By Annamarie Rodriguez
One thumb. Two thumb. Red thumb. Blue thumb. Any thumb can be a hitchhiker’s thumb but not everyone can be a hitchhiker.
“You have to be patient, open-minded, and have no responsibilities,” 18-year-old zoology major Liliana Garcia-Rodriguez said. “Be ready for an unpredictable adventure, not everyone is cut out for it.”
The rule parents and some adult figures say about not talking to strangers is an understatement for a hitchhiker.
“Sketchy people will offer you a ride, but remember you also look sketchy to them,” Garcia-Rodriguez said. “You have to be able to indicate what will be a safe ride.”
Preparing to hitch a ride includes only packing the bare essentials.
“You can’t bring everything, just the necessities,” she said.
The items one chooses to pack is merely based on what is needed. A driver may be more willing to pick up someone with less items because they may have limited space.
All it takes is one thumb to signal that there is a need for transportation but it comes with risks. Hitching a ride on the freeway gives a hitchhiker plenty of opportunity to hitch a ride because of the constant flow of traffic. But hitchhiking is illegal on highways and is also very dangerous. The safer and legal way of catching a ride is at gas stations.
“There is fast moving vehicles on the freeway,” police officer Billy Kijsriopas said. “(The hitchhiker is) out and exposed, more chance of getting hurt.”
The climate is also a risk factor for hitchhikers. In the snow and rain people can get health scares, the drivers are unpredictable because of the constant flow of rain.
“Hitchhiking fluctuates with the season,” Kijsriopas said. “Certain seasons come with more.”
There is a thin line between being a hitchhiker and picking up one. 21-year-old zoology major Cameron Moore said that he will pick up hitchhikers but will never hitchhike.
“When I am behind the wheel I decide who I will talk to,” he said. “Hitchhikers are vulnerable to anyone approaching them.”
Because hitchhiking is so common some may overlook the safety precautions. But it’s been a means for transportation for generations.
“It’s just like back ground noise, it’s become a norm,” said Garcia-Rodriguez. “I do it for the thrill of it.”