As we got ready to pull out of the rest stop and head to Paris, I noticed a hitch-hiker who was going up and down the lot looking for a ride. I watched him for a bit, seeing him being rejected over and over.
Now, I am not one to pick up hitch-hikers. I just don’t think it is a good idea – and I am not advocating it – but something was ‘special’ about this guy.
Did I mention to you that I am an empath? Well I am (a story for another blog!), and I felt like he really needed help, and was of decent character.
Instead of speeding away before he made it to our car, we waited for him and developed a quick plan before he made it to the window;
- He is likely going to Paris.
- We do not want to drive around Paris looking for some random destination. Having driven Paris before, I already knew it was going to be a nightmare and without enough sleep, I wasn’t sure we could handle it.
- With 1 & 2 in mind, we could take him to a rest stop right outside of the city giving him a better chance of making his target by tonight.
A few things became clear when he arrived at the driver side window. He hadn’t bathed in a long while and he didn’t speak ANY English. I relied on my knowledge of world geography and history to figure a few things out.
First of all, he handed me his identification. I knew that many citizens of the former Soviet Union were subject to regular ID checks for years and made an assumption that he hailed from that direction.
I drew a rough draft map of the world and he pointed to the area of western Russia, stating ‘USSR‘. I asked him if he was Russian, he shook his head no, which made me understand he was from a country that was a member of the former USSR.
We made it to Latvia/Lithuania but never figured out which (because of my terrible map drawing skills).
When we told him our names (with a lot of signing, charades and bits of French, German and Spanish!) I understood that his sister was also named Ana and he was going to see her and her new baby in Paris.
His car died in northern Poland, but he was determined to get to his sister and had been hitch-hiking for TWO WEEKS already, though he was only 13 driving hours from where he abandoned his vehicle.
We showed him on his local map where we could take him, he agreed thankfully, and we headed out through the French countryside – windows wide open!
When we made it to the drop off location, he got out of the car, thanked us (from what we understood!) and headed out on his way – we thought.
We tried to take another small nap as now we were feeling particularly tired and worn out – we wanted to be refreshed before our Parisian tour.
When we awoke, I saw him circling the parking lot fruitlessly looking for another ride. We felt awful, but still agreed that our initial thoughts were sound – we couldn’t bear the idea of circling through Paris after dark (which it would be on our arrival), looking for a random address, just to have to find our way back on track again after having done so.
So I told my husband I was going to give him some euros. I knew he didn’t have any. I would have bet anything he hadn’t eaten in days, and he certainly hadn’t showered (many of the stops have pay amenities, so I assumed this to be a financial issue).
At the very least, he could use the cash to bus into Paris, or give it to another driver as payment for a ride.
I waved him back over to the car and asked him if he had money. He looked at me dumbfounded, so I made the universal sign for cash (first two fingers and thumb rubbing together) and asked again ‘you have?’.
He shook his head no. When I first handed him the 20 euros he refused, but I insisted and made showering and eating signs (charades again). He laughed, showed that he knew was malodorous, and took the money.
It turned out he knew how to say thank you in a few different languages, and started rattling them off – ‘gracias, aciu, dank u, merci beaucoup…’
Feeling better that our new friend wasn’t completely stranded, we waved him off as we headed back out to the highway and the arresting French countryside.