Best Entrance Ever
I was an impressionable college student who did not think much about the dynamics of hitchhiking before i set off on my first hitchhiking adventure. I was visiting my college freshman year roommate Matt Isaacson in the suburban NYC metro area. So i looked at the map (this was well before smartphones, or even the internet) and saw the best way to get there was on parkways.
You don’t hitch on parkways. Parkways have the worst breakdown lane and most compressed entrance and exit ramps of any of the types of road systems. It is quite hard for drivers to stop for you and it only takes a tiny amount of discouraging to convert into waiting a long time for a ride. I did not know this. I had never hitchhiked before and i had not really thought about the different kinds of routes there are to get places.
i am hitching on the parkway having trouble getting anyone to stop, walking down the parkway which actually makes it harder for them to stop most of the time. A cop pulls over by jumping the curb on the edge of the parkway. He is clearly unhappy about me being there. He is being very formal in his thinly veiled bitchiness. He asks me for ID and i give him my drivers license. I have had very few interactions with the police before this event, and none where they were actually upset with me for doing something.
I pull my ID out and hand it to him. He goes back to the cop car and talks for what feels like forever, but likely was less than five minutes. He comes back out and says :
We don’t usually arrest people and we don’t usually take them in for custody, but we can. I am letting you go this time but i don’t want to hear about you wandering around. Go get a bus.
I thank him, and return my ID to my North Face 60/40 parka. This is one of those handy pieces of apparel that has 2 billion pockets in it. I start to walk off the parkway and the cop watches me for a bit and then drives down the parkway.
After the cop car is out of sight, i turn right back around and go hitching on the parkway again. I have the map, i know where we are. There is no reason to suspect the cop will come back. Not long later someone else jumps the curb and we are off after the police car heading for the Tappan Zee Bridge.
My ride ends just on the other side of the bridge in an unusually good spot, given traffic. But after just a few moments a cop pulls over and asks for my ID. At this point i realize that the 60/40 i have used has an approximately infinite number of pockets. I am searching each one looking for my drivers license. The cop is clearly annoyed at my behavior.
I flip out my wallet and hand him my student ID. He looks at it briefly and hands it back and says he needs something more official. FInally i find my license and give it to him and he then disappears into his car, as i wait nervously for his return. Ten minutes, which seems much longer, passes and he emerges and says the thing i did not want to hear, “We don’t usually do this, but get in the car.”
So i have watched a few cop shows and i know when you are getting picked up you sit in the back, but as i go to grab the back door handle he says “Oh you can sit up front.” I am (foolishly) relieved that he does not think i am dangerous.
He starts up the cop car and starts driving. We have some idle chat which i let him direct. “Where am i going?” “Have i hitched before?” “How did i like school at Cornell?” After a silence he finally says “We don’t usually do this, but i am going to take you to where you are going, because i was an electrical engineer at Cornell until i dropped out.” I was amused and amazed, what luck!
We had a more animated conversation about Cornell and life as a rookie cop and how the hitchhiking laws were silly. He is a pretty cool guy actually.
As we approach my friend’s house in the suburbs, my new cop friend asks me if the family knows that i am hitching in and i tell him that they certainly do. “Let’s have some fun,” he says with a menacing tone and turns on his sirens. We are in a sleepy suburb and every curtain gets thrown open and everyone in the neighborhood rushes to their windows to see me leaping from the cop car bounding up the front steps of my friend’s house.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]