Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Lakewood Galaxy

hitchBy: Aaron Joseph. The wonderful organizations and societies that anchor and mold our community are simply stated: special. The willingness of strangers to avail themselves to another, often in a most circumspect and modest way, is most praiseworthy. How lucky we are, how fortunate am I, to belong and live amongst such.
 
Noteworthy is the way our youngsters learn from, mimic, and in fact employ the adult methods and ways of their role-modeled humanity. Ways and ideology that surrounds families and neighborhoods on all sides, at all times. Each time we act, we insure the mindful to hopefully one day apply and employ all observations accordingly. Such we expect and at times demand.
 
There is one sub-sphere arena of good deeds and Gomil Chesed, which might need to be curbed, perhaps a bit, perhaps much. It depends on where you stand, or where they stand. Read on even after you may feel a bit betrayed a few paragraphs hence.
 
Driving down 7th Street, at about 9:00am a few mornings ago I was startled to see a young Bais Yaakov high school student, full uniform regalia, trying mightily to hitch a ride with the first offer to come that way. As I drove on past without breaking, the student who was standing a good few feet off the curb, stared annoyed through my car window, as if to communicate “Chutzpa! You’re going my way anyways.” I felt sorry to disappoint, and more sorry at the malapportioned disappointment.
           
I am sure if you have been driving around Lakewood long enough; you have probably had your fair share of such interactions of late. After an up-close staring encounter through your side window, you as well might feel sorry to disappoint someone as you drive on past without stopping. Admittedly, you probably have not received such treatment from a Bais Yaakov student, at least not yet.
                                                                                           
What should I have done? Stopped? My conscience was berating my better instincts with each heartbeat. After all, who knows just who might come along next and offer a readily accepted car ride to that barely teenage child? Was I shirking my responsibility as a Good Samaritan? Was I wrong for leaving the student unsupervised?
                                                                                            
We live in a good, safe area, in a fine community of upright individuals; I calmed myself, no need to fret. I assured myself that the preordained ride will arrive momentarily, in shining armor (depends on make and model!) to whisk the hitcher along towards whatever fanciful destination. Besides, even teenagers have brains enough to recognize danger. Don’t they?
                                                   
Well, fear not. About a block later, I was once again provided with an opportunity of deep introspection and reanalysis of the above-mentioned scenario. As it once again repeated itself just outside my car window, another youngster, a much similar uniform as the first, was playing the lead role.
 
As I drove off once again leaving a stranded, annoyed and perhaps startled teenage child sulking at the trunk of my car; bereft of a free car ride- at least from me, I could not help but wonder about the parents of these teenagers. I mean, do they not realize the grave ramifications that this hitchhiking behavior might pose; aside for the Midos that seemingly were left at the curb as well. Who is responsible for these youngsters anyways?
 
These teens mind you were not the typical Bais Yaakov students however. No, and not for the reasons you are thinking either. The reason they were not typical had absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact they were hitching a ride on 7th street. Nope. Rather, it had to do with the uniform they were wearing.
 
Dressed to the hilt in their standard gear of black hat brim up or down, with dark jacket and dark pants; these were young Yeshiva Bochrim trying to hitch a ride. One of them had his Teffilin tucked into the crook of his arm. He might have been on his way to Yeshiva.
 
Ok. So he was not a “Bais Yaakov” student. But does it make any difference whatsoever of what Yeshiva they go to, or how they dress? Children are children are children.
 
“So,” you might say, “you passed by Bochurim on the way to Yeshiva. Can there be a bigger and easier Mitzvah in your day, a better way to assist with their commitment and commute to Y’hadus?” Yes. All true. However-
                                                              
I had no idea who those Bochrim were, whom they belonged to, or to where they were going. Nor could I know if their parents would approve of me giving them a lift. Perhaps the parents forbade them to take random rides. To me they were strangers- regardless of age. They certainly appeared to be under the legal age of 18 or 21. I would not buy them a beer, cold or hot, no matter how much they plied, even for siblings’ Shalom Zocher. I certainly would not buy them a package of cigarettes; I would not care if they got angry about it neither.
 
