At some point during my gypsy period (the five-years I was in KH construction), traveling around the Dominican Republic (DR), my roommates and I met “The Madrileño”. His real name was lost somewhere along the way, since we only used the descriptive nickname to refer to him, but the fact that he was the nicest ride to pick us up (twice!) as we made our way hitch-hiking around DR, and that the drove like a crazed lunatic, have remained clear in our memories.
While we were in the truck he had a cigarette in his hand, (he was kind enough to offer us one, we declined), and the other he mostly kept resting on the windowsill as he steered, and told us his story. From what we pieced together, it was a bit difficult to understand him at times between the cigarette in his mouth and his thick Madrid accent, he was surveying DR for a privatized Spanish electric company that would later buy out the existing government provided system.
“Do you drive”, he asked me as I clutched the dash and back of the seat I was sitting in, effectively wedging myself between him and one of my roommates.
I looked at him with a blank, uncomprehending expression and ashen face.
“You keep checking the mirrors”, he explained, gesturing toward the rear view and side mirrors. I had been stealing furtive glances at them in an effort to foresee the bloody accident that I was sure was about to happen. After all, someone had to, because he sure wasn’t doing it as he dodged pot-holes and other vehicles as we hurtled down the highway at what felt like autobahn speeds.
“Uh, yeah, I drive”, I said, cringing as he missed another driver that was expressing his irritation by laying on his horn.
Twenty minutes later the three of us clumsily piled out of the truck, and tried to get our land legs back under us. We stopped at a nearby cafeteria to get something to drink and get a hold of ourselves. Then, we were on our way again.
For years afterward, hitching stories would always include the ride with “The Madrileño”. But, that was only one of the many rides we took during those years, and not the most interesting story to result from one…