Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Classic Road Trips, Part One :: Whitstable '94

I have hitched before, but a long, long time ago, and it wasn't enormously momentous. I was with NotKeith. I think we were 17 at the time, but we may have been a little older.

Keith’s dad dropped us off on the other side of the M25 out of Dartford. It was early. Slightly too early. I’d overslept, keelhauled into consciousness with a shrill summons from the kerb. I hadn’t even had time to perform my morning purification ritual (poo). So much so that no sooner had Keith’s dad wished us luck and rejoined the traffic, I realised I really had to go.

The junction we were at backed onto woods which rose steeply from the hard shoulder on the other side of a shallow dry trench, if I remember correctly. I jumped over the trench and scrambled up and away into half-arsed thickets. As soon as I was hidden from traffic, I pulled down my trousers and pants. I crouched. I felt like Stig of the Dump.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done a poo in a bit of woodland down the side of a motorway, but if you have, you’ll know it’s not something you'll ever want to recount in ghastly, practically palpable detail, particularly if at the time you'd neglected to avail yourself of anything with which to wipe the horrified walnut shell of your bleeding, freakishly distended rectum which sobbed and throbbed from exertion so that it was almost breathing, its odious breath a heady cocktail of rotting dog, ammonia and chips; its lips aghast, gaping, like a messy eater who’s just seen a ghost.

I shouted down to Keith. ‘Keith!’ I shouted. ‘Have you got any toilet roll?’ He didn’t have any.

Reader, I had no choice. Foul as it was, I grabbed dead leaves from the cold earth and tore the living from the branches of my bowel-friendly bower, pushing them against my poor dirty bottom, old before its time, and rubbed away the leftovers.

With the terrible tools at my disposal, I did the best I could and, apart from a slither of stool beneath a couple of fingernails, I think I pretty much got away with it.

So I did myself up, scrambled out of the thicket, down the bank, over the trench and joined Keith at the roadside. I remember thinking he looked rather silly standing there with his thumb out. I was just about to tell him what a terrible time I’d just had when a car pulled up ahead of us. Our faces lit up. We grabbed our bags and ran.

‘Where you going, lads?’

We didn’t have a sign. That was stupid.

‘Whitstable!’ we replied in unison.

‘I can take you as far as Rochester,’ said the driver.

We hopped in.

Keith got in the back before I could, so I got in the passenger seat. The driver was a middle-aged man with a moustache. He was on his way to work. I don’t think he said what he did but his car suggested it was something manual. He was perfectly nice and everything but he didn’t seem to want to talk. After a bare minimum, a mere smattering of superficials, he switched on Radio One and we became silent.

Which was when I noticed the smell of excrement.

At first it was more like the mere threat of a smell, or maybe just a memory. I assumed it was my fingernails and surreptitiously hid them away in the folds of my coat.

Then it became stronger, and I realised that when he had turned on the radio, the driver had also fiddled with his heater, flicking the switch that made hot air come through the footwell. This in turn led me to the realisation that when I had left the thicket, I must have inadvertently trodden in my own poo.

God knows what the driver thought had happened. He probably assumed that I’d shat myself and was too polite to say anything. Or else he had no sense of smell.

The rest of the trip passed without incident, unless you count the stench, which persisted.

And that, for better or for worse, is pretty much all I can remember of the classic Dartford-Whitstable road trip of the spring of ’94. We did make it to Whitstable as I recall. And we had a bag of cockles each and caught the train home.

I know. It’s not the greatest story in the history of hitching. There was no poetry, no jazz. I didn't even find myself on the road, for God's sake! Hopefully that'll happen next week.

In the meantime, have you ever hitched? Yes, you. Was it any good? Did you find yourself? Did you get where you were going to? Did you like the things that life was showing you? Tell me your tales. Go on, inspire me. Or frighten me if you must...

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Kirses said...

I hitched from Cork to Belfast with a partic attractive blonde female friend when I was 21. The weirdest ride (thought they were all weird) was the one where a middle aged loon of a man in something like an Austin Princess picked us up. I made my friend sit in the back for safety but he kept looking at her in the rear vision mirror and eventually said to her "you look like my wife {dramatic pause} my ex wife...". We made a break for it when he stopped in a small town to see a man about a dog or something...just scarpered while he was inside a house.

Andy said...

A friend of mine from college spent one summer hitching across Australia. He said that about half the drivers who picked him up were smoking weed - including some truck drivers. They must need something to take the edge off the thousands of miles of unchanging red earth. My friend said his brain almost turned to mush, although I don't know if that was the boredom, the weed or both.......

Anonymous said...


I didn't really. I just had scatology envy. Drop by Burnley for once, you twat. Invites don't get much warmer than that, I find.

Myeral said...

A sad story, somewhere on the A12. Destination Lowestoft. I promise this is 100% true.