Yet for some reason giving a lift, or asking one of a total stranger, has a less severe appreciation. Why is that?
 
Obviously, to be fair, our no longer so small “Haimish” town structure must be taken into honest consideration. The ultra orthodox kindness organizations that abound, nearly one per hitcher, offer impeccable examples of doing unbidden for another. Yes, it is something we have come to take for granted; both the giver and the taker. However, to what degree may the taker be unbidden; or the giver?!
 
While “Haimishkiet” or “trusted close-knit with genuine warmth community insider,” is a poignant factor and strong driving force of much that we do, there are many other communities both small and large with a smack of prideful and rightful Haimishkiet, all with Chesed organizations galore. Yet these places do not spawn a cultured Chinuch of hitchhikers, not pre-teen nor teenage, not of any age. Monsey, Baltimore, Chicago, or Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island do not, and that is just to name a few.
 
Of course, you will always find a few hitchers straggling about in every community, but not on every street corner, nor in front of every Shul. Almost never will they be predominantly teenagers, or younger. If you do end up giving a ride to some hitcher, especially a youngster, say in Miami Beach, you will know the name of your passenger- beforehand. You would also know where he is going before he even asks.
 
For arguments sake let us take a moment to mine a tad deeper into one of Lakewood’s psychological foundations. The phenomenon such as giving ones child over to cycles of almost perfect strangers for cycles of nearly permanent childcare beginning at 6 weeks old; and hence a child growing up with a trusted reliance upon almost perfect strangers, is a no-brainer, but beyond the scope of this article. It is also not an absolute truth. Yet it does weigh into the equation. Let us leave it alone for now though.
 
So what is it with the common hitchhiker in Lakewood, and the phenomenon of young teenage hitchhiking in our community. Where does it come from, and who is responsible for it?
 
It is true, the average young married men might be headed in the same common general direction each morning, and again in the evening; and this might be considered the Lakewood norm. It is even understandable, but teenagers?
 
Another forthright question that comes into mind is this: is it even legal to hitchhike or to offer a ride to hitchhikers, especially a young underage teenage hitchhiker?
 
New Jersey State law is a bit evasive when it comes to picking up passengers on side streets in communities. Clearly, any precedent, without a local township ordinance, is based upon state laws.
 
New Jersey Law is from the stricter in the United States. The law plainly interpreted maintains that concerning any area termed “highway” in New Jersey, it would be illegal, both upon the hiker and upon the driver to be involved with any hitchhiking. Even onramps and off-ramps of highways, are considered “Highways” with regard to hitchhiking. Surprisingly, by law this makes the vicinity of Route 9, an illegal area for hitchhiking, by the way. (FYI)
                                                                                        
A second more provoking legal question is what is the law about allowing a minor into your car without a guardian’s permission?
 
After a smattering of basic legal research I’ve found that while it probably could not be considered kidnapping or abduction, it definitely raises risk factors, as well as any potential insurance claims. For your best information, contact a lawyer or legal expert.
 
Of course, there is always the Halacha and Hashkafa perspective of Ahavas Chesed and doing a daily dosage of good deeds. Yet the Torah edict of U’Shmartem Me’od Es Nafshosaichem, guarding oneself prudently, is equally incumbent upon both a driver, and hitchhiker. This edict is an uncompromising pillar whose mighty foundation also rests within the source of doing a good deed. The two even share the same basis. So which way is the Chesed?
 
The truth is it is uncertain wherein lies the justification, either pro or con of giving a hitchhiker a ride. If you do, be wise about it. If you do not, be wise about it.
 
I am certainly thankful to the One Above, that thus far teenage girls have not yet taken to climbing into just any unremarkable car lumbering in the supposed direction of their whims. I also suppose I am grateful that the teenage boys whom do wait for rides usually have passed the rite of life in which they are at least wearing a hat and holding Teffilin, at the very least, it conveys some format of communal sanity.
 
