In North America, hitchhikers are one of three types: (1) Psycho-killers, (2) Soon-to-be victims of psycho-killers, or (3) Foreigners unaware of types one and two. But in Estonia, hitchhiking is not only safe, it’s pleasurable, and it’s one of the best ways for a foreigner to experience the countryside’s natural beauty, as well as to meet colorful locals.
True, between the continents technique differs slightly. In America, the hitchhiker attempts to convey insouciance, even ennui. He stands one leg bent, gazing into the middle distance, thumb slightly off the hip, pointing in the vague proximity of the desired direction of travel. In Estonia, a more formal stance is customary: legs locked straight, eyes directed to oncoming traffic, arm extended in a gesture crossing a Heil Hitler salute with what is used to hail a taxi in New York.
In the early 1990s, I used the American style, until a friend explained that country folk might think I was sunning myself by the side of the road. Adopting the local technique helped somewhat, but so did waving a small Canadian flag, the international symbol of harmlessness. After that, I never stood long on the roadside.
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