(for part two, go here)
T. made it to her destination just fine, and I don't know that we ever spoke of that afternoon again. We had taken a risk and survived the decision. What I've thought about for so many years, though, was how uninformed we were in making that decision. We both knew, I think, that giving a stranger a ride is a risk, no matter what neighborhood you find him in. But how much of the risk is real, and how much is the perception of risk? We weren't (aren't) conditioned to anaylze the odds critically. How much was actual risk and how much was conditioned abject terror?
Does being afraid make us more or less vulnerable? And when does fear get in the way of good decisions?
These are the things I've thought about for years in regard to my only experience with a hitchhiker. To paraphrase a friend, if that scene was from a prime-time hour-long drama, the hitchhiker would have killed us both before the opening credits. But we weren't made-for-TV, we were just trying to get un-lost.
The scariest part of the afternoon wasn't the hitchhiker, it was my own fear. The scariest part was realizing that I couldn't discern real danger from the fear with which I'd been ingrained to react.
Luckily, there were no more hitchhikers for many, many years.
Until three weeks ago.
(part four, tomorrow)