THE NETTE EFFECT: The price of a ride
I broke one of my cardinal rules on safety and picked up a hitchhiker over the weekend.
I was in a particularly happy mood having spent the last week up and down with my best friend since – oh I don’t know when. Monica and I have shared some of my most precious memories. We spent the better part of our childhood getting up to mischief in town and country.
Monica was on a brief visit with her husband Phillip and we attempted to paint the town red, a dull red it turned out to be. We didn’t have the stamina we imagined was there.
So having traipsed from one house gathering or party to the next and spending an inordinate length of time laughing and enjoying good food we happily parted company
as I dropped her off at the airport.
But as I made my way back home from the airport in the pouring rain I had reached Bank Hall, St Michael, when there was a break in the downpour. I crept towards the traffic lights and noticed a young man a few feet ahead looking around and I sighed in exasperation. I thought to myself he better not be looking in my direction.
He mouthed something to me and, at first, I was tempted to look away but I held his gaze with just a hint of an annoyance showing on my face.
He was undeterred.
He asked me if I was heading towards Eagle Hall, he would appreciate a ride. The vehicle was stationary, the lights on red. I hesitated. It wasn’t out of my way but I didn’t feel comfortable allowing a male stranger into my vehicle.
I sized him up. He wore a dreadlocked hairstyle, was of brown complexion and slim, very slim.
The rain started to drizzle again, cutting short my time to weigh whether I should give shelter to a stranger or politely wave him off as I have done countless times to dodgy looking hitchhikers.
I have certain self-imposed traffic regulations that I follow and the uncompromising one is not to give rides to males and to a lesser extent suspicious looking females. I reckoned that one on one I might be able to beat back an attack from a female passenger.
The young man’s bony frame, heavy traffic and the pleading in his eyes weighed heavily in his favour.
I motioned for him to get in.
“Thank you, thank you,” he gushed as he took the seat next to me.
I gave him the once over. Then I let him know that I don’t usually give rides to strangers when I’m alone but I would take a chance on him. I warned him that I wasn’t afraid and in any event I held the steering wheel and therefore the advantage. I had quietly calculated
that pound for pound he would have a hard time prevailing over me and those dreadlocks could prove to be his Achilles heel if he was unarmed.
But the young man appeared pleasantly surprised at my candour and he let on that he was beginning to give up hope of hitching a ride, even though he often gave rides when his vehicle was up and running.
He told me about how he had visited his little brother and made paw paw tea to help him fight off chikungunya and was heading back home in Black Rock. The young man reckoned that a drop off at Eagle Hall would allow him to get public transportation home before the rains really pelted down.
He explained how he was working on his car and that people don’t really help others, but he was glad that I had accommodated him. I was familiar with the location and, without saying it, headed straight to there.
As I crawled along I gathered from Omar – by now we were at the stage of first names – that he was a jack of almost every trade, plumbing, mechanics, carpentry, masonry, but without formal training. His grandfather had taught him everything he knew and then curiosity took over from there.
He didn’t know it but Omar was really my paying it forward act.
The sermon the Sunday before I encountered him had been on thanksgiving and generally being grateful for the provision of God’s grace.
It was a theme that had been recurring throughout the week, the act of showing gratitude and extending yourself by doing some small deed to bring a measure of happiness into someone’s life.
By the time I arrived at Omar’s destination, he could not thank me enough for saving him from a sure drenching. For my part Omar had imparted knowledge about everyday life, explaining by knowing how to do all these things meant that you can save yourself a bundle. His advice, learn how to do certain things.
I got all that advice for the price of a ride that did not even put me out of my way.
• Antoinette Connell is a News Editor.