I am driving my father to the airport on a rainy Monday morning. He’s flying out to attend the funeral of an old childhood friend. There is this girl on the shoulder of the highway, maybe 15 years old with a green mohawk and a leather bomber jacket, hitchhiking, holding a cardboard sign that says “Montreal.”
“Bloody stupid girl,” my father says. “No sense at all to be hitchhiking in this day and age.”
At another time, I might have argued with him, might have pointed out that, statistically speaking, it is no more dangerous to thumb a ride today than it was in the ’70s, or the ’60s, or the ’50s.
I might have pointed out that there was a far better chance any one of us in our vehicles on the road that morning would meet our deaths in a fiery car wreck—or as the victim of bone cancer or viral infection, Alzheimer’s or suicide—than at the hands of some random serial killer.
This morning, I have no heart to argue against the logic of paranoia. Besides, all of the newspapers and magazines and television news anchors are on my father’s side.
There are bombs in the theatre and in the subway, poisons in the food supply. There are orbiting satellites hanging from the heavens like immense disco glitter balls, casting down kerjillions of dots of pixelated terror.
At the departure area of the airport, I watch my father step through the security metal detector, becoming lost in the tidal flow of other obedient, non-threatening passengers. I think of a story I heard about the relative of a friend, a crusty old Norwegian man who had flown—for the first time ever—in his late sixties.
A lifelong bachelor and leathery-skinned outdoorsman, he had stuffed his trusty, sharp-bladed hunting knife in his sock, never for a moment dreaming that airport security would be sophisticated enough to catch it. He had simply thought he might need it for his fishing trip in Minnesota.
In my imagination, I like to picture the old man and the mohawk girl as travelling companions. They are refugees from another time and place; a time and place with a little less fear.
They are taking shelter from the weather at some roadside diner. He is dissecting his chicken pot pie, telling her about the way that black bear tastes when heated up on an open fire. She is telling him about writing poetry in the attic of a condemned warehouse.
They drink black coffee and share a cigarette. The rest of us are passing by on the darkened highway, in transit between security checkpoints.