Today I was bad. At a petrol station, probably in Durham about 15 miles south of Gateshead, I invaded a vacationing family on their way home from Scotland to London. I persuaded the father to give me a ride as far as he could down the old M1. Reluctantly, he allowed me to occupy a seat with his wife and two kids. They each appeared rather exhausted from their travels, and in no mood for company, but I was determined not to wait another day standing by the road ignored by all passersby.


I was not entertaining. I was not charming. I was not endearing. I was an alien from another planet — perhaps a kidnapper or worse. I had nothing they wanted. They were totally humorless. None of my stories or adventures amused them. I did not wear clothing deserving respect. I probably smelled rank from the grease pit I slept in last night. For whatever reasons, imagined or otherwise, the ride south was awkward for all.

In such situations, we tend to ask what we did to cause all this discomfort. But perhaps it is not us at all. Why didn't I take my own advice and lend an ear? I could have provided a little family counseling. But it's difficult to lend an ear when no sounds are being made. What questions do you ask after How was your trip? and the answer is OK. Is that a hint to shut up and mind your own business? You can't lend an ear when no one wants it.


Somewhere, maybe around Sheffield, the father suggested I find another ride while the family stopped for some fish and chips at a roadside pub. But by the time they were finished and ready to roll on, I had not found a ride, so I begged for further indulgence. The father was resigned by now to putting up with me for the duration, and off we went. Time crawled by. Hours later, when they dumped me at the first underground station, they all looked greatly relieved. Who could blame them? I had most likely ruined their final day together before the kids went back to school. On the bright side, however, no serial killer had caused them harm. Ciao!

This was my last hitching experience on this side of the Atlantic, although, there would be more waiting for me on the other side. I logged about 300 miles this day, with a total of about 1600 miles for my entire British and Irish trek, but I would never again, by chance or desire, log another mile in England or this side of the planet by thumb.

letterstone road

Me again...
So where's my postcard?