The hitchhiker stands at the side of the road, a duffel bag at his feet, backpack slung over his shoulder, an arm extended. At the end of it, his request for a lift appears in the form of his thumb pointing in the direction of his destination. He waits, hopeful. He puts on his most winning smile with the approach of every car, every van, every lorry. The smile slides from his face, dissolving into his slumped shoulders as he sighs and waits for the next one, slightly less hopeful with each vehicle that passes without stopping.
After a while, he picks up his duffel bag, resigned to the fact that he’s not getting anywhere and it’s time to move on. He knows he’ll get tired from walking and carrying his belongings, but he’s pretty tired of standing there, too, wasting time, his destination seeming further away than ever.
‘Right,’ he thinks. ’Let’s move on.’ Determined to reach his destination, he sets off, humming and whistling now and then, as it’s a pretty decent day and all things considered, life is pretty good.
He hears the approach of a vehicle, turns toward it, brings out the winning smile and the accompanying thumb, but again he must keep walking. ’No matter,’ he thinks. ’I'll get there. Someone will stop.’
A while later, a truck comes up from behind and slows, eyeing the hopeful hitchhiker suspiciously, and making our traveller peer back equally so. Sizing each other up, and making their decisions, the driver picks up speed without stopping and the hitchhiker is relieved. He trudges along, hoping for better luck next time.
Clouds move in. The wind picks up. The rains come. Our hitchhiker is not deterred. His situation is unpleasant but what’s a little water? Or even a lot? Dejection and discouragement swirl round him, dancing and teasing like naughty little boys who rush forward to poke him, then dart away and laugh. Ignoring them with visions of reaching his destination, he continues to put one soggy foot in front of the other and keeps going.
Cars come. Cars go. The rain falls harder. The temperature drops, and so do the hitchhiker’s spirits. Hesitation wraps itself around his weary legs, weighing them down like sandbags of doubt. Thoughts of turning back roll through his mind, each one heavier than the last. It would have been so much easier to not have set out on this journey, to have stayed where he was comfortable.
Comfortable, yes. But not particularly happy.
But would he be any happier when he reached his destination? Of this, he could not be certain. He knew only that he had to discover the answer, whatever it might be. Going back was not an option; there was nothing for him there. Nothing but familiarity and a gnawing, aching emptiness that could no longer be filled by complacency.
A lorry stops. The driver leans across from his seat and opens the passenger door.
“Get in!” he calls to the shivering man. ”You must be freezing!”
“You’re right, mate, I am! Thanks!” comes the grateful reply as the traveller climbs inside.
The two drive on together, stopping for a greasy burger and chips, some strong, hot coffee around mid-day, before going their separate ways as the lorry driver can take the hitchhiker no further.
With hopes renewed and his belly full, our traveller stands once again at the side of the road, as his thumb and his most winning smile make the silent request for another lift toward his destination…