Someone must have asked at one point, “When did the sixties end?” And someone else must have answered that the sixties ended at altamount or with charlie manson or when the vietnam war ended or after nixon’s resignation, but it wasn’t any of those; instead, it was the fading away, gently, unseen, of hitchhiking–of that activity that wasn’t just people catching a ride, but seemingly a generation with its thumbs in the air.
Taking a ride from a stranger (or giving a ride) was the act of trusting that you could jump in a stranger’s car and nothing bad would happen; or, conversely, that you could pick up a stranger and not get killed. In hindsight, it was monumentally naivete, but it didn’t seem that way at the time, and there was even an etiquette to it: if you came to a crowded intersection, you waited your turn and stood further down the road than the person who was already there; you owed the person who picked you up some sociability–nothing weird or exploitive, just conversation–where you were from, where you were going, where you had already been. And if you were the driver, you didn’t drop someone off at an intersection where they wouldn’t be able to get their next ride.
And most of all it was getting somewhere socially–not in the bubble of a car or the encapsulation of an airplane, or the dreary cannister of a bus; but travelling in a nation of the young literally on the road.