When I was 20, I sold books door to door that summer in Ohio for Southwestern Company. The regional boss told me at our Sunday meeting to spend a day working with one of his ace sellers. The problem was, I didn’t have a car to get to the town where he worked.
The boss told me to hitchhike. I’d done it before with friends but never alone. But the boss said to go work with Ace, so I got up the next morning, packed my sales bag, put on my tennis shoes, and headed out to the main road.
At 7:00 in the morning, the road was filled with vehicles. I stuck out my thumb, and waited. In about 30 seconds, I had a guy pull over and open up his door for me. He took me as far as he could without going out of his way. He let me out and wished me well. I was halfway there.
I stuck out my thumb again and soon had another ride. It was an older couple.
“A young woman like you shouldn’t be hitchhiking alone,” the wife said.
“I know,” I said. “I am doing it for work. I have to get to Brookville.”
“Well, this is as far as we are going in your direction,” the husband said.
“Be careful,” the wife said.
“I will,” I said.
I stuck out my thumb as the couple disappeared up the road. I needed to follow the highway that was weaving through the town. Soon a guy in a small pick-up truck stopped and said, “Hop in.”
I climbed into the truck and he said, “Where to?”
“Where are you headed?” I asked.
“Wherever you need to go,” he said.
I already didn’t like the guy.
“I need to head north,” I offered.
“Well, you’re in luck, pretty lady,” he said, “because I am heading north.”
We’d only gone a few blocks when the guy started giving me the creeps.
“You know,” he said, “I don’t have to go to work today.”
I leaned into the door to get as far away from him as I could.
“I have to work today,” I said.
“A pretty thing like you,” he said, “shouldn’t have to work.”
“Well, I do,” I said.
“You might be a little late,” he said as his hand stretched across the bench seat toward my leg.
As he rolled up to a stop sign, I opened the door and jumped out.
“Hey!” he yelled as I headed for the closest phone booth.*
I called Ace, told him what had happened, and he came to pick me up.
After a long day of listening to Ace tell me how to sell more books, I was worried about hitching home.
“I really don’t want to hitch home in the dark,” I told him.
“Don’t worry,” Ace said. “My wife says I have to drive you back.”
Thank God. I didn’t think I could face another creep in a pick-up truck.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
I should’ve decked the truck dude, but I didn’t learn that till later in my life.
*a public phone booth is where people used to make phone calls before cell phones were invented.