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Monday, February 18, 2013

Study in Canada: In the Hands of a Serial Killer

After moving to a lodging closer to campus, we still used the bus to get to class each morning. Our new home was only a few blocks from the main street where we could catch the bus. Since it took us into the center of the sprawling university campus, we still had a hike across the grounds to make an early morning class. Of course, the university had a sidewalk system, but it added a lot more time to the journey, so we elected to go the cross-country route. It was a fair workout for the legs, with its mounds and depressions, but faster than the peripheral sidewalks.

When the weather began to change, the ground became a bit more of a challenge to traverse quickly. When it was wet, our boots and pant legs were fairly well soaked by the time we made it to class. There just had to be a better way.

Soon after one slip-and-slide episode getting to an 8:00 AM class, another student clued us in to an option many kids used. Thumb a lift from the gates of the university. (There were no actual gates, but that border area was so named anyway.)The students, whose classes were scheduled in buildings on our side of the campus, normally just hitchhiked and skipped the whole bus-thing. Neither Cheryl nor I wanted to thumb a lift, since we wouldn’t know the person driving the car; it sounded too dangerous to us.

As the inclimate mornings accumulated, however, I began to pressure Cheryl. I mean, everyone did it, right? “C’mon, Cheryl; let’s just try it once. If you don’t feel comfortable, we’ll never do it again. The kids said that it is only professors and students that take that road into the university grounds anyway; no one’s gonna hurt us. Besides, we can make a pact: we will never hitchhike alone. It’s either both of us or neither of us. We’ll not get into a car that has more than the driver so there will be two of us and only one of him; that should be plenty safe, don’t you think?

Well, Cheryl was still hesitant but, at last, agreed to try it once.

I was so excited and nervous that first morning. The gates were just a few blocks from our home, on a parallel street from the bus route. Approaching the place the students said we should stand, we saw a line of students with their thumb stuck out. One-by-one the cars stopped, and the number of empty seats in the car soon filled with students. It was a fast stop-stuff-and-go procedure. Sometimes the cars did not appear to come to a full and complete stop, but I’m sure they did.

Cheryl and I took our places in line, hoisted our daypack onto one shoulder and stuck a thumb out. To say I felt self-conscious was a gross understatement. I was embarrassed that I was such a rookie at something that the others had done for the entire school term already. They so easily moved to any approaching vehicle, while we stood back and waited, until we were nearly alone on the side of the paved road. Well, that first morning, we were the last ones to move to a slowing vehicle.

The experience became easier with each passing day. Soon, we acted like the veterans of the thumbing the others were. Every afternoon, we reminded one another that neither of us left for home until we were both ready, unless we took the bus; no hitchhiking alone. Sometimes, one of us did take the bus, because we finished our work before the other and just wanted to head home.

Then, one super-sunny January afternoon, I finished my work in the library and wanted to just thumb a lift. “Yes, I know, we promised one another; it was part of the deal before we ever started thumbing a lift. But, its three o’clock in the afternoon; who’s gonna do anything to me in the middle of daylight?” I had my jacket loosely around my shoulders, and settled my daypack as I spoke.

“No, we promised one another. It’s a safeguard. Something might happen if we stand there alone. Besides, you are headed out of the university; how do you know where the guy might take you? Why are we even talking about this? Sojourner, we agreed to not do it alone. I won’t agree that you go alone.”

“But, how much longer will you be? It looks like you have a lot still you want to do. I’ll be careful and not get in just any car. If a black limo stops, for instance, I’ll not put my thumb out.” I laughed, attempting to tease my friend, who would have none of it.

“And, just how many black limos have you seen here so far? Why don’t you just take the bus like we said we would?”

“Uh, well, I don’t have a quarter. Really, I’m sure it’ll be fine. No one would dare do anything on such a beautifully warm day. C’mon, what do you say?”

“Okay, you’re an adult and can decide for yourself anyway, just do it, if that’s what you want to do. I don’t have more than one quarter with me anyway; and if you’re leaving now, I’ll need it to ride the bus home when I finish in a couple of hours.”

“Great! Hey, don’t forget; we have class at seven thirty tonight so don’t take too long here.” I was already walking away from the library table where Cheryl had books and notebooks spread out.

“Yes, I know. I’ll get home in time. Jan is picking us up for class; it’s in the theatre, I think. Anyway, it’s not here. Just be careful!” She was at the loud-whisper phase now, because I had my hand on the door, waving to let her know I’d heard.

My, but that warm sun felt good! I took a deep breath of the fresh air and turned my face up to the sun. “Okay, body, take me home,” I said out loud, not caring if anyone heard me talking to myself.

At the corner, I took the usual stance, just waiting for a car. At the first sound of a motor, my thumb flew out and a huge smile found its way to my weary countenance. One-by-one, the cars passed, full of students already. Maybe I needed to find a spot up the road a bit? Naw, I’d be patient. Someone would come by sooner or later.

I heard the clattering sound of the tiny motor before I actually saw the little, baby-blue VW Beetle. It was very familiar to me, because I had once owned a red bug just like it; only mine was a year younger than the one I saw headed my way. I noticed that the driver was alone in the car. His blinking turn signal let me know he planned to pull over to the curb where I stood.

I leaned down to the window with my hitchhiker’s best smile and he opened the door. I grabbed the door and slipped into the passenger seat. “Thanks so much, Sir. I appreciate the ride to the gates.”

Little could I have imagined just what the driver of this definitely-used but cute little baby-blue Volkswagen Beetle had in mind for me that gorgeous January day. He didn’t wait long to let me know.

****Study in Canada: In the Hands of a Serial Killer, Conclusion…Next Post

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