I was coming home from civilization, chugging up the first stretch of the mountain, trying to get to the post office where I pick up my mail before it closed at noon. As I rounded a curve, I saw a person walking along the side of the road. There’s not much side to the road up there, so I was worried for the person’s safety. Besides, it was a hot day. The person was wearing a big straw hat (the kind Latino landscape maintenance workers tend to wear) and a long-sleeved white shirt, but was using a cane. The person wasn’t hitchhiking (no thumb out), but no way was I going to roll by a person walking with a cane in the heat on a narrow mountain road and not stop to find out if s/he needed help.
I stopped next to the person, who turned out to be a man. I asked him if he needed a ride, half expecting him to say no, half expecting to be told he was walking on a narrow mountain road in the heat, using his cane, because that’s what he wanted to be doing late on a Tuesday morning. (Isn’t hot mountain cane walking a new Olympic sport?) But he said that in fact he could use a ride.
I keep a lot of stuff on my passenger seat and on the floor in front of it. Before the man could sit there, I needed to remove three one gallon glass jugs of water; one (full) six gallon plastic water container; three 59 oz plastic tea bottles, now filled with water; a foam camp chair (the kind without legs); my backpack of supplies for when I work at the parking lot; a duffle bag full of the entire stock of winter hats I’ve handmade over the last year; and Esmeralda, my styrofoam hat model. I told him I’d give him a ride, but I needed a few minutes to clear a space for him.
He suggested I move the van down to a turnout about 100 yards from where I was stopped. That seemed like a good idea; I didn’t want to get rear-ended while stopped in the middle of the road. He said he’d walk down there to meet me.
Some people would say it’s dangerous to pick up a stranger and let him ride in my van. To those people I say this: If you are ever walking on a narrow mountain road with no real shoulder, in the heat of almost midday, using your cane(!), I hope someone does the right thing and stops to offer you a ride, then actually lets you in the vehicle when you say yes.
Not long after I had the front seat area cleared, the man with the cane and the big straw hat made it to the van. He climbed in, and we rolled on. He needed to be dropped off before I got to the post office, so it all worked out.
I told him my name, and he said his name was Mack, like the truck.
I’m not not sure where he was coming from. I didn’t interrogate him, but from what he said, it sounded as if his vehicle had broken down. However, I don’t recall seeing any vehicles abandoned on the side of the road.
He started talking to me about the cracks in my windshield. He suggested a place in Babylon where I could get it replaced before CHP (the California Highway Patrol) hassled me about it. He gave me convoluted directions to the place, and I pretended to know what he was talking about. I told him the van was registered in another state and said maybe that would mean the CHP wouldn’t bother me about the windshield.
He pointed to a set of three mailboxes at the end of the driveway where he wanted to be let out. I pulled off the road there.
Before he got out of the van, he gave me his card and said if I went to the windshield place, to tell them he’d sent me. I took the card and put it in the basket that holds pens, paper, incense, a lighter, two pieces of selenite, and my handmade knife with the elk antler handle.
He thanked me. I said, no problem, nice to meet you. He said the pleasure was his.
I drove away and made it to the post office before noon.
Later, I looked at Mack’s card.
Apparently, Mack (which is not the name on the card) is the president of the Babylon Area Republican Assembly (whatever that is). At the bottom of the card, under his name and a phone number and email, website, and mailing addresses, the card reads “You Know We’re RIGHT.”
That’s a rather smug sentiment.
I wonder what Mack would think if he knew he’s been rescued by an anarcha-feminist bisexual rubber tramp Deadhead tree hugger.
Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-trees-and-mountain-755706/.