I hated my job. I would sit in my office and lock the door and work on novels that never got published.
Supposedly I was working on technical manuals for some new sort of chip but I wasn’t very good at that.
Gary picked me up every morning to give me a ride to work since I had no car. One time he asked me what my salary was. I had no problem telling him: $26,000.
He stopped the car and hit the wheel. “Goddamnit!”
“What!?” I said. But he didn’t say anything. Later that afternoon he told me he couldn’t drive me to work anymore. “It’s nothing against you,” he said, “it’s just I can’t revolve my schedule around you anymore.”
So I started hitchhiking. I became a master hitchhiker.
You had to learn how to not just be nice or interesting but radiant. Radiant enough for them to stop. Radiant enough for them to not regret picking you up.
I would leave at 4:50PM on the dot, before it got dark and put my thumb out on the highway.
I didn’t want to get robbed so if anyone asked me what I did for a living I would always say, “I just got fired” and we’d mourn the misery of work together.
And every day it felt like I got fired.
Like the one time the boss had me in his office and said, “don’t you want to take pride in your work?”
I burned up inside. I hated my job. Why would I take pride in writing technical manuals?
One day I hitchhiked and fell in love with a girl. She actually stopped the car and came around to the other side and opened my door.
“I’m nervous,” she said, “You’re not going to kill me, right?”
I asked her out to dinner instead.
We had a fun time. She laughed the whole time. She said she had friends she wanted to introduce me to. I thought this was a good sign.
The next day I called her at 7pm. No answer. Then at 7:15. No answer. At 8. At 8:45. 9. At 11. And so on.
Around 12:15 she picked up. “Was that you calling all these times?”
“No,” I said, “Well, maybe I called once or twice. How’s it going?”
We never saw each other again.
I got so good at hitchhiking that I used to race my friends. If we were all going out for dinner they’d take a car and I’d hitchhike. Sometimes I would get there first.
One time Scott Fahlman picked me up. He became famous later for actually inventing the smiley face emoticon . If you don’t believe me, Google it. Someone had to invent that.
Sometimes I’d hitchhike and would have no idea where I would end up.
Wherever someone would drop me off I’d have to make my way home.
I’d be dropped in the middle of the emptying urban maze of Pittsburgh and it was my MISSION to have an adventure on the way home.
I like that. The idea of landing someplace completely new, where I know nobody, where I can explore and meet new people. A new land where there would be people who I would love and who would love me back.
After I was fired I eventually moved to New York City. For a long time I forgot the secret art of hitchhiking.
But now I’m remembering again.
To every day teleport into chaos, where everyone you meet has the possibility of writing a new chapter of your life.
You, the mysterious stranger they see and decide against all instincts to take a chance on.