Before social distancing became our national religion, I had planned to spend the spring of 2020 hitchhiking backroads south toward Key West. I love to travel with strangers and write about it. That’s what this book, Nobody Hitchhikes Anymore, is all about (you can get a copy at https://www.rootstockpublishing.com/rootstock-books/nobody-hitchhikes-anymore). It’s being released on September 22. Yeah!!!
Instead of hitchhiking, my life has become confined to the place I live, to smaller circles of safe friends. Talk of the open road has been replaced by words like pod and bubble. Instead of carrying a backpack I make sure I have my mask.
The COVID-19 pandemic alters the calculus of hitchhiking just as it altered how we think about grocery shopping, basketball games, dating, attending worship or visiting taverns. It changed everything.
Asking strangers to invite me into the confined space of their car or truck, the thumb out gesture at the core of the hitchhiking experience, would not only be unproductive, it would be dangerous and downright unethical.
But the virus has this in common with the hitchhiker — it confronts us with our response to the stranger, to the unknown. The central insight of this book, that we’re all in this together, that we’re all on the road, even when we don’t act that way, is being tested every day.
As we collectively grapple with this plague, we realize that it doesn’t care about our status. Behind the wheel or riding shotgun — we are all potential hosts and victims.
Do we hoard? Do we share? When we look inside ourselves and our communities, what do we see? How do you and I take in the challenge and the risk of the unknown?