I’ve been exploring France for about a month now and, believe it or not, I’ve somehow met substantially more non-French people than natives of the country.
The common denominator between the French folks I have met, however, is a passionate dislike for the public transportation system in this country. I myself hadn’t experienced many problems with the transit system until today.
Having checked the bus schedule online several times, I was planning to take the #1702 bus from Grimaud Village to Toulon in order to then catch a train from Toulon to Marseille that evening. The bus schedule online said that the bus would arrive at Grimaud Village at 5:08pm and so, being the responsible, mature adult that I am (haha…), I arrived at the bus stop at 4:55pm. Upon arriving, however, I realized that since no one relies on public transportation in the greater Saint-Tropez area as a byproduct of everyone owning multiple luxury vehicles for both land and sea, I was the only poor soul that Saint-Tropez’ greatest practical joke would affect. As it turns out, the city creates multiple different bus schedules and posts them at different stations to ensure that everyone is thoroughly confused as to what’s going on and therefore cannot submit a coherent complaint regarding the public transportation system.
Anyways, as I stood by the side of the road, I turned to my airBnB host who had just dropped me off and gave her my best I-am-now-homeless-please-save-me look. She held out her arm, formed a fist, and stuck her thumb out to the side, grinning at me and telling me that hitchhiking to Toulon was a viable and easy option. Needless to say, two hours and a tired arm/thumb later, I realized that I was now on the receiving end of another hilarious transportation joke: hitchhiking is neither easy nor viable. In fact, I firmly believe that the reason hitchhikers have a reputation as axe-murderers is because after 1,000 cars pass by and wave to you with a smile as if to say “good luck, buddy! I’m not gonna pick you up but I’m sure the next driver will!” it’s easy to see why the hitchhiker then needs to release his or her anger by burying a weapon in the head of the first living thing that stops long enough for him or her to aim at. (Just kidding, I’m an advocate of peace as well as picking up hitchhikers).
Nonetheless, two and a half hours after I began my attempt to mooch off a total stranger, a bright purple car pulled over with three hefty looking dudes inside. However, more unnerving than the number of people inside the car who could punch me in the throat was the car itself. It looked marginally faster than the Flintstones car and objectively less safe — but it was still a car and I had given up on flagging down an Aston Martin. None of the guys in the car spoke English, but with my limited French I was able to ascertain that all three of them were amateur boxers, which was comforting to know in case their car broke down and we all had to hitchhike together and ended up getting a ride from different boxers — because then I’d have these three to back me up. Also, I could tell that they were the real deal, because the driver kept pulling fistfuls of hair out of his younger brother’s head who would then grab the steering wheel and swerve the car around which would only end when the third brother, in the back seat, started punching the first brother to make him stop. It was one of those moments when I found myself saying, “damn, I’ve never felt so safe in the company of strangers!”
Yet lo and behold, two hours later we pulled up to the train station at Toulon just in time for me to catch the last train to Marseille. The three brothers turned out to be genuinely nice guys and after the second brother was satisfied with his haircut/rip we all bonded by talking about gang violence in the United States and the movie “American History-X”. Furthermore, I found it slightly ironic that the three of them were traveling to Toulon in the first place in order to buy a new car.
In conclusion, having successfully completed my first long-distance hitchhike, I can safely say I highly recommend it. It’s turns a boring two hour drive into a thrilling experience akin to trying to buckle your seatbelt on a roller coaster and finding out that the buckle doesn’t work and then seeing a sign at the beginning saying “Not sure if this ride is safe lol.” Nonetheless, I made it to Marseille in one piece and I certainly had a more interesting day than if I took the bus.
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