I was taking a bus (cashuttlebus.com) today from LA to San Francisco, the same bus line that had brought me down to LA no problems a week ago.  Well, this time, different bus, different day, different results.  All of a sudden, as we’re driving in the east bay, the bus just dies.  Shuts off completely.  The driver tries turning the engine but nothing happens.  Great.  So close to the city yet so far, and we were stuck on the side of the highway.  I hear the driver call in to a mechanic and then she goes outside to look at the engine.

Everyone sat around on the bus just waiting but I figured I may as well find out what’s going on.  I step outside and talk to the driver who tells me that the mechanic will be there in half an hour.  So it’s anyone’s guess how long before the bus would be up and running again.  Then just on an impulse I stick my thumb out to cars driving up the entrance ramp.  I wasn’t expecting anyone to pull over but right away the second or third car to drive by pulls over.  I walk over and ask if they’re going to the city.  They say no.  I ask if they can take me to BART and they said ok, come on in.  So I run back to the bus and grab my bags, throw them in the trunk and get in the front seat.

They were a Guatemalan family, Miguel and Karen with two children, a 3 year old boy and a 2 year old girl who were sitting in the back with their mom.  She had moved to the back to make room for me in front seat.  We spoke most of the ride as I was trying to learn more about them.  Miguel works as a house painter and his hands and pants had the paint marks to prove it.  They said they were not having any more kids because diapers and food cost too much.  I laughed at that.  They moved here three years ago from Long Island because their kids were having asthma problems due to the cold weather, and they’re loving California.

I admit I was scared/nervous at the beginning.  You always hear horror stories about hitchhiking.  But they just seemed like truly honest, good-hearted people, which they turned out to be and more.  When I got out at BART I offered Miguel some money, and he adamantly refused to take it.  I was surprised.  The whole ride I was thinking that they were giving me a ride because they figured they could make some money from me.  Why didn’t I assume they were doing it because of the goodness of their heart?  That’s a topic for another post, another day.  I shook Miguel’s hand, told him he has the biggest heart and thanked him and Karen again for giving me a ride.

What’s ironic about the whole thing is that earlier during the bus ride I had been overhearing this young guy behind me recounting his travel stories to another passenger about traveling across country.  He said he usually hitchhiked whenever possible and said he’s never run into any problems with it.  You just have to be patient and accept that you may not get to your destination in the shortest amount of time.  That got me thinking that i’ve never hitchhiked before but maybe would be something i’d like to try.  My friends Dan and Natasha hitchhiked in Tahoe last year and I remember being shocked not just by the fact they hitchhiked but that they didn’t think it was a big deal at all.  They were both raised in Australia so it could be a cultural difference as well.  Or maybe they didn’t have The Hitchhiker tv show on the USA network to scare them.

I asked Miguel what he thinks of the Guatemalan football team, and if he thinks they’ll make the World Cup.  He was convinced they would, without a doubt.  I know I’ll be pulling for them to make it.