Michaela Merz

Hitchhiking

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I was in Grindelwald. I wanted to go for a walk and the terrace path offered itself. One hour in the sun was a pleasant perspective. The street was partly narrow, since on both sides there was still quite high snow. After about half an hour I had the feeling of having a large vehicle in my back and stepped to the side and stopped. It was the public bus and it stopped next to me. The driver opened the window and said:

“Excuse me, I am five minutes late. Were you waiting for me? Do you want to get in?” I said no and thought about Switzerland. What a wonderful country where bus drivers apologize for five minutes delay and look out for possible passengers.

This story reminded me of another experience. Years ago I visited friends on the countryside. On Sunday evening they dropped me to the bus stop from where I had more than one hour by bus to go home. The bus had not arrived yet. I sat on the bench and started reading my book. After about three minutes a car stopped next to me and the driver asked me whether I wanted a ride to Prague. I said no. He wanted to know why. I explained to him that in principle I never travel with men I don’t know and that I am not keen to end up in a ditch, raped and killed.

He answered that this is absolute nonsense and that he hates travelling alone. Then he pulled out his ID and his wallet. I should keep it until we would arrive. I looked at everything and then decided to go with him.

We departed and after about one kilometre there were two young women at the side of the road, wanting to hitchhike. He drove on without stopping. I protested and said that he should stop immediately and pick up the girls or I would leave. He braked and returned in order to pick up the girls. They also wanted to go to Prague and were thrilled that someone picked them up.

The driver said: “You have to thank my wife Clara, she insisted.”
I was astonished about his tall tale but played along.
I told them that Peter had made bad experiences with hitchhikers and especially in his position he had to be careful.
Immediately the girls were curious and wanted to know what he was doing. Peter, the driver, (I knew his name from his ID) told that he was a high ranking diplomat, travelling a lot and his reputation had to be impeccable. They were excited and wanted to know whether I was travelling with him. I said no and said that this was not possible because I owned a gallery. Peter intervened and said that I was rather a painter and costume designer and artist and pretended to be surprised that the two girls did not know my name. Together we made up a wonderful fairy tale about an exuberantly happy, childless couple where both had exciting careers. That our clothes and the car hardly fitted into this story did not occur to the two girls.

We both had good fun and the eyes of the girls got bigger and bigger in amazement. The journey spun away. They wanted to get off shortly after we reached the city and thanked us, still much impressed. When we were alone Peter wanted to know my real name and what I was doing. I shortly told him. I also asked him. He told that he was a clock mechanic and specialised on turret clocks. I was astonished but not sure whether that was again one of his stories or whether it was true. He drove me to the step of our house and asked for my phone number. I shortly considered but then decided not to give it to him.

He was disappointed but accepted it, said good-bye and drove away. Only at home I realised that I still had his ID and his wallet. Obviously we met a second time but that is a different story.

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