Mission Accomplished

I had missed my brother's last high school track meet. Missed most of his senior year actually and was a few days away from potentially missing his graduation. However I was not going to let that happen. I was a couple hundred miles away from him and where his graduation was going to take place. Didn't want to pay for gasoline. At an unbelievable $4.00 a gallon too. Didn't want to pay ninety bucks for a round trip bus ticket, so I decided to try and hitch hike. That was the mission. Hitchhike to my brother's graduation. So I packed a bag with the essentials; clothes, water, food, camera, and last but not least, cardboard signs.
I trekked to a popular exit, one which I thought would be productive and had high traffic rate and stood with my sign and bag. And my thumb fully extended.
So there I stood. Off the side of an on-ramp my cardboard sign reading "How bout' a lift Friend?"...
I had my first car stop after about twenty minutes. It was three Spanish fellows but they were not going as far as I was planning so I passed up their offer. Within that first hour of being there only about four cars or so stopped to offer a ride. All of which weren't going as far as I was, and I didn't want to become stranded at another exit with less traffic so I stayed put at my spot. The second hour rolled around and I still had no luck.
It's a different perspective being on the other side of a cardboard side, being in need of a ride and trying to catch passer-byers attention. I had brought along another piece of cardboard just in case my one sign wasn't getting the job done, which it wasn't, so I switched to my second sign which read, "I'm a Mormon.", in big letters then in smaller letters, "North to Nephi." My hopes were to appeal to the majority of the LDS population and try to attract another fellow Mormon. And of course I was trying to play the pity card. The sign got a lot of laughs, waves, shouts, smirks, but no one really cared to stop.
Regardless, that sign stopped my first hitchhiking partner, Brian. He was a middle-aged man, divorced three kids and kind of stuck in a rut with life. He was headed to Springville and said I was welcome to come along as long as I could stand his smoking habit. I guess he figured my "mormon" sign meant I was a strict follower and wouldn't be pleased with his habit but I was more than welcome to get in and become acquainted with him. Come to find out he was deaf in his left ear, having it damaged in a grocery robbery when he was twenty years old. The gun fired and missed his head by two inches but leaving him partially deaf in that ear. Communicating was somewhat difficult for the trip because he couldn't hear me but I just let him tell me his stories of work, partying, ROTC, his children, ex-wife and basically his whole life. It was amazing to me how open this man was to me. Sharing all of his most personal moments in his life with a complete stranger. Maybe it was because he figured we would never see each other again, or that he was just an open guy. Either way it was an amazing experience. A few things I learned from him; If life gives me shit, I'll build you a shit castle. If its yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down. Everyone in their life at one time or another feels like they're all alone in this life, whether it be a figment of their imagination or what not, people will get down on themselves. I think, therefore I am.
Great advice from a great man.

My second ride came rather unexpectedly and saved me the peril of facing the cold of the night. It was about ten thirty when Jessica came my way. She stopped just under the Wendy's sign I was standing under, bright lights draw attention I figured out, and basically just came out and asked where I was going and was going to take me there. My destination was entirely out of her way but she had the sympathy to drive me there. Turns out she was just returning from an audition for the role of Mary in the Manti Pageant and had stopped to get some dinner when she came across me. We talked of life, her recent engagement gone bad, the evil forces and plot of the book she was writing, high school days, college days, majors and her dancing career. So many interesting, kind and amazing people fill this world. We drove into my hometown and I shared memories of growing up there with her, we even drove past my house and we talked about the tire swing hanging from the willow tree in my front yard. Sharing memories with each other, almost hitting a deer, talking of life. It was great. One bit of knowledge I gained from Jessica was this, "Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow."
and before I knew it, I was home. All with the help of others. I could not have done it without the compassion of another human soul. Truly amazing. And I walked down my street where I was raised. Passed the burger joint where I worked, a ewe crying for its mother, the Embletons, the irrigation ditch...
So many memories flooded into my head on my two-block walk home.
It seemed so surreal. I had packed up my bag, walked to a highway exit, held my thumb out with cardboard sign, was picked up by two total strangers and had ended up in my home town, all within a couple of hours. It was like I had flown to a magical place. Unbelievable. Even writing this now I still find it hard to believe I accomplished the task.
Standing on the on ramp being passed by hundreds of cars, many times I questioned my motive and reasoning behind hitchhiking. I felt at times it was a lost cause, a hopeless dream, unachievable, preposterous, humiliating, impossible... But when those doubts crept into my mind I changed my thinking. I knew I was going to get home safe. I knew someone was going to stop and help me. I knew it was all going to work out. And I was right. I accomplished the impossible, or at times which my mind accepted as impossible, even for those split seconds. It was very self fulfilling and rewarding. Will I do it again? Maybe. Do I see the world in a better light? Definitely, and I know have hope for what tomorrow brings.

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