Some of the other features of this young hitchhiking phenomenon like: “you are now volunteered to do me a favor association” have me wondering however. Like- do the parents know who is driving the car in which their child’s life is now placed? Does the driver even have a license? Is he sober? What is he playing on his radio, and what might he pick up at the next corner that will soon be sitting beside my son, or yours?
 
The lack of consideration for traffic rules that these freelance street hoppers cause is harrowing as well. The inconvenience and also real danger these sudden mid-block stopping and intersection blocking creates, is worthy of a prayer in its own right.
 
These unassuming daily stunts, the responsibility of the feel-good subconscious Chesed-Mitzvah chaser, who quite inadvertently and unwittingly jeopardized the commute of others, all to convenience those who are inconvenienced to begin with, is bewildering to say the least. A new sound of honor, the prolonged, desperate car horn blaring, signifies that someone nearby, in all probability, just alighted out of, or entered a car.
 
Moreover, where in the world do these “earn for yourself eternal reward” opportunities that each corner offers up, learn those well rehearsed, convincing facial expressions and bodily motions and gyrations. You know of- “you just passed by today’s winning lottery Mitzvah,” when you pass them by without picking them up- for whatever reason. Or, the soulful glance of “pleaeesee- I’m stranded,” a break-your-heart look that for some reason, the rearview mirror can never reclaim!
 
This is not something that adults portray when involved in their own Chesed organization, and not something learned through the dedicated work of those hundreds of community volunteers; may G-d bless each one. I surely hope not anyways. I guess I am thankful, that some still say thank you when debarking from their precious lift and my precious Mitzvah. Regarding those that do not; I will choke it up to “L’Fum Tzara Agra.”
 
Importantly, how can the novice hiker flagging aimlessly somewhere (hopefully) near the curbside at every car no matter which way the blinking signal indicates, be trained concerning where to stand and how to express themselves properly and civilly.
 
 
Would it be fallow to point out how any civilized American respectfully awaits a ride offer, when they are in need of one? In addition, can uncivilized behavior be pointed out  as behavior unworthy of emulation? Especially on a public street where sanctification is, and necessarily must always be on public display?
 
Unfortunately, of late, this last aspect of uncivilized behavior is something that does not necessitate finding just any American on any public road awaiting a ride. It is something however, that you and I can tweak with each ride we offer.
                                                                                                                    
When it comes down to the wire though, the great influxes of hitching, and especially the hitchhiking youth, are a reflection of their ever- high expectations for rides being fulfilled- by you and I.
 
In the final analysis, and until the day city hall passes appropriate ordinances and measures to firmly plant a hitchhiking curb, it must be up to us, the Good Samaritans to take the initiative. We who truly appreciate doing these hitchhikers a good deed whenever they offer us the (frequent) opportunity, must offer more then just that requested hop of a couple of blocks.
 
If you feel it incumbent upon yourself to offer the ride, please utilize the moment of good deed you are doing and utilize the opportunity. Realize the potential to be M’chanech these future Baalai Chesed through this act of kindness that you display for them.
                                                                                                             
As these hitchers, especially the younger ones are seemingly left to the street for a car ride,- perhaps and quite possibly as well, maybe just so, they are left to the street when it comes to the expected civilized, and proper social behaviors that they are required to exude in relation to this car ride you just stopped to offer.
 
If you do decide to stop, and offer to fulfill their obvious hailed request, perhaps pause for an added second and offer a lift to their un-hailed curbside street mannerism and social smarts, if necessitated or required.
 
As you have become their vehicle to get them from here to there- why not do a complete job of transporting and lifting a potential Midah Tova as well, becoming a communicating conduit for their good social graces. 
 
Of course, on the other hand you may have a far easier time- all you might need to do is say, “you’re welcome,” at the end.                                                                                                                   
 
Tizku L’Mitzvos. TLS.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. A good article,

    1. Hitchhiking is ilegal.

    2. In todays day and age, I would never, ever, ever let a minor, underage person in my car. There are WAY too many things that could go wrong and you are opening yourself up to accusations and a lifetime of misery.

