Normal rules of caution don't apply this day

Hitchhiking a way to help and get around in snow

The Snowstrorm Of 2003

February 18, 2003|By Michael Stroh and Jonathan Bor | Michael Stroh and Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

It was a day when the normal rules didn't apply.

With most cars entombed deep within pyramids of snow and public transportation at a standstill, some people will remember the big snowstorm of 2003 as the first time they put their fate in the hands of strangers - and were happily surprised that you still could.

Christina Bennett was trudging down Charles Street in Homeland yesterday afternoon with her husband, Ron. She never hitchhikes.

"It's an easy way to get killed," she said.

But the couple had spent a few hours clearing walks and driveways for cash, and were exhausted. They held out their hands hoping some good soul would deliver them to the warmth of their Remington home - and got lucky.

A Chevy Cavalier equipped with snow tires eased over. The driver called out, and the couple eagerly hopped in.

Changing course

Indeed, people who never hitchhike found themselves sticking out their thumbs yesterday - and people who would never pick up a hitchhiker made an exception.

Some of these good Samaritans said they were just happy to be helpful.

"My heart says to me: You're doing the right thing," Mohamad Brouzya, a bartender at the Recher Theatre in Towson, said after picking up a couple stranded on York Road.

Fred Struever, a vice president at Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse Inc., drives a Ford F150 pickup and was delivering a few friends to the Johns Hopkins University in Homewood on his way to work when he saw a man slogging through the snowy streets.

He didn't hesitate to pull over.

"In circumstances like this, how can you turn anybody down?" Struever asked.

It's the same thought that ran through the mind of Roxanne Orbegoso as she drove down Falls Road yesterday. The diminutive 5-foot-2 doctor at St. Agnes HealthCare in Southwest Baltimore had never invited someone off the street into her car.

"You feel scared," she said. "You never know what to expect from strangers."

But when she passed a determined-looking middle-aged man on Falls Road who "looked like he needed to get somewhere" she pulled her Volkswagen Fox to the side and opened the door.

"Baltimoreans are just the kind of people that help each other," she said.

Some hitchhikers, though, encountered some questionable characters when they stuck out their thumbs yesterday.

Beer in the morning

A Hampden woman was so desperate to get downtown that she took a ride from two guys joyriding in a Lincoln Navigator.

The duo explained between swigs on Corona beers - this was the morning, mind you - that they were "out looking for some fun." After suggesting that she might be part of the fun, which the woman found unsettling, both of them got out of the car to relieve themselves in a snowdrift. They behaved the rest of the trip when she announced she was a reporter.

At least they weren't doing drugs.

A Baltimore man's rescuer first told him to fork over 20 bucks for a ride downtown from Northern Parkway and Falls Road.

Then he took him on a six-mile detour to West Baltimore and made the passenger wait in his beat-up Chevy while he huddled with an acquaintance. A few minutes later, the driver returned with a baggie filled with what appeared to be crack.

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson and John Rivera contributed to this article.

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