I've encountered some hitchhikers who were truly delightful traveling companions. Quite a few seem to be sincere brothers in Christ. (It's not always easy to tell though. Apparently, they get preached at a lot, so some of them have a strategy of avoiding the sermon by striking first with some stock Christian phrases.)
Quite a few are drug addicts or alcoholics of course; and a significant percentage are certifiably loony. Those are the ones with the best stories. I picked up one like that in Meridian last Saturday. He claimed,to have brought about, pretty much single-handedly, the downfall of the Soviet Union. He once found that he was on a KGB hit list, so he obtained his own list of their top 100 assasins and disposed of every single one of them within a week's time. Jason Bourne would be envious!
Every time we passed a church he told me that it was built on property stolen from him. He said that he had a degree in theology. He went to Bible school for a week he said, and all they talked about was how to steal money from people. So after a week he got Ronald Reagan to call the school and persuade them to let him go ahead and take the final exam for his degree, which he passed with flying colors. Whenever he talked about preachers he strung together every expletive I'd ever heard. (And I used to work the oil fields, so I've probably heard most of them.)
At some point in the conversation, he mentioned Angola, pausing to explain to me that it was the Louisiana State penitentiary and that it had a really rough reputation.
I interrupted him. "I know. I've been there. I was on death row," I said being deliberately vague.
For the first time on the journey he interrupted his monologue and turned to look at me. "You were on death row in Angola?" he asked. There was undisguised respect in in his voice.
I thought it was time to drop the bomb. "Yes, but not as a prisoner. As a preacher." I waited for a reaction.
There was none, other than maybe disappointment. "Oh. You're a preacher." Then he picked up where he had left off.
Here are some of the other highlights:
- Hillary Clinton wanted to have sex with him to get Bill back. He nobly refused.
- He had killed more than 6,000 people, but they were all murderers and deserved it.
- The FBI had paid him 39 million dollars for his work, but he couldn't collect his money till he retired, which was one month away.
- He didn't claim to be a Christian, but from his study of scripture, he had concluded that Jehovah is Jesus' Father, and the Holy Spirit is Jehovah's parents.
I smiled and said, "I haven't decided whether you're crazy or just a good storyteller." He briefly protested that it was all true then resumed the monologue.
I offered him some food, but he said he had some already. He asked if I could pay for him to get a motel room. I declined. I figured I was safe; by this point I was pretty sure he wasn't Jesus.
*A note to my European friends: We're talking about fahrenheit here.