A friend and I were taking turns in the rain: one sheltering (all right - hiding) in the bushes while the other stuck out the thumb. I was lurking, wearing a very baggy orange jumper, while he took his turn, and then - much to my amazement - a lady 'of a certain age' (in my mind, she will be forever Cherie Lunghi) sitting in an MG which was GOING THE OTHER WAY... turned around and slowed down to a stop, smiling a rather nice smile, and leaning over towards my friend.

Then, like an orange Swamp Thing, I suddenly emerged from the bushes, lugging two previously invisible (to Cherie) rucksacks as I struggled up the bank. After a rapid double-take, with a wave and a flutter of her silk scarf, she floored the accelerator and was off like a shot.

He has never forgiven me, imagining a life of luxury and blowjobs ruined forever by my appearance. But it was really not my fault.

JonnyB said...

I've never hitched (although this is an excellent story.)

But in the early days of writing a blog, I did pick up somebody who appeared to be a homicidal maniac, basically because I thought it might provide good material.

That was the point when I realised I was losing a bit of perspective on the medium.

(I'd dig out a link, but it would be too much like pimping, so I won't. I'm not sure it made a great post in the end anyway.)

Anonymous said...

At the age of 15-16, 3 friends and I hitched every Friday evening to the next Town to visit the night club there. One of us (usually the one wearing the shortest skirt that night) would stand on the kerb side of the Trunk road into Town, thumb out until a lorry pulled over. ( it was always a lorry...) Then, said short skirted girl would whistle the rest of us over and off we would go with a usually tutting lorry driver. To get home we would take the last train then have to walk a further 30 minutes to our houses. Those were the days....

Sophie said...

Wish I hadn't read that while I was eating my tea.
I suppose that means the description was probably very accurate.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the crazy-driving pick-up incident, there was another time I got in a car with a stranger. I'd been drinking (a lot)at the Fleece and Ferkin - or was it the Crown? - in Bristol, when I got annoyed with my boyfriend for paying more attention to his ex than to me, so I decided to "disappear" to teach him a lesson. I stomped off and walked for a while, then I sat down in an alley for a bit. Or so I thought. I must've dozed off. I decided I'd better go back to the pub and see if my guy was frantically looking for me, only to find it closed up and dark. I had no idea what time it was. I'd have to walk home alone. It was very cold, and I was still pretty drunk, and I got lost. There are lots of bridges in Bristol, and I couldn't find the Prince Street Bridge, and I was hopelessly lost. I got pretty scared and started crying. Just then, a couple in a car pulled up and asked if I was OK. I told them I was lost. They asked where I lived, then said they'd take me home. Once in the toasty warm car, I noticed a really foul acrid smell. The couple didn't say anything about it. What could it be? I looked down and saw that I'd been sick all over myself! I must've vomited before I passed out in the alley!

The couple were really nice and even waited until I was safely inside my parents' house before driving away. I wonder if they had to fumigate their car afterwards...

Maria in Oregon

La Bête said...

Kirses, hello. Oh my god, it makes you think. It really is so much more of a risk for women to hitch. You’d always have to suspect the motives of any single man who picked you up. Men are such dogs.

Cheers, Andy. That gives me hope. I’d love to get picked up by some Hunter S Thompson type with a gallon of ether and bats everywhere. I love bats.

NK, maybe on the way back down?

Myeral! You cock-blocked your wingman’s MILF-fest! How could you! I bet he still revisits that dream lift that never was to this day. You absolute swine. Ha!

Hi, Jonny. I had a look for it and couldn’t find it. Now I want to read it! Pimp yourself, man!

Hey, Anon, those certainly were the days. An altogether more innocent time when pre-legal girls could use their burgeoning carnality to trick potential sex pests into letting them into their sweaty little cabins without fear of harm being done. You were lucky. The father inside me chastises you. The sex pest picks you up, and leers at you.

Sorry, Sophie. I hope it wasn’t meatballs.

La Bête said...

Maria, hello! Didn’t see you there. Again, you were lucky. And a bit vile. Some people are nice though, aren’t they. Thankfully. That reminds me of a friend of mine who hitched a bit, when he needed to I think. One time he got really sick, like a stomach bug, in the car of a couple that had picked him up. He vomited, I think quite profusely. They were really nice about it and really concerned. He just felt humiliated, as you can imagine.

clumpf said...

You smell of cack. *points*

Anonymous said...

Bonjour La Bête,
I hitched a lot when I was at school, and a student.
Once, a guy in a combine harvester stopped. It was the slowest trip back home ever.
Another time, 2 rough-looking guys in an austin mini picked me. I sat in the back and saw a gun in the wall pocket. It wasn't a plastic one. I stayed quiet and polite, but they were actually very pleasant, and dropped me in front of the house.
Uncle Did

JonnyB said...

