Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hitchhiking in America: Part 2

Eventually they stopped on a dirt road where there was nothing but wheat fields. The tree line was over a quarter-mile away. The passenger asked excitedly, “Do you want to see something neat!” The driver reached under a blanket and pulled out an assault rifle while the passenger produced a pistol from under his vest. They both opened their doors and, while still sitting in the car, began firing their weapons into the surrounding fields.

I remember watching the ejected shells flying out of the assault rifle, bouncing off the windshield and then downward, collecting on top of the dash board with the other shells. I was pretty sure my time had come. I knew they wanted me to walk out into the field as a target, or a sacrifice, or something crazy like that, but I wasn’t upset. I had done a lot of cool things in my life up until then. More importantly, I don't believe that crying or begging is very dignified or helpful and that when the time comes to die, it should be faced as calmly as possible. People die all the time; why should I be any different? Besides, at that point I was pleasantly amused to note that it was a sort of checkmate; two armed felons, backseat of a two-door car, the nearest cover over four hundred meters away. What was I going to do? I’m not made of steel and the bullets would very quickly prove that fact.

Knowing what was coming next and, seeing no reason to prolong the situation, I calmly asked the driver, while he was reloading, “So do you want me to get out of the car now?” Our eyes met briefly in the rear view mirror and then he paused for a moment looking down at his assault weapon. Then he turned and looked at the passenger. They stared at each other for a long time but never spoke. They were reading each other. I’ll never know what changed their minds, but eventually they closed their doors and the driver said, as though a bit annoyed, “Naw, we’ll take you back to the highway.”

I was lucky to walk away from that situation but I have not forgotten that there are many others who never got a chance to walk away.

Can we humans truly believe ourselves to be “civilized” or “advanced” when, just as in the wilderness of the world, our days are still nothing really more than a contest between the predators and the prey?
- Just a peasant
Photo from the interesting galleries of Chuck Kimmerle