Jimbo Pearls and the Grizzly Carrier, were two righteous fellows who we found off Craigslist under the ride-share section. They were both attending a college in Massachusetts, working towards an art degree in print-making, so naturally, we liked them right off the bat. They were from Massachusetts, and had apparently made their way to Chicago by hopping some trains. A recent scuffle with some bulls in the Chicago rail yard's had gotten them some grief from the cops, and some nonsense ticket, so they were looking to get to make it West another way; thats where we came in.
Within the week of our departure, we all agreed that it would be well worth our while, to make a substantial effort in searching the ride-share sections of whatever states we were going through along the way, and trying our best to keep the Le Sabre full at all times in order to keep the traveling costs to a minimum. I didn't have to search any further than Chicago before I found a posting that had the heading, "Two Strapping Young Lads Need a Ride West." I read on, and the post described that they were two 23 year old guys who were very sociable, down to earth, had only one bag each, and needed a ride to either San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle.
I appreciated the fact that the heading might well be conducive to possibly "picking up chicks," while still appearing "bold" to the homophobic male of the mid-west; and I immediately recognized the necessary tone of humor in their post. So, judging by their indifference in having an exact destination (those places aren't exactly walking distance apart), having only one bag each, being 23, and seeming to have an advanced understanding in the skillful nuances of Craigslist rhetoric- I had pre-determined them to be acceptable candidates, and furthermore, ones that would most likely have some traveling stories to share (not that we would be against having riders of a far different perspective- we're no stranger to such ride-shareing situations). The major advantage here, was that we wouldn't have to go two separate places to fill up the cars capacity- we had the main crew of myself, Chassy, and B.O.; then of course Ben, and hopefully now, these guys. They left their cell phone number on the post (something I read into as being because they might lack a steady web source, and possibly living situation), and I called them immediately, leaving a message.
I heard back from James later that day. He was a cordial and approachable voice over the phone, with an indomitable yet obvious accent. I had already determined that these were likely to be fellow road kids I was dealing with, and as I often might tend to do, I wrongly undermined their approach. I knew it would be easy to find travelers to take with us towards San Francisco, but the 100 bucks we were asking as a flat fee for backseat passengers was the make-or-break part…
Now, before I go any further, I'm going to take a moment to put this ordeal into the open here, because I'm damn sick of being criticized by hippie purists about the way's we decide to get by on the road. Although we have applied the schematics of hustling into the general "ride-share" strategy from our last few escapades, their implementation is one of self-sufficiency, NOT scamming or dishonesty. The bottom line, is that we are working with almost no money in our traveling, and one of the only ways for us to successfully travel cheaply, is to work similarly to a service whenever possible. We negotiate a flat rate with our passengers from the VERY FIRST call or E-mail, and if they think what we ask is unreasonable, they are not in any way obligated to take the ride. For some reason, whenever we come across road kids similar to ourselves, they become utterly floored that we operate in this manner. It seems to me, that in fact, they really cannot handle the forgone notion of anyone aside from themselves getting by for free. I completely understand resenting this tactic of ours, and while still saying I absolutely refuse to accept it as a DIS-honorable one- I can accept that at the same time, we aren't doing anyone any favors with it.
So what the hell then? There are other rides out there. Me and The Great B.O. have done more backpacking and ride-sharing as passengers, then we have as drivers; you know what we would have done if someone would have told us that it would cost us 100 bucks to get from anywhere we were, to the F'ing MOON even? we would have politely rejected, hung up the phone, and then proceeded to talk shit about what terrible ass-holes they are for charging us like that. We have been broke-ass road kids working off backpacks, and you know what we did? We took rides with people who were sympathetic to our cause/situation; people who wanted ride-sharer's more for companionship; people that didn't want to drive the whole way; and more than anything- we made damn sure (unless we were prepared to foot the bill), that they weren't as broke as we were!
