Like father, like daughter

Disclaimer to my mother: please sit down before you read the first sentence.

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I hitchhiked for the first time the other night.

kauai mapLet’s get a couple things straight.  First, hitchhiking on Kauai is a fairly regular and comparatively safe occurrence.  People who hitch here say they would never do it on the mainland.

Second, hitching on this island is logistically simple.  There is one main road that traces the circumference of the island almost from end to end (it skips a bit of the Na Pali coast on the northwest side).  Directions are given in relation to this one road.  This makes an atmosphere most conducive to hitchhiking.

Third, hitchhiking appeals to my environmentally friendly side (which is most sides of me I hope) because it keeps a couple more cars off the road.

IMG_2996The night began innocently enough over dinner at The Eastside in Kapa’a with a couple of new friends.  (The potato wrapped Mahi Mahi was so delicately melt in my mouth spectacular that I could have eaten it for the next six meals straight).  The majority of my dining companions dropped off for responsible adult reasons (…having to put the four-year old to bed…need to wake up at 4 am to open the bakery…) and left Robert and me to our own devises.  After another bar though, Robert’s bed was calling to him as well and I was left the last one standing…on the side of the road.

IMG_2994I put my thumb out and start walking towards my destination about five miles away.  I thought, “This is going to be easy.  I’m a chick and I’m wearing a cute little sundress.  The first car that passes me will pick me up.”

Ten cars later, my ego starts to develop a small bruise.  No one has stopped.  Hmmm.  I carry on.

Twenty cars.  My ego is now turning a pretty shade of black and blue.  Really?!  I’ve seen dozens of hitchhikers get picked up in the time that I’ve been here.

Thirty cars.  Okay, now I seriously feel like the last kid picked on the softball team, except I wasn’t even competing against anyone.  It’s as if teams had to be picked and I was the only choice for a teammate and I’m still left there standing on the sidelines with no one to play with.

Forty cars.  I start to laugh at myself.  How egotistical could I be?  Did I really think that I was such a hot ticket that I would be in demand even when hitchhiking?  Get a grip Darla.  With each car that passes, my self-mocking smile grows bigger.  Oh, okay.  I get it.  I’ll be walking all the way home.

IMG_3095Finally I see taillights pull over to the side of the road a couple yards in front of me and I run up to the passenger-side door.

“Thank you so much for picking me up,” I say with an appreciative smile to the thirty-something surfer who has been nice enough to spare me any more embarrassment.  I slam the door beside me and we take off.

“No problem.  Where are you going?”  The driver responds.

Silence.  Where do I want to go?  I don’t want to go home yet, but I do have a ride…hmmm.

“I live up Kawaihau, but just drop me at Kealia,” I decide.

“At the beach?” he asks.

“Yeah.  I want to walk the beach for a bit before I go home,” I say surprised at my own answer.

We exchange some small talk and I find out that Russell has only been on the island for a couple months.  Due to the high-cost of living and lack of viable professions, the non-native population here is very transitory.  After a couple miles, Russell flashes his blinker and slowly turns right into the dirt parking lot that stretches in front of the beach.

“Are you sure it’s okay for me to leave you here?  Leave a woman alone at night on the beach?  I could take you home.”  He stammers nervously.

“It’s fine.” I respond confidently and head out into the night.

IMG_2264Now, the reason my answer to be dropped at the beach surprised even me: I’m scared of the dark.  Yup, that’s right.  Totally petrified of being alone in the dark.  I tried to get over this fear once when I was about 19.  In fact, I tried to get over that fear as well as my fear of public speaking at the same time.

I had just started working at the law firm that would later consume my twenties, I was living in North Philadelphia and I needed some extra dough to help pay for my lofty university bills.  So, I saw an ad in the paper, figured I could make some money and battle a couple demons all at the same time and went to the open interview.

After successfully landing the job I added a new talent to my repertoire.  I was now a tour guide at the Eastern State Penitentiary’s Halloween haunted house.   Not only was I a tour guide, but I was in charge of telling a tale crafted from the only real ghost story of the penitentiary.  Dark; check.  Public speaking; check.

eastern state penitentiary

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Let me explain what this interview entailed.  After weeding through the pool of freaks and weirdos that showed up for this open call (me included), those of us who were left were divided into different sections depending on our talents (scaring people, being intimidating, having artistic endeavors, speaking in comprehensible English).  When the gaggle of tour guides was brought together for our group meeting, we were asked which one of us would like to take on the illustrious job of telling the one true ghost story.  Before the question was out, my hand was in the air.  I think it happened without me knowing.  One minute I’m sitting there thinking, “I would never volunteer for that position,” and the next minute I’m picked.

Night after night I would dress myself up in my best sexy vampire outfit, paint black sexy vampire make-up on my face and ride the subway from my office in Center City to my penitentiary in North Philly.  Night after night I would stand alone in a solitary confinement chamber, pump a smoke machine, and tell a tale to a group of strangers.  This routine went on for about 30 nights.  I told that story 15 times a night in the pitch black.  And during the lag time between tours I was alone in the darkness of a rundown prison.

I emerged the day after Halloween still scared of the dark and still petrified of public speaking.  So much for that little experiment.

IMG_3071IMG_3060Ten years later, I find myself walking along the deserted beach in Kauai, thinking about my Dad as I splash through the waves.  My father is an adventurer.  It’s his genes that give me this constant need for adrenaline in all its forms.  He’s the reason that as a thirty-year old middle-class

suburban American girl I feel comfortable flying to India solo or walking into a new bar by myself or hitchhiking alone.

After I had felt like I had frolicked enough for one night, I started the hike home.  The road was more deserted now so my thumb (and ego) was ignored by fewer cars, but it was ignored nonetheless.

Eventually I saw the friendly sight of taillights pulling over in front of me and I ran to meet my ride.

Ricardo was nice and took himself out of his way to drop me at my door.  I waved good-bye and headed into bed.

IMG_3009A few days later I was on the phone with my dad.

“Dad, I hitchhiked the other night.”  I tell him with pride.

“I hitchhiked the other day too!” He exclaims.  “It’s the first time I’ve hitchhiked since I before you were born.”

After putting our dates together we came to realize that 5,000 miles apart, we had hitchhiked on the very same day.

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4 Comments

  1. Rima said,

    August 10, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Dar…just read both this post and last one….really wonderful. I love “being there”
    with you. Thank you for this summer of vicarious travel pleasure.

  2. Margaret said,

    August 21, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Wow that’s crazy that you and your dad hitch-hiked the exact same day. Your dad sounds like a very unique person… love to meet him someday!

  3. December 31, 2009 at 2:13 am

    […] oversharing. can i use the same excuse again?  sure, why not?  i can’t help it.  I’m a serial oversharer. […]

  4. March 19, 2010 at 12:57 am

    […] India in June.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I was pretty committed to it while in Hawaii in July and August last year.  Mama Kauai can be pretty conducive to 1) anything ancient 2) anything healing and 3) anything.  […]


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