I am leaving DeKalb, Texas and filling up at a gas station when I notice a guy sitting there with his dog. He has a backpack and on the backpack is taped a cardboard sign with the word “EAST” written on it.I strike up a conversation with this guy while I’m preparing to hit the road again. He introduces himself as Joe and he tells me he’s been hitchhiking for a while and he’s trying to get to Montana. He seems ok, looks a little haggard, but he seems nice, somewhat intelligent; my spidey sense isn’t telling me I should avoid this guy.
So being the nice guy that I am, and seeing that I’m going east too, I move the stuff that’s in the passenger seat into the back and tell him to hop in. “I can take you a little ways!” I say.The dude is ecstatic. We load up and immediately he starts telling me how cool his trip has been so far. “Everything’s just been falling into place since I left Ohio” he says. “And now, I’m not sitting down for 5 minutes and you pick me up! Thank you!
Surely this was meant to be and I’m racking up some good karma.We continue talking and he starts sharing his story with me. He seems like an interesting dude ,and I have to admit, he’s making for some pretty great company.We drive for several hours and eventually he mentions he’s headed for the Rainbow Gathering.“No way! That’s where I’m headed ,too!” I exclaim. “Tell you what, I’ll just take you the whole way there.”We stop for our first fill-up.“Tell you what,” Joe says, “Since you’re helping me out, I’ll buy this tank of gas.”Sweet! I knew my kindness would pay off!
As we continue on I notice Joe can’t ever seem to remember my name. I told him enough times. But perhaps he’s just very forgetful. I certainly can’t judge anyone for being forgetful… oh well.Joe keeps talking and something peculiar starts emerging. The drama level surrounding each of his stories seems to continually increase.Now, I understand that some people go through periods of bad luck in their life and you just need to make the most of it. But when you constantly have that much drama in your life, it tells me that you, most likely, are creating a large part of it.
Joe claims he’s a man of peace. Oddly enough most of his stories revolve around him fighting or someone fighting him.Spidey sense is definitely tingling now.Things get weird when Joe asks me if he can drink. Apparently he brought a beer with him.Now, I obviously don’t drink and drive. But I’ve let people drink in my car before while I’m driving. Whatever. And I can kind of relate to being in that place in life where you kind of “need” alcohol to make everything a little less rough around the edges. So against my better judgment, I tell him that he can drink his beer.
He then proceeds to pull out four 16oz beer cans from his backpack and chug them all within the space of about 10 minutes. And toss all the cans out the window.Is this guy for real?
Evening is setting and I’m definitely uncomfortable by this point. Joe keeps asking me if we can pull over so he can buy more beer. I keep having to tell him no.He still doesn’t remember my name. I’ve given up by this point and let him call me whatever he wants.He’s slurring his words pretty bad too.
It’s almost dark and Joe is too plastered to know what is going on. He asked me several times now where we are and where we’re going. He also constantly asks me not to leave him or steal his stuff. He also says he’ll hunt me down and kill me if I ever take his things or do anything to his dog. I don’t know how I missed it, but he must have been drinking a lot before I picked him up.
I decided at this point I’m not taking him all the way there.The windows are down and suddenly Joe leans out the window, while we’re moving, and starts puking!Luckily I had the back window up, so the damage was minimal. But I don’t even want to see the outside of the car. He also manages to get plenty of puke all down the inside of the door.
“sorry” he says. “I burped.”Are you kidding me?! You’re going to try and pass that off as a burp?! Maybe he’s just too drunk to understand what he actually did.He then proceeds to wipe his face on his shirt, leans over and wipes his nose on my sleeve!“You’re a good man, bro”Joe I’m dropping you off at the next town.”“Can we stop and get beer first?”“No.”“Joe has no concept of reality by this point.Our “conversation” has now devolved into cyclical repetitions that look something like this“Do we have any beer left?”“No.”
Still looking around his seat for beer. We need to turn around. I lost my wallet.“It’s in your pocket.”“Oh… Thanks, bro.”You’re a good man, Jeff”“I may get punched when we get there. But that’s okay, because they’re my family. But you know what’s more important than my family?”
“Your dog.” (He had told me this many times already)“That’s right. If you ever steal my dog, I’ll hunt you down and kill you.”Okay.“Where are we going?To the next town.”“Do you have a 20 I can borrow?”“I don’t have any cash.”“What about a 5?”“No cash.”Slaps me hard on the chest “Thanks for being my friend, Mike.”“Do we have any beer left?”It’s dark by the time we reach the next town and I pull over and help Joe out of the car. He can barely stand.
As I help him get out, an empty half-pint whisky bottle falls out of his pocket. That explains a lot.I don’t think Joe even knows what his original destination was.He gives me a big hug, grabs my face, and kisses me on the cheek.“You’re a good man.”“I know.”
With that Joe lays down in the dirt, muttering something about how he’s going to sleep there for the night.I need to refuel (and shower) and the last gas station is about 20 miles back. Plus I need to sleep and I don’t want to spend the night in the same town as Joe. So I start back tracking.