Yeah I know it’s Sunday and not Saturday. I spent Saturday getting laid, so y’all can just forgive me or whatever.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, gypsies.
So already my birthday was off to a good start. I had half a bottle of coke, a map, and a hat. And it was daytime, so I suspected it might be easier to find a ride to Dover with one of the truckers at the stop. The gypsies all cheerfully wished me luck, and I went over to the parking lot to ask around.
It turned out that gypsy luck is actually total bullshit, though, because once again none of the trucks in the lot were going my way. Still, I had the whole day to find a ride, so I went over to the edge of the lot to wait. There was another guy standing there already, wearing a backpack. I assumed he was another hitch-hiker in the same situation, and figured we could at least pass the time commiserating.
Except, this guy didn’t speak much English. For being in England, I seemed to be running into an awful lot of people who didn’t speak much English. After we established our various language proficiencies, I finally asked,
“No!” he said, “I truck-driver!”
“Where’s your truck?” I asked.
He looked around the sparsely populated lot. “Oh, is coming.” he said confidently.
Not a reassuring answer, but I pressed on. “Are you going to Dover?”
“Can I ride with you?”
“Well … okay then!”
And with that, we settled down to wait for my new friend’s truck to arrive. Between awkward attempts at conversation, I juggled and watched as one of the girls from the gypsy camp went from truck driver to truck driver, the same way I had. Finally, she came up to us. She gave me a slight nod, and then turned to my companion, producing a gold ring from her sleeve.
“Ten euro,” she said.
My new friend responded in the only sensible way, which was to produce an identical gold ring from his pocket, and raise the bidding.
“Twelve euro,” he said.
“Where are you from?” asked the gypsy.
“I American!” he said, winking at me.
“Nineteen euro,” said the gypsy.
“Five,” said my friend. I couldn’t decide whether he was attempting to sell his ring or buy hers. This continued for a minute or two, until the gypsy girl finally upped the ante. She reached into her sleeve and produced a gold medallion on a gold chain.
“Thirty euro,” she said triumphantly.
At which point my truck-driver friend reached into his pocket and produced AN IDENTICAL GOLD MEDALLION.
“Fifty euro,” he said.
“You Polish?” said the gypsy.
“No,” he said, “Croatian.”
She nodded at that, put away her wares, and returned to her camp. I turned to the truck-driver, bewildered, and asked him where he’d come by a full set of gypsy gold, and – more importantly – what the fuck had just happened. To his credit, he really did try to explain, but the most I understood was that the story involved a woman. Then the truck arrived.
It was a barely functional, right-hand-drive cement truck, which my friend had apparently been contracted to drive to Turkey. It had been driven to us by a weathered old cockney who stayed in the drivers’ seat as the two of us piled in. He didn’t seem to mind the extra passenger. As the truck shambled down the motorway towards Dover, I asked the Croatian whether he could drop me off in Amsterdam.
“Amsterdam, sure!” he said, “But why go to Amsterdam? Come to Croatia! Is beautiful! Have family in Croatia, you can stay with!”
“You would take me to Croatia?” I asked.
“Sure!” he said, “I drive to Turkey!”
“And … and you can find me a place to stay?”
“I call and ask,” he said. He called, and asked. “He say sure!” he said.
“Well …” I said, visions of hookers and weed dancing in my head. “Okay.”
“Okay!” he cried, “Yes! We take you to Croatia!”
In Dover, my new friend switched into the driver’s seat, and smuggled me onto a ferry without buying me a fare. He bought me dinner in the trucker’s lounge, and nightfall found us in Belgium, where he bought me a plastic package of Belgian waffles, and a bag of caramel candies named after Napoleon, if memory serves. We drove through the night, speaking pidgin English through a cloud of tobacco smoke. That night ended the best birthday of my life, and began the longest ride I ever hitched.
To this day, I have never been to Amsterdam. I can’t say I really regret that. Everybody’s got Amsterdam stories, but I’m the only one with a cement-truck-to-Croatia story. Conventional wisdom tells us that man plans while God laughs. That makes God out to be a real dickhead, though. I think man plans, and God racks his brain to come up with a counteroffer. Sometimes the counteroffer makes about as much sense as a duplicate gold medallion in a Croatian’s breast pocket. But just because an offer doesn’t make sense, doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering. In fact, those are usually the best ones.