• Brian D. Hinson

What He Really Needed Was a Ride to Gallup

At the behavioral clinic I picked up a gent wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Even though it was November, it was sunny and about 65 in late-afternoon Albuquerque. Before we pulled out of the parking lot he had me stop one of the nurses outside and ask for his jacket and pants. I was told they were still in the laundry and the clinic would deliver them tomorrow. My rider was disappointed, but we rode on. It was a 30+ minute ride to west side with I-40 snarled with an accident that we had to route around.

I suspected he was homeless. Likely police dropped him off here, perhaps for loitering. Now he’s had a shower, but got booted back to the streets (with a free Uber ride to anywhere in town). As we ticked down to the last ten minutes of the ride, I checked the map for a view of the final destination. It was a little west of Double Eagle, an executive airport for private planes. I was pretty sure west of there was nothing but desert. When we got off the freeway on Atrisco Vista, he started telling me that he needed to go back. But where? To the truck stop? To the neighborhood we just passed?

No, the freeway. His family is in Gallup, and he wanted to be dropped off on I-40. Although he didn’t say as much, he was going to hitchhike to Gallup. The sun was dropping to the horizon and the temps would drop sharply soon. I asked him if he was sure. “Yeah, I need to get going.”

Usually, November through February I have a jacket in the trunk. I didn’t have one this time. As he got out of the car, he asked, “By chance, do you have a couple of bucks?”

“Yeah, man.” I had a five and gave it to him. Way out here at the edge of town five dollars would do him about no good. It would get him a taco, but not a jacket and pants at the thrift store. Not that there was a thrift store out here, either.

He smiled like I gave him a hundred. “Thanks man! Thanks a lot!” He waved happily as walked down the entrance ramp. I hoped he got a ride before it got too cold.

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