Like something out of a country-western song

Last weekend I did two new things that I probably wouldn’t normally have done. The results were impressively cool.
The first out-of-the-ordinary thing that I did was to pick up my first hitchhiker. I know, I know. One should not pick up hitchhikers. And I normally wouldn’t. In fact, I often just scoff at them as I see them on the side of the road. My favorite hopeless hitchhikers were actually a trio that I saw a few years ago. They were on the side of Highway 36, the Denver-Boulder turnpike. And I don’t mean that they were on the onramp or anything; if anyone would have wanted to pick them up, they would have needed to slow down from 65 mph to a stop as they were going up a hill and around a corner. But it’s not likely that anyone would have wanted to pick them up, as the trio consisted of a man with dirty long hair (standard for hitchhikers), no shirt (putting forth a bit more effort), and tons of tattoos (now we’re talking!). And a mohawk (let’s not get carried away here). The lady was similarly attired, and they had with them a huge, mangy dog. And it was drizzling, and they had a sign that read “Denver or bust,” or something like that. If there is a sight that would be more likely to make me think, “Just keep on drivin,” I can’t think of it.
So anyhow, the hitchhikers in these parts tend to be somewhat similar to those three, and I usually just drive on by them. But last weekend I was driving back from Longmont (aka Schlongmont) around 2 in the morning. I was about to get on the Diagonal Highway that connects Schlongmont and Boulder, when I saw a man running towards my car from the nearby crosswalk, waving his arms and shouting something. My first thought was, “Fuck no, buddy, I’m not looking to get stabbed.” But in a split second it occurred to me that he might actually be in trouble, and may need help. So I stopped, and he jogged up to my car.
He didn’t seem the murdering type, but then again, I guess they never do. But still, he was in his mid-40’s, I’d guess, and was dressed in shorts and a button-up short-sleeved shirt. Neither clothing item was camouflage or standard-issue Psycho Black, either, so I didn’t feel too creeped out. He came up to my open passenger window, and I asked him what was going on. He asked if he could have a ride to Gunbarrel, a town just north of Boulder. In hindsight, Gunbarrel is JUST the type of place a killer would ask for a ride to, but I didn’t think of that at the time.
“Well, hop on in,” I said, and he did. He smelled a bit boozy. But he was immediately enthusiastically thankful and almost apologetic. He said his name was Karl (I’m not sure if it’s spelled with a “C” or a “K,” but the “K” seems more appropriate for a half-drunk hitchhiker, doesn’t it?). Karl told me that he’d been out to the bars in Longmont with his buddies way back from school, and that they don’t get to hang out often. But then all those dumb fuckers got all drunk, and then they fucking tried to drive home drunk. So he said “fuck no,” man, because you gotta just stand for what you believe in, you fucking know man?
I had to hand it to him, man…I DID fucking know. He was on to something. I could tell that Karl was just a decent guy who got pissed that his dumbass friends drove drunk just to avoid waking up their wives and in turn pissing them off. He said he’d been prepared to walk the 10 miles back to his home in the cold, but it sure was nice that I stopped and gave him a ride. We kept the conversation light, but he also mentioned that he had three kids, and whether I knew it or not, they’d be thanking me in the morning, because their dad would be able to get more sleep. So I even gave Karl a ride to his door, and told him to take care of his kids and his drunk-driving asshole friends. He thanked me and ran inside his house.
“Wow!” I thought, “That was kind of cool!” I would have normally doubted the intentions of some freaking guy running near the onramp to a freeway at 2 in the morning, but this experience completely took me by surprise. He was just a good guy looking for a bit of help, and he was incredibly grateful for the help I gave him. I felt like I’d been a modern-day, Subaru-driving Good Samaritan, and the feeling didn’t cost me a dime. So it’s not like I’ll go picking up every hitchhiker I see, but I did learn a bit about human nature, I think.
So I know this is getting long, but that brings me to my second new experience of last weekend. I was in the Dark Horse restaurant and bar on Saturday afternoon with some fellow members of The Unnecessary Umlauts, our German department soccer team. We were celebrating an awesome game with an afternoon burger and beer. I was in an upstairs section of the bar with my friend and star forward Laura. We were having a chat at a table when a guy walked in to the room carrying a pitcher of beer. There was nobody in that particular room but the two of us and this new guy, and he looked like he’d come in to play pool. He LOOKED like that, at least, but we got a weird vibe when he sat down at the table with us, neglecting the 10 other empty tables in the room. He was sort of like a Mexican Karl: mid-40’s, casually dressed, and bearing some manner of alcohol.
Laura and I finished our particular line of thought, and paused in conversation. We were almost making to leave and join the others when this guy motioned to the pool table and asked/gestured in Spanglish whether we’d like to play. We politely declined, saying we had to meet up with the rest of our group. Laura said something in Spanish that I didn’t quite catch, probably “Have a nice day!” He seemed to get excited that she spoke Spanish, but that emotion turned almost sad when he realized that we were still leaving. The rest of our group was on their way out, also, so we all went our separate ways. As I was in my car, about to turn on to Baseline Avenue, I must have felt a bit of a continued contact buzz from the Karl experience the night before. My mind said, “Fuck it. I’m going back and I’m gonna play pool with that guy.” My body followed.
I went upstairs and introduced myself to the guy and asked in Spanish whether he still wanted to play or not. I said I was shitty at pool and Spanish, but I’d try my best at both. He seemed very happy, and he assured me he was also very bad at pool and English. He said his name was Angel. Seriously. And so we played pool. I could tell he was hardly trying, because he would have waxed the floor with my gringo ass if he’d wanted to.
After a bit of prodding in game two, he told me he was the number 1 pool player in Boulder five years ago. I think. Like I said, my Spanish needs a bit of work. He was damn good, though; at one point in game three, he took a cell phone call and proceeded to shoot in three or four balls one-handed. He was very cool and gracious about his talent, though, and he gave me tips and pointers throughout. And the strange thing was, even when I was certain an angle he was showing me would never allow a ball to go in, it always did. Angel was an angel of pool. I asked him more about his background, and he said he’d been working in Boulder 7 years. He came from the state of Zacatecas in Mexico, which also gave me pause for thought. Bobby and I recently discussed how many of our Mexican coworkers come from Zacatecas. I think we concluded that for so many people to come from one area, Zacatecas must be really shitty…kind of like the Nebraska of Mexico. Or maybe it’s just due to the ganz gefaehrliche Colorado-Zacatecas connection. Who knows…
Anyhow, I might have gotten a strange vibe from a guy
in a bar on a Saturday afternoon that was twice my age, but not from him. Also, I guess he was flirting with someone on the phone, because around the time I left, a very large woman came in, and the two of them seemed to be together in some way. I guess she was his wife, because he also mentioned that his daughter went to Boulder High School. On my way out, he also asked for my number, so he could call sometime to come to his house when they were making supper. Pretty awesome, if you ask me (unless he’s trying to set me up with his daughter).
I guess the moral of both of these encounters is that most everybody you meet has their own interesting story to tell. Deep down, I think that human nature must be more good than bad, otherwise humankind wouldn’t be able to keep on keeping on. At least I think that’s the moral of these two stories. But maybe the moral is simply “Always pick up hitchhikers. If you live, you might find out something interesting about yourself and human nature.”
Either way, I hope you enjoyed the anecdotes.

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Errand-Running Monkey at Sitzblog
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