06 September, 2008

Don't Hitchhike Patience

Friday night, I found a post on Craigslist to go hiking last minute. I thought about it, but felt a bit weird going with people I have never met. So I went to sleep, figuring that in the morning I would decide whether to tackle home projects or do the hike. I woke up early only because it was hot and bright. I looked to make sure the evite was still posted, and texted the phone listed to state my name and that I would drive to meet him at the trailhead. My intuition told me that I felt like I would never see them. What if I don’t meet them? Deciding I would hike alone if that was the case, it settled my mind. A lot of things go not as planned and the sooner you are able to adjust the better. I never got a reply to my text, but thinking he might be driving there, so at least he had my name when he arrived.


While I drove there I picked up a hitchhiker, which I do whenever I see them providing they don't look scary. I vowed to, back when I would find myself begging for a ride at 19 on a hot, dusty, country road when that was my only transportation. Surely, there is that first hesitation on both parties… a combination of the hitcher needing it, and the wariness of not knowing if it will be ok or not. The area is sort of rural just like the area I used to hitch in. I met Ricardo was on his way to his brother’s house after his car broke down. He was about the same age I was when I used to hitchhike. Talking about motorcycles and driving just enough to make each other bond and put the strangers inside of us aside. I dropped him off where he wanted which was on my way, and he wished me a safe life and a great day.

Shortly after, I found the trailhead where I was supposed to meet the others. I arrived ten minutes early, so I looked around for people gathering for a meeting before taking off. I paused seeing two other groups and asked, but they did not fit the bill and I had no idea of who to look for. I tried not to be upset, meanwhile looking around until 10 minutes past our meet-up time. I saw someone with a worried look and eyebrows raised. I asked him if he too was supposed to meet for this. He replied yes, and we had he same contact phone number, so I had someone to join me. He seemed a bit nervous, but I thought it was he just uneasy until we find the people, take off and get acquainted. We waited around an extra ten minutes, and I just said, “I am going to go, do you want to join me?” He said yes. So, we took off up the trail, with me making small talk in hopes of trying to bond. I talked about travel, and so he asked about baggage allowances, because he was going to Japan. He got into the particularities of baggage and his fears after having not traveled for over ten years. That was fine, but then it quickly became obvious that James is a nervous person when he kept going over it. And yes, that worried look never left his face all day. He complained about the heat, the inability to meet the gang, and do I know where we are going? I took a deep breath, I jumped on the wrong pony. We continued, and while walking I explained things I know about the area, stopping to harvest bay leaves for cooking. He could not be bothered to even smell them, but said watch out for poison ivy! He just wanted to walk and get there. I really wanted a relaxing day, where time was not a factor, and fatigue is never apparent because you are in the moment. If I stopped to enjoy something or to photograph, he reluctantly paused. Realizing that I was not going to get rid of him, I quickly settled my mind on the idea that he needs me there and what a better way to re-learn patience. Every time something bothered me about his inability to enjoy this great day and location, I would take a deep breath. Not audible to him of course. When I talked to him I was kind and smiling, and with no sarcasm. Maybe he would relax. We finally arrived at the arch spot that was advertised, thinking that while eating lunch the others would walk up and rescue me. I was taking photos and asked him if he wanted his photo taken and I could email it to him? He declined, but never asking me if I wanted mine taken. I had stopped three different times, when other strangers asked me to take their photo with their camera. I found it interesting that when they did they only addressed me. Wrapping it up, I said, “ Hey, I am continuing down the coast trail and will hitchhike back to my car.” Thinking he would take the same trail we took up back. James said with the same worried face, “ The same old trail is boring, I will just stick with you. I have never hitchhiked before. Is it ok?”


Patience comes rushing in with a late package for me and it is always bigger than we originally thought. I said to myself, this will be interesting. He is worried about ticks and funny, I have right now on me! Thinking, I will enjoy this day, but I will also do what he wants, to feel comfortable. A perfect stranger that I don’t like or love and I have to treat him with respect. Pulling teachings from my Buddhist practice about Universal Compassion that I had meditated on the previous Saturday we continued on the trail. Walking another two hours in hot sun, we talked less frequently, his curiosity ended hours ago... but when we did it was mainly to reassure him that I know where we are going for the tenth time. One time, I said we are there, it all depends on your mind, to hopefully lighten his mind, but this went over his head. He asked a couple strangers who crossed our paths to ask them how far to next parking lot. The old me, would have said why don’t you just go your way and I’ll go mine with total sarcasm, but I actually felt bad for him. He could not relax and enjoy a fairly easy hike in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The trail finally got down to a branch, where one way went down to the beach and the other straight up a hill. I told him that the beach is longer, but who wants to climb a hill in the heat? He agreed and while walking down we saw a whale flipping his tale playfully while eating in the distance. I said that is why we go this way! I filmed them, but even on zoom they were too far away to really get clear. Arriving on the beach I take off my shoes to cool my feet in the ocean as we walk towards the exit to the parking lot 2 miles down the beach. He continued to complain about the heat or the distance, or to voice fears about the ocean. I just told him if he ever gets caught by a wave, the rip tides are powerful of course, but just don’t fight it, relax and swim only when the wave moves towards the shore.

Finally two hours later the parking lot where one should hitch a ride back appeared in the distance, but it was obvious in talking to him I could not say ok, see ya! And I really wanted to stay at the beach and meditate and swim, even if it was in my underwear. I knew he would stay not liking it, only because he needed me to hitch for him. Even though I told him it is easier if we go alone and it is better if you take off your hat. So I left my desire to remain there on the beach for him. And here I am with a speech disability, but I got right to the road and jumped up to first car I saw, smiling. Thumb out. It was a convertible with a lady driving not too unlike my mom. I said here you go and I’ll take the next car, but he wanted me to go enough, to ask her if she could fit me, and I had not even put my shoes on! So, I jumped in the back, and off we went. Bye, bye beach. She was nice and tolerant of his worry, so I just shut up. When we arrived at our parking lot, she drove us right there, I asked her if she wanted to join me for a beer, or if she needed money for gas. She declined, and I said thank you and off she went. Driving back around to exit I yelled, Thanks again!” James and I shook hands and departed, he did not want to join me either for a pint of beer before our drive home in our respective cars. I smiled as I drove home alone relaxed after such a long patient hike.
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2 comments:

WIne Country Mom said...

Oh my lord, I am exhausted just reading this trial of yours! What an excellent time to practice your patience and buddhism! James reminds me of my son. He sees the bad in everything. He wants to know how long everything will take, how long till we get there, how long to the very second! And it takes more than I have to not snap! Kudos to you for keeping your cool and letting go of your desires to make another human being more comfortable. I think you really were meant to be there that day and hike with just James. and I'm willing to bet that he took something away from the hike as well.

Was Once said...

I often think that things do happen for a reason, even my bi-lateral strokes and necessary redirection of my life. If only my limited wisdom would rub off on others!

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