  2. It’s time for Lakewood to get bus service around town, routes that the Bochirum would use to get around. Hitchhicking is dangerous for the driver as well as the hitchhicker. And many times the students are rude. No doubt about it.

  3. the signs do say, no stopping-no standing. hitchhiking is both against the law & very dangerous especialy when you stop to take on passengers or discharge them in the middle of a very busy intersection. happens all the time.

  4. Too long of an article but agree that the hitchiking going on here in Lakewood is a little out of control.I for one have no problem with yungeleit who live far from yeshiva and need rides to and from yeshiva I doubt the author was refering to them in his article. There seems to be an attitude among some(usually young and immature) and that is what irks many people who are bothered by this latest craze.

  5. 1. Hitchhiking is ILLEGAL in New Jersey

    2. Hitchhiking is dangerous not just in the sense of accepting a ride or giving a ride to a total stranger but because most of the time in Lakewood the vehicle doesn’t even pull off the road, they stop suddenly and randomly in the middle of the street

  6. Way too long of an article.
    I once stopped to pick up hitchers on Squankum going to NY. I needed to get to Flatbush and was in a rush, so I let them know I was taking the Belt (you can debate if its quicker or not – that was my opinion at the time). One fellow got annoyed and ‘asked’ me to take 65th street cuz he needed to get to BP. When I refused, he self-righteously said “Fine, listen if you want the mitzvah, you can go with 65th,” and in a huff turned around and went back to the curb.

  7. This hitchiking has been bothering me for the longest time. The danger to the young bochurim, to the drivers and to all the drivers around pickup and discharge points is very real. Another point is the hefkerus involved. What do you think it looks like that so many frum youngsters are standing all over town hitching while one hardly ever sees anyone else hitching anymore. It’s embarassing and a chillul hashem to boot. Parents and Menahalim must be on top of this situation BEFORE a tragedy happens, not after.
    BTW this article was MUCH too long. All this could have been said in a few paragraphs. Also, there were many grammar mistakes and some parts were impossible to even understand.

  8. My question is why do these youngsters have to hitch rides anyway. If they’re going to and from school don’t they have busing, or if not why don’t their parents arrange car pool? If they are mesivta bochurim from out of town where do they have to go? If they feel the need to leave the yeshiva campus during their free time, shouldn’t it be with supervision from their respective yeshivos? If my son were in an out of town yeshiva, I’d like to know that his Rosh Yeshiva or Mashgiach or someone responsible knows what the boys are up to and where they are while under the responsibility of the yeshiva. If they were home, their parents should know where they are.

  9. To those who complained that the article was to long, I say, if you have something worthwhile to say (and he did) take your time and say it (which he did). Nevertheless it was to long for this forum and could have been condensed. It must be said that he left no stone unturned and there is absolutely nothing to add. Surprisingly enough, I was expecting comments from the typical fringe element that would disparage the remarks and stick up for the hitchhikers.

    I for one do not avail myself of this mitzva nor on the flip side did I allow any of my children to hitchhike; ever. My wife and I were one of those parents who drove their children where they needed to go or arranged rides and/or carpools for them. Where has responsible parenting gone?

    Kudos on the article, the only baffling thing is that it’s signed TLS. I assume that is The Lakewood Scoop, but how can that be, it was written in English and nary a grammar error or punctuation gaffe.

  10. Seriously, you write A LOT. No offense, but I got may a quarter way through, and then I scrolled down to see how much longer till you actually GET TO THE POINT and then gave up when I saw it stretched on for another 15 paragraphs. LONG paragraphs.

    Anyway, from what I DID read, seriously, if you don’t want to give a ride, don’t give it. But don’t start preaching to the choir about how wrong it is to send your kid to a babysitter at 6 weeks! No, the system isn’t perfect, but it’s what we have to work with, and unless someone comes up with a better idea (or invents a money tree), it’s the reality of this place.

    Oh, and, maybe try not to write so much next time? Short and to the point is the best way to go. No need for so much purple prose.

