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What would you have done?
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Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
What would you have done? on 01/05/2013 20:43:28 MST Print View

My wife, daughter and myself were having cabin fever and decided to bag a six mile afternoon day hike in one of our favorite pristine spots in a nearby redwood forest. On the way in we noticed a Toyota truck parked in an odd position on the dirt road we were traveling on. We didn't stop because we were already short on daylight to make our hike and knew other cars would be traveling on this rural road. Our hike was fantastic even though the last mile was in the dark. On the drive home we drove past the same Toyota now parked off the side of the road with a man flagging us down. I told my wife to stop and see if he needs help as few if any cars use this road after sundown. A rather large man approached our car wearing only a tee shirt and shorts which seemed odd considering It was a damp 32 degrees out. He asked if we would give him a ride into town which is about 25 minutes away because his transmission is out in his truck. I agreed and we took him right to his house and all turned out well. He told us that a Ranger had stopped to see why he was parked funny and blocking the road. The Ranger called for backup and they handcuffed him while they ran a backup check on him. He admitted he was rude to the officers and that is why they handcuffed him. Eventually they moved his truck off the road.
Was I wrong to jeopardize the safety of my wife, daughter, and self to help a stranger on a dark rural road?


Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: What would you have done? on 01/05/2013 22:26:56 MST Print View

I don't want to say right or wrong but I can tell you that I wouldn't have done it.

I don't want to ignore someone who needs help but I would have found some safer way of responding.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: What would you have done? on 01/06/2013 08:09:49 MST Print View

Hard to say without being there to pick up on the vibe. actually seeing. Curious as to why the rangers did not assist him with a ride. Rude or not Rangers are paid to help.
I'm a big dude myself. I've made people nervous by being larger than them and their friend together. I can see both sides of this issue.

I'm glad that it all worked out. That is the important part.

Edited by kthompson on 01/06/2013 08:13:21 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: What would you have done? on 01/06/2013 08:46:30 MST Print View

I agree with Ken that you're the one who was there and could get a sense of the vibe. Also, since he was only in t-shirt and shorts I assume you could easily tell he wasn't 'carrying' anything. That would make it easier to help. I assume he told you about the rudeness and handcuffs during the ride and not before.

Not sure what I would have done, of course, but I might have called the police (non-911) and told them a motorist needed assistance and let them deal with it. I definitely would have taken a pic of his license plate and emailed it to a friend, and let him know I was doing it, if I decided to give him a ride.

Did your wife think it was a good idea?

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: What would you have done? on 01/06/2013 11:40:44 MST Print View

real interesting that the rangers did not help. We pay them to do just that....(shaking my head)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: What would you have done? on 01/06/2013 13:55:39 MST Print View

Agree, you would have had to be there to analyze the situation.

Regarding the Rangers. I wouldn't pass judgement. We only heard one side of the story, and that person admitted poor behavior. There maybe more to it and Hoot only got tid bits of what transpired. I find that Rangers often give people more "benefit of doubt" than I would.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: What would you have done? on 01/06/2013 14:43:08 MST Print View

I believe Nick is right about the ranger. What transpired between the ranger, sheriff and stranger definitely had two sides. I feel if the stranger would have been cordial he could have scored a ride to town or at least a phone call for needed help (maybe a night in a cold car would have taught him some manners). The stranger did say when ever a car drove by he would get out of his truck and the cars would speed off. I was fairly sure he was having car trouble and as we went by we continued about 30 yards before we stopped . I watched him closely (glad i carry a 150 lumen flashlight) as he approached and asked if he needed assistance. He was not aggressive and said his transmission went out and my level of concern was lowered. My wife is a retired peace officer and would have never stopped if I was not in the car and the fact we could see he was not armed. It turned out the stranger was the nephew of a colleague I work with (small town). In hind site I am probably too trusting and will probably be more cautious in the future. My bigger question is during the 60's and 70's I hitched a lot of rides from complete strangers and people seemed more trusting. Has society changed that much in 50 years?

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Good on 01/06/2013 14:45:46 MST Print View

I think you did a good thing. Most backpackers rely on a hitched ride on occasion. I'm often discouraged by how often people drive by and offer no ride. I didn't hear anything about your pre-ride end punter that would have discouraged me.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What would you have done? on 01/06/2013 15:22:11 MST Print View

"My bigger question is during the 60's and 70's I hitched a lot of rides from complete strangers and people seemed more trusting."

Same here. To include a round trip from Los Angels to Colorado Springs in the 70's. 100% hitch-hike.

"Has society changed that much in 50 years?"

