I picked up a hitchhiker yesterday.
It was in a residential neighborhood in Utah Valley. I thought he may have just run out of gas. He had a perfectly clean white shirt, nice jeans, and new shoes (not a fleck of dirt on them), a neatly groomed beard and haircut, probably in his late 50s to mid-60s. Just a perfectly normal dude who needed a ride.
He thanked me profusely, said he'd tried to wave down 40 cars previous, said I must be the last remaining charitable Christian around. Glad I could help.
But it was clear within 30 seconds of the ride that he was not a perfectly normal dude. Totally unprompted, in an uninterrupted stream of consciousness, he started telling me... everything. Everything going through his brain.
He told me how he went to BYU (my alma mater) studying business and economics. Got multiple degrees. He got into oil and gas when he graduated, and was making a fortune instantly, but a prolonged legal case tanked his company. Told me how there was gold and silver and oil ALL OVER Utah in totally untapped veins, more than Saudi Arabia or Alaska or anywhere else. Just sitting there waiting, and he was going to start the company to get it all. Said he was going to get investment from the Saudi royal family, through a friend of a friend, to start his new oil company that would commercialize those resources.
Told me he used to work for the mob in Las Vegas. That his old boss was a cold-blooded murderer, one of the top mobsters in the world, who had federal authorities, celebrities, and politicians in his back pocket. Not that my passenger was a criminal, you see, he was just an employee. Said he tried to get the FBI to take down his own boss multiple times, but the FBI did nothing. Said others tried to do the same, and they got gunned down, but somehow my passenger evaded that fate.
Told me he was going to be rich and powerful soon, just had to get things in place. He was going to clean up the country, in business and politics. Said he was going to get the right people to lead industry and the White House.
All of this was peppered liberally with apocryphal Mormon prophecy and scriptural reference/interpretation. It would have been all the more baffling for somebody unacquainted with the culture (I’m well acquainted). The Constitution would hang by a thread, and he would save it, as it’s prophesied the Mormons will do.
At some point in the conversation, it went from him saving the country and kicking out the secret combinations, and turned into US saving the world. Like... having barely uttered a word myself, I'd unwittingly become his collaborator in these grand ambitions. I was good people, he could see. Reliable and smart. He could tell.
Usually I'd agree with that sentiment, but given the circumstances, I was beginning the question my own choices.
We got to the Provo bus station that he wanted to go to. He was halfway out of the care when he turned to add another thought. He continued to speak in that half-exited posture for another thirty-five minutes.
He was really nice. And frankly, it seemed clear that in a prior time of life, he and I could have had a normal, pleasant conversation. He went to the same university as me. Came from the same faith-tradition. Had been married. Had been involved in business and industry. He wasn't making any of this up.
But clearly at some point in... it all got... jumbled. He lost some marbles.
He and I likely aren't that different, except in age and a few pivotal moments in life.
When he finally did exit the car (after giving me his full name and full contact information and several notes of things I should look up, including the June 1989 issue of Vanity Fair magazine with Kim Basinger on the cover), I called my wife Beccy. Had to tell somebody about this odd encounter.
She reminded me that this wasn't the firs time I’d picked up a hitchhiker, that we'd picked somebody up together around the time we got married. And that person wasn't stable either. Probably on drugs... possibly on their way to a drug deal (or worse). That experience was honestly frightening. And somehow I'd forgotten (or suppressed) the memory.
I'm two-for-two on hitchhikers. Both... unwell. What a weird thing.