  11. Article is way too loooong.
    A mitzvah is a mitzah. If u give someone a ride ro yeshiva, u get a portion of schar for everything he learns that day -( at least that’s wat the hitcher told me yesterday while in my car) . Just to make it easier for us drivers I would like to make a suggestion for the hitchers ; please hold a sign that says your point of destination, this will save us time in 2 ways
    A)we wont have to stop and ask u where you need to get too
    B) we wont have this excuse not to stop, “he’s anyways not going where I’m going”.
    If you are a bochur in yeshiva reading this comment, please print and hang up on the bulletin board. It is li’toeles harabim. If u are a mashgiach in a yeshiva, please mention these important aspects of menchlichkiet in the next shmooze. Yasher koach

  12. To #13, I agree wholeheartedly with you on your comments about hitching, but I beg to differ about your opinion about the writing. I hope you’re joking, because the grammar is terrible. i.e. “whom’ instead of “who. ” “Whom” may sound fancier, but it’s not always correct to use it. That’s just one example.

  13. #8 & #11 Mr. Schoolteacher-

    You are right about the hitching- although the fellow writing the article did a far better job then you in bringing his points across.

    I hope your teaching is better then your writing critique. At the very least I hope you Mr. Schoolteacher, do not teach litirature or grammar; and if you do, take some lessons from this author.

    To boot, your comments are redundent. You use the same wording too frequently and have no idea where to place your commas,.

    Also, can you describe the differance for us between ‘whom’ and ‘who’?

    Thanks.

  14. In the US state New Jersey it is illegal to hitchhike. This is provided by 39:4-5, which states: “Begging rides prohibited. No person shall stand in a highway for the purpose of or while soliciting a ride from the operator of any vehicle other than an omnibus or a street car.”

  15. You could said this article in one paragraphs not a whole book – But yes it is dangerous and parents shouldn’t let kids hitch

  16. Hitchhiking is simply a form of begging for handouts from strangers at large. Our community does not need to train an entire generation to take on a schnorer mentality like this.

    When a kid plans out his day to depend on the kindness of strangers he is also planning his life to be a schnorer. not exactly an honorable profession.

    The same thing applies to adults that hitchhike by the way but for most adults that do it it’s too late to hold out hope for them. They’ve already trained themselves to believe that the world owes them whatever they ask for (even before they ask for anything).

  17. You are right about the hitching- although the fellow writing the article did a far better job THEN you in bringing his points across.
    – should be “than”

    To boot, your comments are redundent. You use the same wording too frequently and have no idea where to place your commas,.
    – you seem to have the same problem..

    “Let he who cast the first stone..”

  18. R’ Shneur said that the best shmirah for someone with a car is to do chesed with it. And really, the free ride that costs you maybe three minutes saved the other guy 20-30 minutes. However, this is not shnorring. It’s a simple chesed of one person helping his friend /neighbor/ relative out. Although you’re right – I’ve had kids who were rude come in, and I kicked them out 3 blocks later. If someone does a chesed, you appreciate it.

  19. “Whom” is used for objective pronouns, and “who” is used for subjective pronouns. A simple tip is to replace the word with the pronoun about whom you are speaking. In this example, I used “whom” – if you switch the sentence around, you would say “speaking about her/him/me” (objective pronouns) as opposed to “speaking about she/he/I” (subjective pronouns). Oh, and please never say “between you and I”…

  20. # 26, Wikipedia lays that out pretty much the same way. Plural/unknown is whom. Singular/specific is who.

    Actually, “between you and I,” is fine when in quotes,or descriptive writing.

    Please, never say never.

  21. 28 – I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Someone asked a question, and I gave an answer (with no help from wikipedia – yes there are actually a few people left in this world who know how to speak). I have no idea what you’re talking about with “Plural/unknown”.

    Regarding “between you and I”, as far as I know it is incorrect. Most people use the phrase because they think it makes them sound smarter but unfortunately does the opposite.

  22. Chaim, I went back and read through some of your comments. I realize it was a mistake to even bother responding to you, as you are definitely one of those who thinks he can speak/write a lot better than he actually can! Careful before criticizing others… You are only making yourself look even more foolish.

Comments are closed.