People still hitch hike here on St. John. I like living in a place where this is still pretty much a safe way of getting around. The island has way too many cars, and I hate drive the nine miles from my house to Cruz Bay with only me in the car. If I see a hitch hiker who doesn’t look too scary, and I’m not in a big hurry, I pull over and say hop in.
My neighbor, new to island life, came by the other day all in a dither. He was going on an on and all stressed out. A long time resident advised him that he was crazy to pick up people, that the insurance liability is just too great. I said whoa, since when has this changed? It’s always an issue with everything you do, but you can’t let it rule your life.
I’m getting pretty tired of insurance being a factor in everything I do. My cobra is costing me nearly half the amount of my rent, and I have been told over and over that I can’t live without medical insurance. And now I can’t pick up hitch hikers because supposedly my insurance only covers $10,000 per passenger medical expenses, and if my car is more than seven years old I can’t buy more coverage. I haven’t confirmed this yet, but just listening to my neighbor makes me cringe. I don’t remember what coverage I purchased five years ago when living here was still experimental. I admit, I’ve been a little suspicious of the casual style of my insurance company, and my low premium. I should know better, my parent’s were insurance agents. I think I have minimal coverage on my old jeep.
I just hate misinformation. At some point, I’d better get some answers, now that the question has been raised. It’s bound to cost me something.
Today I spotted two tourists on the Centerline Road, near the Cinnamon Bay Trail. I pulled over and invited them in (telling my neighbor’s voice in my head to shut up.) Small world. One was from Portland, Maine and was very familiar with the part of Maine where I used to live. These hitch hikers were two members of a larger group on an extended family camping vacation. They’re doing real camping, with one bare site and one of the large canvas tents on a platform at Cinnamon Bay. Two generations are vacationing together. And they’re not renting a car. Nice. I like these people immediately. The mother, about my age, and adult son were on a reconnaissance mission, getting the lay of the land.
They picked my brain on the way into town. I gave them some pointers on how to get in and out of town from Cinnamon, activities. They were heading to the post office to check on a large package of food they’d shipped themselves, and were counting on it to keep expenses down, planning to do their own cooking. They were surprised it wasn’t waiting for them when they arrived the day before.
“Uh oh. You didn’t send it parcel post, did you?” said I. They answered with a suddenly deflated “ Yep.”
I went on to ask if it was a heavy box. It was. I felt terrible to be bringing them bad news on such a hopeful beautiful day, and I hope I was wrong. They’ll be lucky if the box arrives by the time they come back again next year. My brother-in-law once sent me a small tin of home made cookies for my birthday well ahead of time. They arrived about three month’s later.
Package delivery here can be really problematic. One time the company delivering UPS packages handed a box with some expensive electronics in it to an employee of mine on the St. Thomas barge, saying, you work out there, right? I had spoken with this delivery man the day before. He was two miles away and didn’t want to drive to my place of business, the address on the package.
“You need to use Priority Mail,” I said, “And keep the weight of each box down.” Then we talked about how they might go about getting it sent back if it arrives after they leave.
It’s a little like paradise here, but it’s the real world too. People ship packages that never arrive, hitch hikers sue friendly helpful drivers, medical costs are just as high as everywhere else and people need insurance. But there can be an open friendliness here you don’t often get in a lot of places, and everyone seems to want to tell their story, which makes it fun and interesting to meet strangers.
You just never know what’s around the next corner waiting to burst your bubble. In that way, it’s like everywhere else. But I’m going to continue to live on the wild side, and pick up strangers until the innocence wears off, and I take another look at my insurance policy.
© 2010 Jennifer M. Pierce, All Rights Reserved