Monday, November 30, 2009

What am I thankful for?

To me, and the people I was living with, it was just another day. To the rest of Canada, it was Thanksgiving. I think it was even Sunday, and I had to make a trip into town for a few errands. It had been months since I had moved to BC, and was used to hitchhiking the 40k into town often. I had even walked it a few times, although unwillingly, and thought today would be a piece of cake. Or turkey, or whatever.
I didnt have to work today, and had a great morning of sleeping in, frosted flakes and a little Jack Johnson to start the day. It was just before noon when I walked up to the main road, hoping to get to Penticton by 1. It wasnt unreasonable, I had done it numerous times and never waited long for a ride.
As soon as I got to the main road, I could see a car in the distance winding its way up the road, at the base of Okanagan Mtn. I thought to myself "sweet, that was fast, and for sure this guys gonna pick me up, its Thanksgiving Sunday".
Zoooom. His Mazda flew by me, and I could see he hadnt even considered the thought of picking me up. I just turned around and kept walking. Its funny when you're hitching, the conversations you have with yourself, the labels you give people and the absurd outbursts towards the glaring sun. I remember yelling out loud "Its thanksgiving for God's sake!" I definitely figured I had the luck today, as people were going to be in an upbeat mood, keen on their lavish dinners that night. Then I quickly thought about the other side of the fence...maybe noone will be picking me up today, theyre all thankful to be alive, and want to keep it that way.
Now I was worried. That feeling overcame me like a blanket; crap, its true; noone will want to pick me up today. I just kept walking. Soldiering past the vineyards, apple orchards and breathtaking cliffs. I passed the massive houses, abandoned train tunnels and eventually, I walked 20k into the first small town without so much as a smile from dozens of passing motorists. I knew they were all heading where I was, probably to the same grocery store, to buy the same Pumpkin Pie. I couldnt believe it! On Thanksgiving day, here I was dressed well and everything, and not one person was willing to pick me up on the road I hitch daily and never wait more than 20 minutes.
I started to get really frustrated, and the thoughts of everyone else's thanksgiving entered me head and made it much worse. I realized everyone was with their families, enjoying great food in warm houses, and I was hiking, alone, along the very hilly, bear populated road and not one soul had sympathy for me! It only go worse when I went to pull out my iPod, and realized I had left it plugged in back at camp and I pictured everyone sitting there, unknowingly listening to my music. Just GREAT! Another 15 k to go and Im in town, only to have to hitch back. I got used to the idea of walking the entire distance and munched on a few apples I plucked from the roadside orchards.

Then finally, I could hear it coming behind me, the sound of a car pulling over into the gravel.
I turned around, and gleaming like the Saviour himself on some shiny, yet dusty platform; there it was, my ride! After the dust settled, I walked over to the car only to notice it was a tiny, delicate looking elderly woman, well beyond 70 behind, the wheel of a massive Mercedes SUV. I opened the door, and it frightened the tiny dog resting in her lap.
"Hi, Im Mary" she declared.
I told her my name, where I was hoping to get and she said climb aboard. I didnt have too much further to go, especially considering what I had just walked, and was excited that I was finally going to be there in a few minutes. Or so I thought. Bless this dear old womans heart for picking me up, but lets just say she was a very cautious driver. It was funny, because here she was driving at what I kept checking to be nothing over 35km/h in a 60, and to me, she was still braver than the dozens of men who whizzed past me in their big pick-ups.
We immediately struck up a great conversation about this, and her take on it was "theres no way a young man like yourself should be walking around here, its dangerous, and its thanksgiving." I later found out she picks hitchhikers up often, despite the fact she was about as menacing as a sponge. There wasnt much she could do should a threat arise, but I dont think that thought had ever crossed her mind.
She was your typically sweet old Grandma type, with a backseat full of Delicious looking pies she was bringing to her husband, who was just admitted to a retirement home. She was bringing him his turkeyday dinner, and his beloved dog, which he missed apparently more than he missed her. Due to her physics-defying slow driving, we were able to talk about all kinds of stuff. She took me right to the grocery store I asked, handed me $20 and said enjoy your dinner tonight on me. I kindly refused, but she kindly made it clear I had no choice. She asked for my email and requested that I keep her informed with my travels, as her sons are grown with families and seldom see her. I said that I would of course, and thanked her everything. I went inside and from Mary's kind gesture, I bought a great dinner.
I ran my errands, and walked to the infamous roundabout where I would hitch my rides home from. As I waited for the return limo for my daytrip, I asked myself what I was thankful for that day. It was the usual, health, happiness, yadda yadda. I then said I was thankful for Mary, and people like her. And I said I was thankful for pumpkin pies and yams.
I rummaged through my bag for the snackbar I had left before, and then there it was...

I was now very thankful for my iPod, which was apparently with me the entire time.