Is it sexist to say ‘and his wife’? Unless I can defend it; it’s from my point of view as a man; or that he was the driver; or that he was the only one who described what he did; or that it was him I happened to speak to – perhaps because having a stranger in the car, an unknown man, they, I and society all feel more comfortable if I speak to the man.
Seven year old Oskar offered to put my rucksack on his knee, but as it weighed quite a lot more than he did, I declined his offer. I did however take him up on his offer of a boiled sweet.
I squeezed my rucksack in the back, and explained my story, keen to get in the I-want-to-record-our-conversation point in earlier than I managed the last two times. I didn’t manage it, and the woman said there was little point at this stage, as we’d be there soon. I felt very comfortable as the guest of this apparently very content little family, and even more excited about the progress I was making. I wasn’t even thinking about my final destination and why I was on the road (and who I was aiming to surprise), but just the thrill of making progress on the back of stranger’s kindness. I felt a little selfish and manipulative intending to exploit the journeys for their stories, but nonetheless excited to be the guest of all these people.
I felt quite immature, with this family, getting on with their lives, working, bringing up a kid, and apparently very happy. The couple weren’t much, if at all, older than me. And I was drifting through Europe making an art project few people will see. Well, not drifting, I had a clear aim. They drove me down to dreieck-somewhere, where all the motorways en route to Munich meet, a good spot to get the next ride.
The next ride was with a smart young chap in a BMW. Single people are the most open when you’re getting lifts. I’m still amazed at their trust; not that I expect them to consider me a murderer or thief, but it’s just that we are going to have a conversation for an hour or three. I told him the whole story, and he seemed charmed by it all, and kept grinning and asking more. I was charmed by his (career) success (he was around my age). Unfortunately we didn’t really get onto him. That’s how its seems to work: I explain my story, that of art and love, and hope they’ll respond. But it takes a while, and in this case, we didn’t get as far as him.