Alas, dear boy, I looked and it's not there any more. I lost a bit of stuff a while back, and I fear it was in there.

Anyway. He had to keep taking pills. For his brain.

Erm - you kind of had to be there.

I am a rubbish pimp.

Anonymous said...

I hitchhiked from England to Morocco for a university charity thing. Got picked up by a Spanish lorry driver who took me and my friend to a random town, got me very drunk and unfortunately tried it on. Luckily I managed to dissuade him and to apologise he showed me his dvd collection of bullfighting accidents. It's not an experience I ever wish to recreate!

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope you scrubbed your fingernails before diving in to that bag of cockles! I've never hitched anywhere. The only people who ever hitch rides in the Tri-state area tend to be men holding up signs that say, 'Will Work For Food.' True.

Now, as far as the constipation is concerned, which you have mentioned before: more water, flax seeds, lentils (try Puy) and eggplant, more pulses. Bananas are binding. So is red meat. Just sayin, is all.

A Twitter Friend said...

I have never hitch-hiked so have nothing to add, but just wanted to comment because this made me howl with laughter. The end of paragraph four in particular.
I have forwarded it to my mum. Such is the base level of our family's shared sense of humour


Beleaguered Squirrel said...

1. I got knocked off my bike by a middle-aged woman recently. She was mortified, bundled me a handful of cash to fix the squished front wheel, drove me to work and arranged for her husband to pick me up and take me home again. It wasn't until I found myself getting into the beat-up old Bedford with said never-before-met man that I started to think Oh, maybe not such a good idea. And it stank of wee. And I kept thinking, was it a ploy? Are they a team? Do they knock people off their bikes on purpose, then abduct them and do heinous things so terrifying that their victims wet themselves? Is he incontinent? Is he an alcoholic? Does he have no sense of smell? WHY DOES HIS VAN SMELL OF WEE?

He put the radio on and took me silently home. Nothing happened. I was slightly disappointed.

2. Another time, I went out clubbing on my own, got loved up, met some random people who were having an after-club party in their house in some small satellite town in the middle of nowhere. I had no money, no transport, but they offered to give me a lift to the party and then another one home again. Two hours later I found myself in some tiny front room crammed full of people all staring at me blankly as the owner of the house shouted over a home karaoke system what a scrounging cow I was. He was aggressive and scary and scrawny and had veins sticking out of his face. I got up and walked out the front door, and heard them lock it behind me. I'd left my coat behind. It was 6am and cold. I was in the middle of nowhere with no money. I walked around for a bit and then went back and persuaded the woman who lived there to let me use the phone and call a taxi (they'd unlocked the door by then). She was reluctant to help and seemed a bit scared, but luckily the other bloke only made a few muttered snidey comments. It was idiotic of me to have gone with them in the first place. But there you go.

3. I was driving to a holiday cottage in the Lakes one time when I passed some kids walking in the opposite direction, hitching. It was about 9pm, August, failing light. They looked about 11 or 12. I stopped. They had been jumping off a bridge into the river all day and were now rushing to catch the last train home to Barrow (a place not unlike your nan's home town, I suspect). The station was about five miles away on country roads, back the way I had come. They knew exactly how long it would take me to drive them there - just quick enough for them to catch their train. Obviously I had to turn around and drive them back. They were so relaxed about the whole thing though, it was amazing.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

PS re constipation: Top tip. Keep a stool in your bathroom. No, not that kind. Something you can prop your feet in. Ikea sell cheap little plastic steps for small children to stand on when trying to reach the basin. They are ideal. Anyway. Whenever you sit down for a poo, prop your feet up on said step. You want it so your knees are higher than your arse. This mimics a squatting position, which is much more efficient in terms of gravity and openings and muscles and stuff, and give your body a much better chance of expelling whatever's stuck. And is better than actually trying to squat on the rim of the loo seat. Also don't strain. Or not much, anyway. Just relax and wait for gravity. And drink a pint of water first thing in the morning, to help get things moving. Warm (body temp) water is a lot easier to swallow than cold. I find half just-boiled water, half cold tap water gives about the right temp. Slips down dead easy.

HTH, innit.

La Bête said...

Thanks, Clumpf. You smell of boiled egg.

Did! Gun! How exciting! I have a story about guns, and France, but I’ll save it for when we meet.

Jonny, you are indeed a rubbish pimp. You should take some tips from Sarah Ferguson.

Anon, of course he tried it on. Can’t blame him for that, as long as he took no for an answer, which he clearly did. All that and bullfighting! Excellent.

ATF, I’m actually quite regular at the moment. But thanks.

Annie, you are a vile one. And your mum. Long may it last.

Fine tales, BS. That second one sounds awful. You were all loved up! And then they turned on you. That’s sad. Oh, and thanks for the advice, but honestly, I’m really quite regular at the moment. (You see what you’ve started, ATF?)