Unfortunately, I think it has. Also think the media has played a part with 24/7 coverage of the negative side of life. Oh well.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
change on 01/06/2013 15:32:59 MST Print View

I bet its no more dangerous than it was years ago. I do think people are more afraid of others. I agree with Nick that news affects us a lot. If a hitchhiker did something bad in California, would probably hear about it here. Its a big country, though, and I bet statistically its still as safe as ever.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Media on 01/07/2013 08:42:42 MST Print View

Nick and Ben are right. Freakanomics did a podcast on hitch hiking and what happened to it. A very few horrific cases captured the public attention and suddenly the media and parents were saying "don't hitch hike" and it became a social norm to NOT hitch hike and to not give rides just as we were told to not eat before swimming or we would "get cramps" and suddenly be unable to swim which is also not true.

I often give rides. Usually it is a good experience for all. Sometimes, it is 10-20 minutes of awkward conversation.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 01/07/2013 08:44:17 MST.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
What would you have done? on 01/07/2013 08:56:15 MST Print View

I was raised to help people like that, so I probably would have done the same thing, unless there was something obvious to get my spidey-sense tingling. If I was with my wife, would certainly have some self-protection utensils handy. Trust but verify.

And I have a buddy who, back in the 70s, thought nothing about walking to the corner and sticking out his thumb. Went all over the USA.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
How good experiences become bad ones on 01/07/2013 09:38:40 MST Print View

So, would the OP give the ride again? Everything turned out fine - the hitcher got on his way, the driver helped someone out and got a good story out of it. But the tendency is to look back on an odd character as if it was a close call.

I worked with guy 20 years my senior. He'd been around in the 60's, done a few things, known (biblically) a number of women, and considered himself a man of the world and a good judge of character. The last ride he gave was decades before to a young woman hitching in Marin County going east. He eyeballs her at 35 mph, she's in a flower dress, a little hippie-dippy, but that was common in the early 70's. At the curbside, she seems fines, friendly, normal enough. And anyway, he's a guy, she's a girl, right? So he lets her in.

At first, she's a little vague about where's she's going - east on Sir Francis Drake. A little further, a little further. As they drive, the story comes out. She's going to San Quentin (California's maximum security prison) just before SFD becomes the Rishmong-San Rafael Bridge over the Bay. For a conjugal visit. With someone she doesn't know. She's a follower of Charlie. Charlie Manson. Charlie doesn't get conjugal visits because of a few things he did to Sharon Tate. But Charlie gets BIG points with other inmates if he can get young women to show and do the deed with whoever he says.

My coworker hadn't given rides since. Which is fine, his choice. But I observe that he was not only unharmed but got a one heck of a story out of it.

How would it be if we all played the same kind of "what-if" with our BP trips? I was a foot away from falling off down an 800-foot cliff. If it had been 10C colder, I would have frozen my bum off. If a gang of Hell's Angels had been 20 miles up the trail and intent on harming me, I'd have been defenseless. Etc. Etc. Or if we thought after hearing of someone pinned by a boulder and having to amputate his own arm, that the same thing would happen to us on our next trip, we'd never go backpacking again.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: How good experiences become bad ones on 01/07/2013 09:58:45 MST Print View

"How would it be if we all played the same kind of "what-if" with our BP trips? I was a foot away ... that the same thing would happen to us on our next trip, we'd never go backpacking again."

Very true. I just read a fascinating article on psychopaths, and what they can teach us. Some of it pertains to this discussion. Here's a related passage: "Mental toughness and fearlessness often go hand in hand. Of course, to many of us lesser mortals, fearlessness may seem quite foreign. But Leslie explains the rationale behind this state—and how he maintains it. “The thing about fear, or the way I understand fear, I suppose—because, to be honest, I don't think I've ever really felt it—is that most of the time it's completely unwarranted anyway. What is it they say? Ninety-nine percent of the things people worry about never happen. So what's the point?

“I think the problem is that people spend so much time worrying about what might happen, what might go wrong, that they completely lose sight of the present. They completely overlook the fact that, actually, right now, everything's perfectly fine.

“So the trick, whenever possible, I propose, is to stop your brain from running on ahead of you.”"

A good read:

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
What would you have done? on 01/07/2013 10:33:38 MST Print View

Like others have said, one has to be there, in the situation, to judge for themselves whether it seems safe to stop and help a stranger. Generally, I'd be less inclined to stop and help a stranger if I had my family with me as opposed to a buddy or two or traveling solo.

