A memory sprang up. This may seem a bit pointless, but it’s a story to be told.
When I first came to Free China (as it was called then), I traveled all over the island, mostly by hitchhiking. Actually, I was the only hitchhiker I ever saw, but when drivers saw a kid walking backwards down the highway, thumb out, enough of them figured it out, that I got around quite readily, if not always comfortably. I preferred hitchhiking partly because I didn’t have money for tickets, partly because I didn’t want to be tied down by schedules and routes, and mostly because this way I could chat with drivers, and learn a lot. I wasn’t picky. I rode on any vehicle that would stop, or even slow down enough for me to jump on.
What brought all this on was this story: shortly after I arrived, my friend Phil (an Aussie my age who grew up in Japan) and I went on a trip around the island. When we were hitching to Sun Moon Lake, we got picked up by a United Nations van: a white van with the UN logo, diplomatic plates, driven by a nice middle aged man who could speak some English. The Republic of China had just removed itself from the UN a few days before. A lot of people were in shock, and didn’t know what the future held in store.
We had a very pleasant ride, but Sun Moon Lake was so socked in by fog we were lucky to be able to see the road.
Three years later, I was hitching my way through Hualien, on the east coast, when the very same van stopped and picked me up again! Same driver. He was a bit melancholy, because all the loose ends had been tidied up, the office was closing, and the van would be sold in a few days. He would lose his job, but he felt that driving for the UN was a job that meant something, and he would miss it. I arrived where I was going, we said some good words to each other, and waved goodbye. I knew I would never see him again.
That is the only car that ever picked me up twice.