By Jim Hagarty
There is a country song about a singer who is driving along near Montgomery, Alabama, when he spies a hitchhiker by the side of the road. A long, lanky fellow in a cowboy hat.
The driver pulls over to pick him up. The grateful passenger is Hank Williams. Fifty years after the country music icon died in the back seat of his car.
A similar thing happened to me today.
I never met my Grandpa. He died in 1950, a few months before I was born.
But there, on the side of the road, was a hitchhiker. A thin man of medium build, dressed in what seemed like Sunday clothes, wearing a neat straw hat.
I pulled over and was soon astonished that the man was my Grandfather. It was quite an experience. He was startled too to become acquainted with the grandson who had picked him up.
“Where are you heading?” I asked him. He gave me an address. I wasn’t familiar with the place. I pulled out my iPhone.
“Just wait a minute. I will enter the address in Google Maps.”
“In what?” he asked.
I tried to explain. He was fascinated with the little device I held in my hands.
“Do you mind if I go through the drivethrough?” I asked my ancestor.
“What is a drivethrough?” he asked.
He didn’t want anything. I ordered a drink at the restaurant speaker. He was startled when a voice took my order.
I was handed a paper cup at the window. I explained it contained coffee.
“In a cup made of paper?” he asked.
We drove along. A female voice on my phone told me to turn right, turn left.
Then the phone made a strange sound.
“Hey, I just got a text,” I said.
“A what?” asked my forebear.
I pulled over to answer the text. And an email that had also come in.
Then the phone rang. Grandpa was startled. I answered the call. He knew what a telephone was, but had never seen one not attached to a wall and a receiver that didn’t have a cord.
We drove a few more miles. I pulled over again.
“Do you mind if I check my bank balance?” I asked.
“That’s fine,” said Grandpa. “But where are you going to find a bank around here? And it’s Saturday. They are all closed.”
“No,” I laughed. “I will check it on my phone.”
After that, I showed him a video of two puppies chasing a tennis ball. He turned white. He had died eight years before the farmhouse he had built was outfitted with its first black and white TV. He had never heard the term TV.
We started driving again.
“Do you mind if I pop in a CD?” I asked my grandfather.
Music boomed out of the car speakers. He jumped a bit in his seat. I turned off the music.
We drove along in silence for a while, then I pulled into a gas station to fill up. I started getting out of the car.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Don’t worry,” I answered. I walked up to a big machine, stuck my card in a slot, removed the pump handle and filled up my tank. Replaced the handle, got back in the car, and started to drive away.
“Don’t you have to pay for that gas?” asked Grandpa.
“I already did,” I replied.
We drove along. I pressed a button and rolled down the windows. It was a hot day. The sight of the windows going down on their own surprised my Grandfather.
We passed a Chevy Volt as we drove along.
“Why is that car moving but not making a sound?” asked Grandfather.
I started to explain about electric cars.
He interrupted me.
“Could you let me off at the next corner?” he asked me.
I pulled over. Said a painful goodbye. He got out.
As I drove away, I saw him looking astonished at a young man who went whizzing by him on a motorized skateboard.
I put the CD back in.
“I’m so lonesome, I could cry,” sang Hank Williams.
A tear ran down my cheek.