Lurking like a lion, two letters on a number plate signifies it was bought up north. I got that sickly feeling when excitement mixes with nervousness as I really hope this man will give me a lift. With my finest german as he tries to doge the predator, I hook him in with the usual. “sprechen sie english”, “yes” he replies. “Can you take me anywhere near Hamburg”, “erm…well I’ll go pay first”. Leaving me there in an apprehensive state of mind, two policemen shatter the faith I have in getting this lift.
‘Passport’. Not again. Maybe the transport police in Bern finally caught up with me for not paying my tram fare. ‘vat did he zay to yooo’. Shit, is this a trick question, is hitchhiking really illegal here and depending on my answer will I get him into trouble or myself.
So to protect myself I said he couldn’t give me a lift as he had to dump off someone who was making some noise or something in the boot of his car!
The police then switched gears, charged into the station and bundled the man to the ground. But what really happened was that I said he was thinking about giving me a lift. And with that they made their exit. But imagine the first scenario had I said that. Would have made an interesting story, for me.
As the man comes out of the station, he notices the two police men walking off after having talked to me. He didn’t mention a thing and all he did say was “lets go”.
Jenson is his name and he is heading to Magdeburg. A town 2 hours south from Hamburg. This lift would take me from the south to the north some 542 kilometres. Not only was this a bonus, but Jenson speaks English very well and works as a television editor, which considering I am very interested in the industry of media, he happens to be the perfect company for a long distance drive. Traveling in this style sometimes brings about those connections which can be very helpful to ones intended lifestyle.
Without boring you with details of some in-depth conversation about editing tools, Jenson drops me off at a busy service station at around 7pm. A station which I will make my home for the next 17 hours and the start of compiling a list for reasons why I should not be allowed a lift.
“No I have a baby in the car”…Inside the car, a stuffed toy was all I could see!
“I am moving house”…Looking into his car as he begins to pull away reveals that he is moving nothing into his new house!
“I’am not allowed, I am a test driver”…surely a passengers perspective would have been useful!
“I don’t have any room”…no, I guess those 4 empty seats there are, well, full of air!
“Do you speak German”…me “No”, them “then no”. Fair enough
“I have a dog in the car”… He did have a big dog, an elephant dog in his car, so fair enough.
“Ive just had the seats cleaned”…yes, I bet your probably have!
“Do you take drugs”…me “no”, then “hmmm, still no”. Bloody tease!
Then there were the others who would just simply say no and some who made a point about saying no. Like placing their face close so our nose’s nearly kiss whilst exhaling air to reveal some bad breath whilst saying ‘no I do not want to give you a lift. I have no idea the need for this theatrical rejection, perhaps he has had a bad experience in the past.
It was getting late, so I called it a night, curled up in my sleeping bag in the small entrance to the station, beside the weakest radiator I’ve ever had the pleasure to sleep next to.
It reminds me of the time I first left the Uk on a trip by myself through Scandinavia when I was 18. In Helsinki, Finland my train arrived late at night. So I wander off to the hostel, only to find when I get there, it is locked up. I return to the train station, sit down and consider sleeping there only there was a cold draft sweeping through the station. Too fucking cold I thought. I got on a train about to leave, having no idea where it was going. I slept in warmth until about 3am, when the trains all stopped. At one station I was asked to leave. This station had elevators up to a shopping mall. I walk up to the centre and wander around for a short while until a uniformed police man ushers me out onto a platform where the elevator descends down to the train platform. He locks the door behind me. So I get every item of clothing from my backpack, put it on and sit in a corner which had a small radiator, taking the bite out of the chill in the air. It was about -5. When people start arriving for the trains in the early hours of the day, I definitely received some odd looks with all those clothes hanging off me.
The discomfort this night in Germany however was not so much from the cold, although it was very cold. It was the cleaning lady who made it her goal of the dark hours of the day to keep me awake. The cleaner was hoovering the entrance hall. This clearly meant she had to keep prodding me with the hoover end. So I move to the other side, only to be given the same treatment when she needed to clean that side, god knows or doesn’t, why she just didn’t do the other side first. Perhaps she got some chuckles from disturbing my already uncomfortable sleeping position.
With that 17th hour approaching, my thumb is slung out and a grandiose silver Mercedes caravan comes to a halt parallel to my sitting position. The electric window inches down and an older looking man invites me in. This caravan is nice. Clean, very comfortable and spacious. Peter is driving further north of Hamburg, on what he calls a relaxing few days fishing.
Peter is a gadget man. Within 10 minutes of being with him I have seen his ipad, iphone, his canon 5d and his sat nav, which I duly enter Gerrits address after using his ipad to find it. Peter re-routes his journey so he passes through the centre of Hamburg getting me to the doorstep of Gerrits flat. Now, that is generosity.
The short journey to Hamburg felt like 10 minutes. I was busy the entire ride, showing Peter at his request, what the weather was like in my hometown. A google map view of my home town. My house. Pictures on my facebook and then he showed me the same information to me about him. I don’t know if he had some type of auto drive on his caravan, because he would sit at the wheel with the ipad resting in his hands, looking at all the information he requested of me and only on occasions he looked out of the windscreen in front of him.
I arrived in Hamburg in one piece. Nothing had been lost, only a lot had been gained. New insights, more confidence and faith in the strangers we share our lives with.
It’s a scary world out there, every corner and every connection made could be a wrong one, but it could also be the right one. Don’t get caught up in letting fear dictate the choices you make. Talk to a stranger. Offer one a lift. Be generous, with the little you might have, a lot can be given. But do remember to be safe.
Oh…and not everyone waiting on the curb is someone depicted in a few American horror movies with psychological issues!