Tag: life

On Gender and Language

by: Jason Waddell

Recently on the forums there has been a serious discussion on gender and language on the RiptideLab forums. It’s not uncommon that forum threads veer off-topic, but what set this apart from previous occurences was the level of passion being brought to the debate.

First of all, let me state that I want RiptideLab to always be a place where people feel open to share their ideas. We do relatively little moderating here, and for the most part our users steer clear of personal attacks.

Personally, when things have become a bit heated in the past, I have attempted to use humor to de-escalate the arguments, but in this case eventually let things play out. I would like to use this post to find some sort of middle ground. I’d like to tell a story.

I have gay friends, bisexual friends, lesbian friends, but until recently had never known someone who is transgender.

Let me preface by saying that I am not judgmental of anyone based on gender or sexuality. I choose to share this story because I think it helps shine light on an intersection between perspectives.

A couple years ago I met a (female) friend’s boyfriend named “Barry”. Barry was doing a research thesis on game design, so we chatted about that occasionally, but were never that close.

Last year, on my way out to drinks with a friend, she mentioned, “Oh, Barry will be there. Barry’s a woman now. Still ‘Barri’, but now she spells it with an ‘i'”.

The group I was meeting was very progressive, populated mostly by polyamorous people of various sexual orientations, and all knew each other well. I was an outsider to the group, and naturally wanted to avoid stepping on any toes.

At some point in the evening, somebody asked me how I met Barri. “Well I met him…”

…and there was a pause in the air. I didn’t mean any offense by it, had no malice in my heart, but I knew that I had used the incorrect pronoun. It was an honest mistake. When I met her, she was a man, and so my memory of the occasion is of interacting with a man. No harm intended, but a mistake nonetheless.

I corrected myself. “…her…”

And a round of nods went up around the table. I didn’t mean anything wrong by it, but the whole evening I felt a bit on edge, not because I was with a transgendered person, but because I was worried about offending or being perceived as offensive. I no hatred or judgment in my heart, but I still had to be careful with my words. To learn to be comfortable in that context.

I think this can be a point of contention for some people. “If I myself am not hateful, why should I worry about my language offending? There is no hatred behind my words.”

It can certainly feel hostile when you realize you’ve offended someone. But there’s also usually a spirit of forgiveness. I don’t think anybody at the bar held it against me that I used the wrong pronoun, especially once I corrected myself. I think when people complain about so called “social justice warriors”, it’s because of encounters with people lacking this spirit of forgiveness. If you hold no hatred in your heart and are accused of being hateful, one might naturally react negatively.

I think what separates these issues in some regards is their “newness”. We don’t bat an eye when someone tells us to avoid certain hand signals or words that are considered offensive in countries we travel to.

I think there’s always a middle ground to be found.

Personally, I had never considered that the term “manland” might be considered offensive. Some of the posts in the forums opened my eyes to the fact that this does not hold true for everyone. I am willing to make changes to my vocabulary, and appreciate when I am met with a spirit of forgiveness when I use potentially offensive language that had no hatred in intent.

Further, I am pleased to see that the discourse on our forums remained civil, and hope that we can continue to keep RiptideLab as a welcoming environment.

The Quest: Part 1: The Quest

By James Stevenson

“By God, when I get home… I’m gunna take that frozen fruit, put it in the bottom, cover it in cake mix, then pour on a can of soda, then bake it.” I was having an excellent introduction to Canada, eavesdropping on a table of old ladies in a restaurant. An old man hobbled over to their table for a quick flirt, opening with “How are you fine looking ladies enjoying your meal?” and telling them how good the food was there.

I was in Peggy’s Cove, a world famous town I’d never heard of, home to 38 people, a lighthouse, and a beautiful coastline of exposed rock. It looks like a moonscape, except for the sea and the groups of tourists that get bussed out from Halifax every day to say “how quaint” for an hour. A local complained to me that one hour is not really enough to see the town, and I quite agree. An hour and a half would be perfect.

I’d only been in Nova Scotia for a few days and I was ready to stay forever. I was staying in Halifax, and after London I felt like I’d finally ascended from Purgatory to Heaven. Gone were the gray streets and gray people, replaced by green trees and blue waters. People seemed happy and unhurried here. I remember staring out of a café window, half asleep at 8am. A pretty girl jogged up to the crosswalk next to the window and looked at me. Instead of glancing away, she held my gaze and smiled. I was amazed! What was this place? Why hadn’t I been here years ago?

Peggy’s Cove was just a day trip for the sake of checking out Nova Scotia. The people who drove me were really down to earth and easy-going. I got given all kinds of advice about wild animals, people would talk about moose and coyotes and bears. One guy’s parting words as he drove away were “Buy bear repellent!”

