Chew Chew weekend was in full chomp when I U-turned to meet a group of five people waiting at the Main Street taxi stand on the corner of St. Paul Street. I shouldn't be making U-turns on Main Street, but I do. Bad hackie.
There were three women and two men, one of whom was jumbo-sized. I lowered the passenger side window and called out, "Let's put the big guy in the front and the other four of you can jump in the back."
The big guy said, "No - it's just these two young women. They're working at a girls' camp, I think it is, up in Colchester. You heard of this? Can you take them?"
"Sure," I said. "I know exactly where it is."
There is an exclusive girls' summer camp located in the outer reaches of Colchester. For many years I've driven the counselors and other staff members when they hit Burlington on their night's off. Most of the staff, from my experience, are young foreign women. The bulk of the counselors seem to come from England and Australia, while the rest of the staff - kitchen, cleaning and the like - are mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia.
The guy asked me the price, which I quoted him. He then asked the girls if they had the money, and they said they did. Giggling, they stepped into the back seat, both of them cute, blond and petite.
Chugging along, at a break in the giggles, I asked, "So, where are you girls from? What's your hometown?"
The slightly taller girl said, "We are from Ukraine."
"Ah-ha," said I. "Are you from Kiev?"
'No, not Kiev. But near Kiev. How do you know Kiev?"
"To tell you the truth, that's the only city I could think of that's in Ukraine."
We got on the highway en route to the Chimney Corner exit. The same girl - she seemed to be the leader of the duo - asked me, "This highway . . umm, how you say? . . is this highway busy?"
I had not a clue what she was getting at. "Do you mean during the day? You can see there's not many cars on the road at night like this. I mean, this is a small state - it never gets busy like in big cities. What exactly do you mean?"
More giggling, and then, "Can we get ride? Is that permitted?"
Now I got it. "No, no - you can't hitchhike on the highways." My paternal instincts kicked in at the thought. In the rearview I could see they didn't understand. "You know - hitchhiking." I stuck my thumb out and energetically pantomimed the act.
"Yes, yes," they said from the back, with tons more charming laughter. "Why not?"
"Well, like I said, it's illegal. But, anyway, you don't want to be on the road late at night with your thumb out."
"It is dangerous? Why?"
"C'mon girls." I was growing frustrated at their apparent naivete. The thought arose that they were pulling my leg, but then I remembered where they came from - two strangers in a strange land. "The two of you, getting in random cars. I mean, use your imagination."
"Is there bus to camp?"
"No, there's no bus. Get a few of you together and split the fare - that'll be cheaper."
"Can you make deescount?"
You have to admire their pluck, I thought to myself. "Sorry, girls - no discount. It's too long a ride; I can't cut the fare."
"OK," they said, and immediately went back to their talking and giggling, happy to be in America, ready for an adventure.