Maybe what I'm really trying to say here, or along the lines of it at least is; don't ask a poor person for money. Even if he DOES have a quarter- he's living on the fucking street- he's as good as broke right? Well similarly, I don't understand why fellow penniless travelers are outraged that were asking a flat fee. It's not like we invest that money in stocks for chrissake, are you people ignoring the fact that all three of us live in a car?!
Nobody is going to pay for a fourth of our costs when we need new tires, insurance, brake-pads, or even a damn oil change! And when me and B.O. spend 42 hours of straight driving, and everyone else only has to eat, sleep, and watch the scenery- we don't deserve a discount for our efforts? Nobody expects the pilot to pay for his ticket to honolulu just cause he got a ride outta the deal, right? The travelers code of ethics should CERTAINLY outline that other travelers need to look out for each other; but the reasons we have for doing things the way we do, is for the same reasons a person needs to hitch-hike, or hop a train in the first place; we simply don't have the means to get by otherwise.
Simply put, our ride-sharing strategy is not meant to cater to people in a similar situation to ours, so if you are using ride-share to save money, like most people- you're better suited to find one of the MANY people with those same intentions. We are working more towards people who need convenience. People who need a fast, efficient, ride without any hassle; and who probably have a few extra bucks to spend. Conversely, when we need to find a ride-share to get somewhere, we avoid people like ourselves, because we are broke ass road junkies. I personally recommend business travelers who can get their work done while you drive; the elderly who just want some company; or, people who are less experienced with long hauls, and simply feel more comfortable having someone else along for the ride. You can usually get a substantial ride with these types while only paying 20 bucks. You can even make some money if you come across one of the many posts on Craigslist, that need people to transport their vehicle for them, or drive their car behind a U-Haul; hell, I almost made 400 bucks transporting a guys 500 gallon water tank down to Texas- you just need to be patient, clever, and persistent. And if you just want a cheap, fair, ride- then be selective, is that so difficult? Never forget, you are dealing with Craigslist here, anything can happen...
The reason I choose to mention this so extensively, and at this particular point, is because asides from the one or two scoffs we have had from riders in the past- there was a short point of dispute that we had with Jimbo and Grizzly as well.
When the time came for me and B.O. to rouse the cash out of these boys, we had just jovially arrived in the mission district after the ride of a lifetime. We grimly looked at each other knowing it was time to get this foul part of the ride over with, and we told the guys as politely as possible, that it was time to pay up. They said very little, and while muttering to themselves, they began going through pockets of their coats, and then through their backpacks; I immediately confirmed my original suspicion, being that this wouldn't be a simple hand-over scenario. Amidst the idle scrounging, they had floated a few feet away, and were now having somewhat of a meeting with each other as they counted loose wads of cash.
The whole ordeal wreaked of the same foully tainted awkwardness, that makes a man need to count his cash in privacy. A sullen sense of debauchery lingered up from my stomach, and although we needed that money for our trip, I swore up and down that one day I would have the means to be a generous traveler who would help people like us, or Jimbo and Grizzly; I would ride for the hell of it, and take anyone anywhere asking them only for their stories. Perhaps the guilt is still a bit lingering, but some day, I will do it.
Me and B.O. stood on opposite sides of the car with our forearms pressed into the hot roof. As they counted money, we looked around uncomfortably, as if we weren't paying the slightest bit of attention to what was going on at all, and that there was not a care in the world. On the sly, we were exchanging glances that countered Jimbo and Grizzly's meeting, and confirmed that we were to be unbudging in our agreement of 100 bucks each. We confirmed the price within the very first phone call, and they had agreed. We both suspected from the beginning that Jimbo and Grizzly would most likely try to haggle a bit, but we were committed to standing our ground. Even Ben, one of my dearest friends from way-back-when, paid us the 100 without argument- so there was absolutely no way we could give these guys a break that I hadn't even given one of my own home boys.
