Comfort stop more of a jolt

Dunedin is a good walk from Invercargill, which is why I'm hitchhiking.

It's the early '90s, I'm 20-something and heading back to Dunedin after visiting my parents in Invercargill, or "Gumboot" as it is affectionately known by friends and associates.

The trip was taking a leery turn.

My first ride was in a green MkIII Cortina driven by a chap for whom English was clearly a second language.

He seemed a bit angry, talked a million miles an hour and punctuated his narrative, whatever it was, with wild gesticulations.

Nodding my head in ignorant agreement, I secretly hoped he wasn't going all the way to Dunedin.

It may have been his driving, it may have been the open ice cream container full of defrosting kina nestled between the front seats, it may have been the array of butcher's knives that flopped from side to side in the driver's footwell, but I had turned the same colour as his car by the time he tipped me out in Gore.

Under a concrete sky, I walked to Gore's outskirts and thrust my thumb out into the traffic.

Like a slow day fishing, there were a few nibbles but no bites. Cars slowed momentarily, had a look at me and carried on their merry way.

Hitchhiking etiquette demands that the hitchhiker stands at the end of a long straight, thereby allowing potential lifts to mull over offering a ride in plenty of time.

It also means that if they do stop, then it's not hundreds of metres up the road, thereby saving the hitchhiker the embarrassing half shamble, half run with an awkward pack to where the car is stopped.

To walk that distance is, after all, disrespectful, as it would intimate that your time is more important than the driver's.

A speck appeared in the distance and approached too quickly. I moved a little further off the road.

An orange GTS Monaro screamed by, then sank into the tarmac as the brakes were heavily applied.

As I started my half shamble, half run, the left rear passenger door was flung open like a drafting gate in a sheep yard, ready to guide the next hapless victim to the slaughter.

There were three occupants, two in the front and one in the back.

Piling in I was greeted with, "We don't care who you are, or what you are, as long as you like drinking beer".

A seven-ounce glass of the brown stuff floated under my nose, both an invitation and a threat.

"That's good, because I like beer," I replied.

It pays to take the bull by the horns in these kinds of situations.

That seven-ounce glass passed clockwise among all the occupants, three fishermen from Riverton on their way to visit a mate in Waipahi.

The two in the front were mostly obscured by a tall bench seat with headrests.

My companion in the back seemed affable enough as long as the glass wasn't needlessly tardy in its travels .

As we nosed east at over 160kmh, beer disappeared at about the same rate as petrol down the throat of the V8 engine that motivated the ginger beast of a car.

I think it's the quickest I've become drunk in my life and a good thing too, as I was about to discover.

We soon ran out of beer. No problem though, as there was more in the boot.

Pulling over to access the crate of goons (flagons) in the boot was a welcome break.

It would have been a scene repeated on many of the highways and byways of Southland on a Saturday afternoon and evening - a car at the side of the road with the occupants relieving themselves into the long grass.

Except for one difference . . .

As I've mentioned, the front occupants were obscured by the large bench seat.

Even so, it struck me as rather odd that the driver couldn't be bothered to step out of the car for his pit stop.

Instead, he seemed to have remained in his seat and was urinating out the door.

Intrigued, I risked a peek over the seat.

It took a few seconds for me to understand the significance of the strange array of levers and a motorcycle handgrip to the right of the steering wheel.

I sank back into the rear seat in disbelief and quickly came to the conclusion that one way or another, this was to be my last hitchhiking experience.

After all, if I lived, how could I top a 160kmh-plus trip through the Southland countryside in a Fanta-hued V8 piloted by a drunk paraplegic.

-Gregor Richardson

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