In yesterday’s blog, titled Walter, I told you about picking up an elderly gentleman I found walking along a highway on a snowy winter night back during my Army days. I said then that I used to pick up hitchhikers all the time, especially those in the military, and several of you left very nice comments for me about that. After reading today’s blog, you may want to take some of those back, because I’m going to tell you about picking up another hitchhiker and how it didn’t turn out quite as planned.
This was on another one of my quick weekend trips from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, back to my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Actually, it was a three-day weekend, Memorial Day, as I recall. I worked all day, got off duty, changed into civies and jumped in my car, and headed home. I had just gotten onto Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania and was heading west when I saw a young African American sailor with his thumb out. I pulled over and asked him where he was going and he said Cleveland. I told him he was in luck because I was going to Toledo and would be passing right through Cleveland.
He was a nice guy, and as we traveled through the night he told me that his ship had pulled into New York for a short stay after being on a European cruise for the last eight months and that he had not been home in over a year. He also told me that his wife had given birth to their first child, a little girl, less than two months after he left. He said the Chief Petty Officer he worked for was hard to get along with and had only given him the three-day weekend, but come hell or high water, he was going to go home to see that baby! He knew he wouldn’t have much time with her but was looking forward to each precious moment.
We talked about what it was like being a soldier and a sailor and our plans for the future, just the normal things military men talk about. We were about 50 miles from the Ohio state line when I noticed that he kept yawning and I asked if he was tired. He apologized and told me that he had worked a 12-hour shift before leaving the ship, which was part of the deal with his CPO to get the time off. I told him to climb in the back seat and take a nap, and he said he didn’t want to do that because after I was kind enough to give him a ride, the least he could do was keep me company. I told him to get some sleep now because that would be more time he could be awake with his family when he got home.
So he did, and I continued driving along, listening to the radio on a route I had taken so many times I could almost do it in my sleep. Eventually, I came to Cleveland and wondered why that stuck in my head, and then remembered that I was only 120 miles from home. And I kept right on driving, forgetting all about my sleeping passenger!
I got to my parents’ house and, of course, they had waited up for me even though I told them not to, and Mom insisted on fixing me something to eat. We talked for a while and then I started getting tired and we decided we should all go to bed. I stood up and started for the door to go out to my car to get my AWOL bag, a canvas bag that I kept my shaving gear and toiletries in, but Dad told me he would go get it for me. He was back in just a couple of minutes and asked me who the sailor was sleeping in the back seat of my car. Oops!
I went downstairs and woke the poor kid up and he asked if we were in Cleveland already. It broke my heart to tell him that I had passed through Cleveland three hours earlier, and he still wasn’t home. By then I was almost dead on my feet, but there was no way I was not going to take him home. My dad insisted that he would do the driving, and that’s what we did. We took him right to his family’s front door, me apologizing most of the way. But he was a good sport about it and kept telling me that he had probably still made better time than if he had wound up with several shorter rides or been stuck out on the highway all night. However much time he had left with his wife and little girl, I hope he made the most of it.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. And just in time for Halloween, this week’s prize is an audiobook of The Ghost of Halloween Past, Book 5 in my pal Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast that is haunted by the ghost of a former owner. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.
Thought For The Day – If I make one more bad decision, I believe I’ll own the whole set.