So they came over to us somewhat apprehensively, and we were already expecting something of a dispute. Grizzly seemed to be the one most agitated by the agreement, I'm assuming because he hadn't literally confirmed to me over the phone that he too, would pay the 100; Jimbo had been in charge of all that. So he handed over a folded wad of cash without saying anything. Under his large amber tinted sun glasses, his eyes seemed resentful and unsettled- his lips were stretched tight and thin, in something just barely short of a scowl.
B.O. began to count the money without hesitation as grizzly shuffled back to his bag, acting similarly awkward and careless about the tense undertones that now dominated our dividing party. They tried shorting us only like 30 bucks or something, and when we promptly noticed and asked for the rest of our cash, Jimbo handed the rest over among the anxious tones of financial squabble. They needed to drop off their bags at "so and so's" place, and me, B.O., and Chassy, needed to get some food in our systems. They directed us to an affordable taqueria where we could get some cheap taco's, and we agreed to meet at Dalores Park to have a few beers at noon. It was about eleven.
We figured that our departure from them there on Mission St., was possibly a tactic to avoid even having to say good-bye's within such tense circumstances. So with a dragging feeling of betrayal and mixed emotions, we sought relief. We ate our taco's, got our suds, and headed to Dolores Park to see if the guys were indeed planning on having a few beers with us as we lay sprawled out in the warm california grass. We had all been longing madly to do simply that, for the entire 42 hour drive; it seemed to be a humble enough dream for us to all chase upon arrival.
Jimbo Pearls, and the Grizzly Carrier were good to their word, and we found them lounging somewhere between the line of shade and sunshine there in the park. They laid with their heads propped up on their backpacks, and their 24 oz cans of malt liquor nestled as such, in the customary brown paper bag. Jimbo remained in his cut-off brown shorts, and matching UPS shirt; the Grizzly Carrier switched out of his postal service shirt, and into a bright blue hawaiian short-sleeve that I thought better suited him. Apparently, they had discovered in their previous summer of travel, that a disguise would help them get along, and for some reason, they went as a postal worker, and UPS man; neither were anything close to the actual image, but I enjoy the notion of functional fashion anyhow. It should also be noted that Jimbo's little nick-name, was derived in reference to his brilliantly white teeth. They were so white (a trait un-typical to the traveling lifestyle, and to most of the types caught up in the mad pursuit of perpetual movement), that I found it to be a telling trait to his unknown background, a sort of expose' on the collegiate lifestyle that he was currently on break from; perhaps his family was wealthy? If that was the case, he was certainly trying hard to represent himself otherwise.
Our little romp this time, was brief. It was purposefully agreed to in order to say a more formidable good-bye I suspect, and though Grizzly seemed to have still felt like we screwed them, Jimbo was pressing us a bit harder to find out if it was indeed fair. We told them the truth. It costed a bit over 400 to get there, we did all the driving, the price was pre-determined, and 2500 miles across america with 6 people in the car, is going to put some ware and tear on the car. Jimbo seemed satisfied enough, and Grizzly remained sullen. We talked for another half hour or so, drank our beers, and just like that, Jimbo and grizzly donned their backpacks, and said somber good-byes.
What had been an inspiring drive across America, with new comrades to share stories and smokes, and beers, and laughs; had very quickly become a spiteful novelty, and more than once, I wondered what it would have taken to buy their friendship back. I think in the long run, they wouldn't have been satisfied, unless somehow, we did not end up the least bit ahead; that was inevitably what led to such unforgiving sadness in our friendship, the fact that we used them to get where we wanted to go. Thats just what it takes when you travel like we have, and they know all about that- they just weren't used to being on the other end of the stick.
I hope to come across Jimbo Pearls, and the Grizzly Carrier again, and I hope that mere squabbles of money can be put aside. They were certainly colorful characters to have met, and despite my feeling like a crook by coming out somewhat ahead, I have no regrets in my actions- it's just the way things go sometimes, like it or not.