Something went amiss in 1982 and the song Maneater swept the charts. I had a Hall and Oates tape. (Don’t judge me…it was the 1980’s!) I’m not sure why 1982 should be the year of creepy songs about predatory women. Some things are unknowable.
Decades later I found myself driving through the woods, at night, in a snowstorm. I was not thinking about music or predatory women. I was thinking about tobacco. I don’t smoke cigarettes but I like to bring a pipe and tobacco on fishing trips. Unfortunately I’d used up all of my tobacco and I was going ice fishing tomorrow at dawn. There was no time to get to the smoke shop. What’s a man to do? Theoretically I could just forgo smoking on my fishing trip. That’s a tragic and slippery slope! Soon I’d lose weight, quit swearing, and join a choir. From there it’s only a short step to driving a minivan, taking a middle management career seriously, and wearing a tie. I was not about to go into that dark night!
Such were my shallow, irrelevant thoughts on a pitch black deserted road in a snowstorm. I passed an aging hatchback dead by the side of the road. Then I saw footprints in the snow. Someone was walking. Not good; too remote, too cold. A mile or so later I saw John Oates.
No shit! Same hair, same mustache, same crappy leather jacket. He was 1982 personified. He put his thumb out.
He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thin leather jackets look cool but they don’t insulate enough and they’re invisible on dark roads. All winter I dress like Nanook of the North. I stomp around in massive boots, have pockets full of matches and other handy gear, and I have a hideous patch of blaze orange sewn to my giant fur hat. I look like a loon but I’m warm, equipped for anything, and visible to cars. He had thin sneakers and lacked a hat or gloves. He was going to freeze. He was carrying a small gas can.
I have a two part theory about hitch hikers. Part one is that each hitchhiker has a non-zero and surprisingly high probability of being the psychotic murderous love child of Jack the Ripper and Charles Manson. When you pick one up you’re taking an unknowable risk. Part two is that walking sucks. I’ve hitchhiked myself when all else failed. Despite the fact that I look like Attila the Hun and have the personality of Stalin with PMS, people have stopped for me. I’ve always been grateful. Life entails risk. Being kind to your fellow human being entails risk too. I wasn’t about to let some poor schmuck freeze in a snowbank because I’m a chickenshit.
I pulled over and he smiled like a man saved from misery. Which he was. He practically crawled into the heater vents trying to warm up. He wasn’t the 1980’s rock star…just a near perfect doppleganger.
He’d been walking the wrong way. The nearest gas in that direction was 15 miles. Ever walk fifteen miles along a cold, dark, snowy road? I have.
I swung the truck around in a massive U-turn and rumbled back to the nearest gas station. Some six miles behind his dead car.
Meanwhile he was telling me his life’s story. He proudly explained that the car was rebuilt from two junked cars and this was it’s maiden voyage. It ran like a top. He smiled as he was saying it. He was a couple hours into a five hour drive. He’d been working all day. First a shift at work. Then final details on the car. He’d driven a few hours and then, of course, spent some time walking. Times were tight. He had hoped to limp a little farther on a quarter tank of gas and that had been his undoing. He was going to visit his kids.
When we got to the gas station I grabbed a cup of coffee while Mr. 1982 filled his tiny gas can. My truck’s starter was on the fritz and I didn’t want to shut her down. I didn’t like leaving my truck idling and unattended while a hitchhiker pumped gas near the unlocked door…but I really wanted hot coffee. When he paid he picked up a pack of smokes. I hated to see this. An occasional pipe or cigar is one thing but daily cigarettes seem like a bad idea when times are hard. I thought this while greedily slurping my drug of choice (caffeine) and striding back to a truck so shot I didn’t dare shut it down. Aren’t we all so myopic? Somewhere there’s a snob in a new leased BMW appalled that a broke loser like me is blowing $0.75 on coffee when I can barely maintain my vehicle.
I brought him back to his car and he thanked me profusely. I didn’t ask for money and would have refused it if he offered some, which he didn’t. He was all smiles as he filled up his car and it fired up. I rolled away and never saw him again.
The next day I found a pack of tobacco. Not cigarettes but actual tobacco with rolling paper and all. It was lying on the dash. He must have left it by accident. Being a non-smoker I hardly knew they sold plain tobacco at gas stations. I think it’s cool.
There is no moral to the story except this. If you see Darrel Hall’s doppleganger, give the man a ride.
P.S. Some tool with a business degree has made it difficult to see the actual 1980’s video. The crap they use with music copy protection is why my I’d happily buy a cassette in 1982 but refuse to “rent” the same music on an iDevice twenty years later. Music companies are their own worst enemy. I found a link (presumably legit) to the video. If you want to experience that strange and alien world called 1982 click here.