Life During Capitalism- one history student's perspective on life during capitalism

"To omit or to minimize these voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations. I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of colour, or women-once they organize and protest and create movements-have a voice no government can suppress." Howard Zinn

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Dummies Guide to Hitchhiking

What’s hitchhiking got to do with the environment?

Well if more people hitchhiked, there would be less cars on the road, thus less choking exhaust fumes silently heating up our fragile planet. So I figure that if I can convince a few of you to hitchhike instead of taking a car on your next long distance trip then I’ve done my bit to educate people on both the great experience that is hitchhiking and to cut down on the greenhouse gases being emitted.

But isn’t hitchhiking dangerous?

No, not nearly as much as you would imagine. I’ve been hitching around the country since I was fifteen and have hitched everywhere from Invercargill to the Bay of Islands and from the East Cape to Milford Sound and have never felt in any danger. I don’t know what the situation is like in other countries but in New Zealand hitchhiking is fairly safe. However I would recommend that females don’t travel alone. Men are pretty safe; only one male hitchhiker has ever been killed in New Zealand and that was around thirty years ago or so. But if you are nervous about hitchhiking then buddy up with someone, or text the number plate of the cars you get into to a friend or family member. And always remember you can turn down rides.

Do people still pick up hitchhikers?

Yeah, its pretty easy to get a ride and although the trip usually takes about 10% longer than a trip in your own car, your always faster hitching than you are catching a bus or train somewhere. Don’t get disheartened when you first start hitching as it can take up to half an hour to be picked up sometimes. However 95% of the time you’ll get picked up a lot faster than that. The longest waits I have ever had for a ride were two three-hour waits. Both of those times were on the west coast of the south island. However quite a few times the first car that drives past’ll pick you up.

Don’t only freaks and weirdoes pick up hitchhikers?

Not in my experience. All sorts of people pick you up. If you want to meet and talk to people you generally wont come into contact with during your life; then hitch hiking is the way to go. People pick up hitchhikers for all sorts of different reasons, but the most common one I feel is that they want someone to talk to while they drive. Often you can learn the most fascinating things while hitching from people. People tell you all sorts of interesting stuff about themselves, what they do, their life experiences and anything you care to ask them about. In a way it is sort of voyeuristic, as you get a chance to look into someone’s life for a short period of time.

Isn’t hitchhiking illegal?

Nah its definitely legal, except if your trying to hitchhike on a motorway. If you’re in a big city like Auckland the best way to get out is to hitchhike from a motorway onramp. Some people who stop to pick you up will only be going halfway down the motorway but that’s okay as you can just hitch from the next off-ramp they drop you off at. If you’re hitching from the CBD and going south, I recommend Symonds St. off ramp; which is right by Grafton Bridge. If you’re going north take the Northern Express bus to Orewa and hitch from there. If you’re hitching out of Wellington I recommend catching a train to Plimmerton, which is out on the Kapiti coast. Most other places are fairly easy to hitch out of.

Should I use a sign?

I hardly ever use signs as I’m pretty lazy but some people reckon they are useful. One advantage of a sign is people who see it and pick you up cause they are going to the same place but one disadvantage with signs is that if you think a ride is dodgy you can’t pretend you are going to a different place they are. I also find I tend to forget my signs and leave them in peoples cars, which I’m sure they find annoying.

Do people still pick you up if it’s raining?

Yeah, I reckon standing in the rain earns you a sympathy vote in a lot of people’s minds, but it sucks being wet s remember your raincoat! Also you want to be as mobile as possible as you can get dropped in out of the way locations and hitching also means you have to do some hiking. So make sure your wearing decent footwear and have your stuff in a pack or backpack.

What’s the proper hitching etiquette?

I like to introduce myself and shake the drivers hand when I hop into their vehicle. Also try not to fall asleep. I find I always fall asleep in the backs of campervans, especially if you’ve been sleeping on just a ground mat for a couple of nights. Don’t be rude to your ride or make fun of them; however quaint and bizarre they are. Remember that you have a duty to all the other hitchhikers this person will drive past in their life to make their ride with you as pleasant as possible.

Is it better to stand in one spot and hitch or hitch while walking?

Most of the time I would recommend just standing and waiting, especially if you are in a good spot with lot’s of room for people to see you and space to pull over. It is often good to stand under signs, and try and be as visible as possible. Smiling is another good thing to do to convince people that you’re friendly to pick up.

Anything else people need to know about hitching?

Be courteous and respectful at all times. Avoid hitching at night. Be safe. Pick hitching places that give people lots of room to stop and pull over. Listen to what your ride says. Ask them questions and think about what they say. The accumulated lessons these people can offer you are worth every moment standing on the edge of a highway in the middle of nowhere.

Have fun!

Published in Craccum, Semester 1, 2007

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