Saturday, September 24, 2011

We Picked Up a Hitchhiker in South Texas


          During the Summer of 2004, two friends and I, Natasha and Brandon,  set off on a day trip from our homes in Austin, TX to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.  It takes about 5 hours to travel south down Interstate Highway 35 from Austin through San Antonio until you get to the Mexican border. Laredo is on one side and Nuevo Laredo is on the other. The terrain south of San Antonio is merciless desert and the temperature at the time was above 100F.

          Natasha was at the time a fellow student at the University of Texas. Her family was Polish and they'd immigrated to the Houston, TX area in order to take advantage of American doctors when Natasha's sister began to suffer from a brain tumor. It was believed that the brain tumor may have resulted from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl but it's hard to be certain of such things. Brandon was studying at Texas A & M but we'd gone to high school together. 

          We passed through San Antonio and then traveled perhaps another hour until we noticed a woman on the northbound side of the highway standing beside a car which appeared to be aflame. She was very far away from any source of water or reliable transportation. We couldn't just pass by without doing anything to help her so I u-turned and we pulled up beside her.

          The lady didn't speak English but between the three of us we were able to speak enough Spanish to understand that she was willing to continue with us to Mexico rather than backtrack to San Antonio which was her original destination.

          So she got in the backseat beside Brandon and I started to make conversation in broken Spanish. I asked her if she had kids and she said, "No". Then I asked her what she did for a living and she said that she was a hairdresser.

          Finally, I asked her what her name was, "Como se llama?" And she replied in English, "My name is George."

          And at that moment it occurred to all three of us- Natasha, Brandon, and myself- that this was a man in the car dressed as a woman.

         George rode with us all of the way to Mexico. I don't know if she was later able to retrieve her car or not. Her manners were impeccable as she insisted on calling an English speaking friend to relate to us how grateful she was that we'd helped her. 

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