That being said, just about a week ago, a friend and I were doing what was supposed to be a ~65 mile two-night loop through our local backcountry. We got through most of the first day's walk and found available fresh water to not be as reliable or abundant as we had hoped for. After finding yet another dry creek that normally would hold water, we opted to change our plans and hike out and then along a remote two-lane highway until we could find another creek with water. By this point, it was getting dark out and we were along the shoulder of the highway with headlamps on. It wasn't long before the first car passed us by, stopped and asked if we were okay and needed any help. We waved them on as we still expected to find water shortly. A few miles along and still no water, another car stopped to check on us. They ended up giving us a ride about 8 miles down the highway where we were able to pick up another trail and find some running water.

In this case, we certainly benefitted from the kindness of strangers and being given the benefit of the doubt.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: What would you have done? on 01/07/2013 16:39:45 MST Print View

I remember being a teen and my Dad pleading with me to never, ever pickup hitchhikers. He had his points. Anyhow, in the years since I can count on one hand how many hitchers I have picked up - they have all been on roads in NP's where the end of the road was to say, a visitor center. These have been folks sitting at a trailhead, dressed as hikers, who looked the part - and were looking for a ride back. Or smelly snowboarders. Too stoned to be a threat.

I will NOT pull over at night to help someone and get out of my vehicle - I will though be happy to call for help. I especially wouldn't do it if I had my kids with me. Even when armed. But that is due to being a female. It might sound harsh, but I wouldn't get out of my car for even a woman standing by a vehicle. She could have a man hiding.

One time years ago at a pass on a highway here, we had left one car while we did a one-way hike. We came back late, and next to my truck was a pair of guys who I had creep out vibes from. They were poking over their car, acting like they were "fixing" it. We were two ladies, one guy and a kid. I still feel if we hadn't had a guy along they would have been up to no good. They slithered up to us and started asking my male friend if he had tools (they didn't know it was my SUV). We got into the truck and locked the doors. And got out of there.

Now, having said all this I will admit I HAVE hitchhiked before. Only when hiking. Twice to close loops. Twice because of other issues. But...I was in an area where the only people out there were other hikers and hunters. One year, in late fall, on opening weekend for elk my hiking partner wasn't feeling good on day 2 (he ended up with the flu later). We hiked out a side trail off the PCT and I flagged down the first big pickup that came by. The guy, a local hunter, not only drove us out to the highway, but lent me his cell phone booster so I could call my husband to pick us up there. But...he was armed and to him, I am sure we looked like a pair of dorks - hiking in cold weather. Harmless idiots. I was carrying a full size 45 concealed though. Again, I chose carefully. Another time, due to heavy snow we hiked off the PCT down a long FS road and encountered a couple at a waterfall. Total city folk out for the day. I believe they took pity on us due to my having my oldest son with me, he was around 10 or so then. They were os nice they drove us back to our car even. Sheesh! But again, I was armed and I didn't have any freaky feelings.

I'll leave it to this: you have to listen to your 6th sense. If something isn't right feeling, something isn't!!!! Or read enough Ann Rule books and you'll be a lot more careful.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: What would you have done? on 01/07/2013 21:52:25 MST Print View

Nobody can know for sure, but in your case, I think you did the right thing. You had noticed the car on your way in -- and again on your way out -- so quite unlikely that you were dealing with an 'opportunistic criminal' baiting for a victim.

I don't know what it is about people these days... perhaps it's television bringing the most horrid of crimes into our living rooms and making it feel like crimes are happening everywhere, including (it feels like) right in our vicinity! But seriously, the chance of crime done unto you -- out of 350 million people -- is actually pretty darn remote. It would be a real, real shame to leave the poor soul in the cold dark night based on emotions elicited from pretty much unfounded fear.

You would think that of all the places in the world, it would the Israelis who ought to be most fearful of picking up strangers -- esp. non Jews? Well, the few times I hitched a ride there, I never had a car pass me by without stopping. Once, it was a young woman driving alone. She wasn't scared at all. And I was grateful for their assistance.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: What would you have done? on 01/08/2013 10:32:51 MST Print View

My last hitch was 6 days ago. From the end if an open-loop trail on Kauai so I could get the rental car and pick up the rest of the family. So I picked up the pace, passed a few groups, and then put my thumb out on the highway visible from the parking lot. A mom with kids who'd I'd given trail directions to gave me a ride to my car ( only 2 miles, but a narrow, twisty road with no shoulders I wanted to avoid).

Amazingly, we chatted about the big hiking news on-island that week - we'd both had our Na Pali Coast hikes cancelled by the authorities who closed the trail for a manhunt of a local guy who pushed a Japanese hiker off a cliff. But she'd met me, we'd talked briefly, she'd seen my family. As the rider, look to make some connection with the driver before the ask. That could be simply being a fellow BPer.