“When in doubt, chicken out.”
This was the principal “rule of the road” espoused by my best friend while traveling by thumb. Don’t put yourself in a hazardous situation just because your ego is outsized compared to your abilities to handle the situation. It wasn’t cowardice; it was prudence. The locals? they know the local Fuzz in their hick town, and you don’t. Notice that he has three friends, and your nearest support posse is a hundred miles to the east. Walk briskly, but do not run.
He also insisted that getting all agog about the possibilities of revenge was foolish. Satiate yourself on daydreams of having enemies staked down on the anthill covered with honey, but don’t waste your time planning it. He, in short, loved to put things into little sayings or koans for me to consider.
So you might think that he was some Budhha figure to my student monk? Not completely. There were areas where he was too quick to rage and not fast enough to cool off. The object of these rages was his wife, Jean. Their relationship was like going from a gentle spring mist to a summer thunderstorm and back again in a New York moment. Remember, he loved road trips. She loved the nice conveniences of a conventional home. He was a wild artistic talent who painted outre murals on walls; she wanted the walls painted. No one ever figured out how the two had come to be. I knew enough not to pry.
So when I had to hitch from Boston to Baltimore to bail him out, I talked to Jean. She begged me to speak to him about settling down. I liked Jean, but I knew that she just viewed me as her husband’s enabler – ” Hey! Wanta go to LA?”, ” Sure!”
Well, I agreed. So off I trotted to the jail and laid out all the money I had to bail out my friend. Later on, over beers, I presented Jean’s case to him. He listened carefully, sipped his beer, and told me how much he loved Jean, and roundly advised me to mind my own business. Then, seeing the hurt look on my face, he informed me that someday I’d be in a similar situation and that I should tell the advisor the same damned thing he was telling me – to paddle my own darned canoe.
Right after that, we hitched to Boston, and Jean was mad as hell at both of us.