One of the first things I realized upon moving to Monsey was that most Chassidim don’t have cars. In fact the streets are so choked with these cabs that are recycled cop cars you cannot really tell when a cop is waiting at the street corner or if its just a cab filled with Chassidic ladies and their shopping bags. The cabs are annoying, choking the streets day and night mostly serving the purposes of Chassidic women who are not allowed to drive. I find it ironic that these women feel it better to drive around with some random non-Jewish dude then drive themselves, but no matter, because after some time you realize that no one has cars. The men just choose to hitchhike, presumably because there are more men scurrying about always going somewhere, although I can never figure out where.
I have picked up hitchhikers before, but they are of the long haired smelly hippie variety, with a sign pointing west or begging for a ride to Rainbow. These hitchhikers are overtly friendly and are more then willing to take some spare food off your hands, they are also worth picking up because they always have interesting stories. I myself have hitchhiked several times in America, usually because I hiked out 50 miles from my cars parking spot and had to get back. So with full pack and 5 days of gear I would stick out my thumb on some lonesome highway with wilderness on both sides.
I was always picked up pretty shortly after my thumb went out, except for this one time in eastern Quebec on Gaspe Peninsula. I was alone and I took the wrong trail to get back to my car from a gruesome 17 mile day hike, I am not a masochist, I just choose the coolest looking mountain to climb. I stepped out onto the shiny road of asphalt and aimed my thumb out to no avail, luckily I only had a day pack, a full pack would have been killer. I distinctly remember walking into the early evening and just about a mile from my car- I had walked for several hours- someone I had talked to on the trail up picked me up and marveled at my long distance hiking abilities.
In New Hampshire I had to hitchhike back to my car and got two rides. The last ride was given to us by a shocked frum family who noticed my friend’s tzitzis sticking out from under our fully loaded packs. We were coming off a 60 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains. The requisite Jewish Geography was played as well as multiple questions asking why we would do such a thing.
In Monsey its different, in Monsey they do racial profiling hitchhiking. These full sized penguin look alikes in their long black coats stand at busy intersections and walk amongst the cars looking for their brethren to take them down the block. Then, when the light just turns green as if purposefully blocking traffic they enter into a narrative with a potential driver and then hop in, while the car is slowly moving away from the curb.
When I am driving through my neighborhood, no one ever gives me the second look, regardless of my yarmulke, I have never even received a second glance from someone wanting a ride, I guess this is good, because I usually only have one seat- due to my perpetual habit of leaving one bike in my rear. I also usually have some sort of loud and obnoxious music blasting causing people to scurry away.
Yesterday I was driving back to work and I was stopped at the intersection of route 306 and Maple- I call it Kikar Chassid. My music of choice was very loud Shabak Samach- Israelis Version of Limp Bizkit maybe- loud Hebrew Rap Metal. I had a bike on my roof and suddenly I looked and saw a regular looking chassid leaning his head into my car like one of those hookers from 1980s time square- except this man wasn’t trying to turn tricks. All he said was straight and before I knew it I had a full fledged Chassid in my car, bags full of cholent and kugel “keegel” preventing my stick from going into third gear. (based on my stereotypes I assume the only thing Chassidim carry is cholent and keegel)
I tried to control my laughter at the hilarity of the situation and silently chuckled to myself. I had this bassy blasting metal and a Chassid sitting in the front seat of a Subaru with a Treehugger sticker on the back. I wondered what other people thought of him as he got into my car. Was it a “Yankel what are you doing- we saw you with that goy”. So naturally I tried to engage him- with a “What’s up dude?” all he said was straight- and that’s when I realized he didn’t speak English, not even Yinglish- he didn’t look too interested in talking either- which was disappointing. He had the stockings on and I wanted to whip out my camera and ask him for a few poses outside my car, but suddenly I was at a red light and he just got out and left. So impersonal yet it made me feel good to give him a ride, that I decided maybe I will give more Chassids rides, maybe I can learn Yiddish this way or something.