I stood on a sun-shadowed sidewalk in Palm Springs. Tired and bleary from a seemingly endless Greyhound bus journey, I lacked the motivation to even fish about in my backpack for a pair of sunglasses to shield my eyes from the intense South Californian sunlight. It is mid-morning, but the December air still holds a powerful chill. I squint at a faded, curled bus timetable encased in a cracked plastic cover, which insisted that there was a reasonably regular service between here and Joshua Tree National Park, my destination. The departure time for the morning bus came and went. I root around in the lid of my bag, and find half a Clif Bar. I chew it pensively, more out of boredom than hunger. I might as well start sticking my thumb out, I think, as the United States public transport network does not seem to extend to the Californian desert - at least not today.
When enduring long hitching waits, I often indulge in mind games. I will the sports car piloted by the leggy blonde to stop, and attempt to influence the sketchier-looking vehicles to keep going. It helps to pass the time, and never works. An open-top truck turned onto the main street as my desire to leave the Californian concrete wilderness only just overcame a powerful urge to bury my outstretched thumb. I considered pretending to wave at an imaginary passer-by in the hope of missing the chance of it stopping altogether. As surely as every beautiful girl would drive past, the dilapidated vehicle veered towards the sidewalk like a drunken, lurching hobo. Barely had I stopped moving as it disgorged an unkempt, dishevelled individual. He had one of those ways of acting which sets you on edge instantly: an unshakeable sociopathic awkwardness pervaded his every word and action. His filthy clothes and a tired and unsanitary looking bandage around his head did not aid my first impressions.Purchase This Issue | Subscribe | Return back to Issue 92