and bugger me! same thing happened again. I got about three more short rides, and annoyingly every one of them picked me up from a well lit safe area I had walked to and dropped me off in the middle of nowhere in total darkness.

So it was that about midnight a pickup pulled over and I got in. The ride lasted about 25 minutes and in that time I actually feared for my life. I would have been able to handle a redneck (hell I’m part redneck myself), and I was ok with the guns in the rack even though I’m not too fond of guns. What did concern me however was how drunk he was.

But wait, there’s more. He was not just extremely drunk, he was angry (something I had initially failed to notice due to his accent) but as we took off he began weaving all over the road. The more he talked the more I was able to understand his accent (I’ve always been good with foreign languages). What I realised after a while was that most of the time he was actually talking to himself, and what I could gather was that he had just broken up with his girlfriend and was deciding the best option of three possible alternatives: a) killing her, b) killing himself, or c) killing someone else, (anyone else would do it seemed). Gulp!!

This could have gone horribly wrong but all of a sudden he just pulled over and said “this is as far as I’m going”, (I’ve used the english translation here as I can’t spell what he actually said). I got out real quick and started walking as fast as I could, while he turned down a dirt road and was gone. Unfortunately I was once again in the middle of nowhere in total darkness but this time I was so shaken that I found a bridge on the turnpike to hide under and stayed there until the sun came up.

If you want to read about how wrong it could have gone, here’s a couple of links to Ivan Milat: (long version) or (shorter version). This guy was a blight on civilization.

Oh, just one more thing. During the periods between rides as I was walking in search of secure well lit areas, there was often the sound of something large crashing through the undergrowth. I found out later that I had spent a couple of hours walking besides waterways and that the sound was alligators thrashing about.


9 Responses

  1. Oh my! That would be very scary. I hope you aren’t afraid of the dark. I sure am.I also really want to hear about Sailing on Los Banos. Couldya, wouldya, please?

  2. YIKES!!! VERY SCARY! – There are some freaky people out there in the back woods of the Deep South – didn’t you ever see Deliverance?

  3. marnie, that’s all the encouragement I need to write that one! Actually its not so much a ‘brush with death’ but more of a ‘you dickhead, you could have died’ sort of thing and its pretty funny.

  4. AAAAAAAAA!!!! Great story. But I knew the Optometrist story must have been your brush with death – such a dull premise had to be interesting 🙂 Besides that, eye doctors freak me out.

  5. You had me chewing my p-nut butter sandwich as fast as I could, heart pounding, waiting for the guy to pull out a knife — I could pull a knife out right now I guess If you like jelly with your pnut butter. I could cut the last half in two. Lunch time (reading crosseyed and fast)trying to keep up with everyone

  6. Oh wow! I have seen too many hitchhiker movies. You know where the driver picks someone up and then die some horrible death. My Uncle hitchhiked to California and back to Oklahoma, but that was back in the 70s.

  7. This actually happened in 1978.

  8. How did I miss this entry??? I don’t get it!

  9. it’s a great tale. it made me chuckle, but only because i already knew that you got out of this mess alive.

    i love your descriptions of the drunk redneck guy.

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