Subscribe for updates and more.

Today You, Tomorrow Me

Planted 02021-10-06

On being kind to strangers.

One of my core values.

“Today you, tomorrow me” comes from this reddit post from 2010 where OP asks Have you ever picked up a hitch-hiker?. It’s well-known enough to have it’s own page on Know Your Meme and Chris A. Neal directed a short film based on it in 2020.

The following is the full comment by u/rhoner for posterity.

Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, my girlfriend wasn’t too stoked on the practice. Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually. If you would indulge me, it is long story and has almost nothing to do with hitch hiking other than happening on a road.

This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people’s cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn’t loan them out “for my safety” but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket.”

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.

He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks english. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn’t careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. Fuck.

No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand but he wouldn’t take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.

So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow…

But we aren’t done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won’t take it. All I can think to say is “Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor” with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:

“Today you…. tomorrow me.”

Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t deal.

In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:

“Today you…. tomorrow me.”

tl;dr: long rambling story about how the kindness of strangers, particularly folks from south of the border, forced me to be more helpful on the road and in life in general. I am sure it won’t be as meaningful to anyone else but it was seriously the highlight of my 2010.

**edit: To the OP, sorry to jack your thread, this has nothing to do with Hitch Hiking. I sort of thought I could just get this off my chest, enjoy the catharsis and watch the story languish at the bottom of the page. Glad people like hearing the tale and I hope it moves you to be more helpful in your day to day. **

The following will be stories of my own experiences.

The roads are empty. It’s night. Rain beats oppressively on the windshield as I drive down a well-lit and well-paved road. My girlfriend and I are singing along the music blaring from the speakers. Then the road lights end, the road now faintly lit as we pull up to a stop sign across the place we’re going to pick up food. A lone car wanders down the road perpendicular to us. We watch, waiting to cross, as it creeps–jet black in the night. The car suddenly swerves. Silently, under the cover of the rain, it hits the stop sign across the road from us. We watch as it quickly backs up a few feet before stopping once more. I glance over to my girlfriend and say, “I’m sorry,” before putting my car in gear and driving closer to the car. I stop near the car as a man steps out. Looks white, middle-aged, and confused. “I’ll be right back,” I say before stepping out into the rain. The wind roars, my t-shirt instantly soaks. “Hey man, did you just hit that stop sign?” I shout into the wind. “Yeah, I uh –,” I couldn’t make out the rest of his words. He begins to walk closer; my heart skips a beat as my minds races with possibilities of threats. “You all right?” I call out once more. “Yeah, I just suddenly hydroplaned and couldn’t bring it back in.” He replies. “Oh, wow. Is your car all right?” I ask, hoping to make sure he gets help if he needs it. “Yeah, it’s all right. Thanks for stopping though. Not many people would do that.”

I stopped for gas at a run-down gas station. I stopped at the first pump and found it didn’t accept credit cards. So, I moved forward onto the next pump and began to fill up. A black Mercedes rolls up to the other side of the first pump, and I look back to see a young Asian man step out. As I place my gas pump back into its housing, I look back again and see the young man looking puzzled and confused. I immediately think to shout, “The other side doesn’t accept credit cards. That one might not either.” Then quickly think shouting might scare him, better not. And as I ponder walking over to him, that might scare him too. This entire time I’ve been sitting in the driver’s seat, my door wide open, legs are strewn outward, and staring at the young man. He looks inside the car and then glances backward. We make eye contact. Oh no, I feel like he thinks I’m glaring at him. Maybe he thinks that I have Asian hate. I was too scared of scaring him to help him. As I drove away, I kept looking back in my rearview mirror to see if he was able to get gas. As I drove away, stomach in knots about not being brave enough to reach out to him, I watched him drive away without getting gas.