Wednesday, Feb. 05, 2003, 12:34 AM


A few months ago, back in October of last year I picked up my first and only hitchhiker. I was driving back from Rochester, New York and had just passed the border into Pennsylvania when I saw a person walking up the on-ramp to the highway wearing a backpack. I deliberated for the two miles to the next off ramp, turned around, got off of the highway and back on the other direction, and sure enough there he was walking south. I wasn't sure if he was looking for a ride but when I slowed to a stop in front of him he broke into a run. Unfortunately I can't remember his name. I think it was Eric. Let's call him Eric for the time being. He had attended a year or two of college before dropping out and hitching around the country. We was currently on his was to the DC area to protest the World Bank gathering. I offered him a ride as far as Pittsburgh, 80 miles closer to his destination.

We talked about art and driving across the country and alternative music and alternative religions. He was surprised that I was a 'corporate' guy who managed a company. He said I was way too cool to do something like that, but he respected the fact that I had writing and literature degrees. He said that when you hitch across the country for a year you become a quick judge of character. He said he got a strong vibe from me. When I asked him what he meant he just said that I had more energy emanating from me and around me than any other person he had ever met, and that he knew he would be safe riding with me. After our hour and a half drive we were approaching his exit. I offered to buy him a late dinner and he said no. "Gotta keep trucking tonight or else I'll miss the rally, but it sure was nice to meet you, man. I could have fallen asleep I felt so comfortable in the car with you. That's never happened. I would have if you weren't so cool to talk to. I feel like I was meant to meet you."

A few days later I read in the paper that several people were injured and dozens were arrested during the World Bank protest.