I got two consecutive lifts from a couple middle-aged hippies who were spacing out happily and driving around with some young kid in the back seat. They loved Peggy’s Cove and were really happy I was going there. When I left one of them said “Thank you for bringing the medicine to Nova Scotia,” and wished me a meaningful, loving trip.

After a week in Halifax the real trip begun. I was heading north to Quebec, six hundred miles away. I’d travel along Nova Scotia and into New Brunswick, and for a little while I’d be in civilisation. Once I reached the TransCanada Highway there would be a long stretch of wilderness before reaching Quebec, hundreds of miles of forest. Towns were rare; there was only the woods, the animals, and the creeps who go out there to disappear. Or at least, so I was told.

Right in the beginning I had really good lift. I’d been dropped off after a ten minute ride and I was walking along the shoulder when this car swerved over and screeched to a stop ahead of me. It was a little two-door thing, low to the ground and looking kinda beat up. I ran over.

“Oh man I love picking up hitchhikers!” my driver exclaimed. He was a skinny guy with a mad grin and tattoos down his arms. I jumped in and he floored it. “I got a bit of a wet foot! I hope that’s ok!” he said.

He slouched back and smiled slyly while he talked. He had this kind of confidence that the world was his oyster. What he did for a living escapes me, but I do remember him telling me what a profit you can make transporting Canadian weed into America. He said they don’t let him through the border any more.

“Why not?” I asked, wondering if he’d been caught.

“Because I got a criminal record as long as my arm!”

He told me about a Russian girl he met on chatroulette.com that he’s kept in touch with for years. He almost went to Russia to meet her, but something about it didn’t work out. Maybe it was his massive criminal record, or maybe it was her stern, Putin-loving, west-hating father (Now that I think about it, how old is she?). He was still hoping she’d come to Canada one day. “I don’t know how I’d make that work with a wife and kids, but I’ll find a way!”

“You’re really lucky I picked you up,” he said. “I’m gunna take you to a big truck stop, you’ll get a ride in no time.”
The place he took me was completely dead, and I waited for three hours, getting slowly colder and adding layers of clothing until I was wearing everything I had. There was hardly any traffic, though one guy pulled over and handed me a bag of chips and a can of soda. “I’m not going that way, but here, have some pop and chips!”

I got fed up and went to warm up in the Schnitzel Haus, a weird roadside German restaurant that smelled like eggs. It was like being in a chalet, with chequered table cloths and a waitress in a dirndl She had a lovely Nova Scotia accent that was really out of place.

After twenty minutes enjoying this bizarre atmosphere I hit the road again, and it wasn’t long before I started getting lifts. I remember having a lift with a guy in a pickup truck who cracked open a couple beers for us as we drove. I just went with it. There was also a retired school teacher who wanted to write a book about teaching. People these days don’t know how to get respect from their students, he said.

I ended up somewhere in the south of New Brunswick, still four hundred miles from Quebec. I was surrounded by open green fields and rolling hills, crisscrossed with lines of little trees that led to the edge of dark woodland. The sky was huge here. The clouds which had kept the earth so cold all day started to drift away to the west and the sun, dipping towards the horizon now, threw great beams of light over their edge. I sat on my duffel bag, finally warming up in the sunlight. Whenever a car appeared I’d stick out my thumb, but for the moment I was perfectly content where I was.

I got one more lift that day, a long lift with a trucker who was on his way home to Woodstock, New Brunswick. He was another skinny tattooed guy, with a bandana wrapped around his forehead. He laughed a lot as he talked, and he would bounce around nervously in his seat when he did. He was in his sixties, but he was lean and wiry. He trained in mixed martial arts and kept a chrome baseball bat next to his seat, just in case.

The light of his life was his daughter, who could do all kinds of neat things like fix cars and hunt and whatnot. He called her the son he never had.

He told me all kind of stories about the women in his life. He had a “lot lizard” (that’s a euphemism for truckstop hooker) in New Jersey who was quite fond of him and would drop whatever she was doing and see him if he was in town. He assured me she was clean several times, and in one story about a three-way he assured me the other girl was clean too. I don’t know why I’m mentioning this; he just said it a lot. He also had a girl in Texas, who’d hitched a lift with him once. She given him weed and slept with him during the trip and would also drop whatever she was doing to see him if he turned up in Texas. And then there was his wife, who knew all about these women and didn’t mind.

I asked if he knew other truckers, what he did in truck stops. “Oh you know, I’ll pull in and go see what’s going on. See who’s telling the tallest stories.”

When we finally got to Woodstock I was let out in a truck stop. It was dark, but trucks were still moving, so I stood by the exit and held out a thumb whenever anyone passed. I didn’t get anywhere that night, but one Nova Scotian trucker did pull over and hand me five dollars. I spent the night on the sofa in the truckers lounge. I was nervous I’d get kicked out and tried to look awake whenever anyone walked by.

I gave this up and went back outside around 7am, and this is the day that things got weird.

I went back to the spot I’d been standing at the night before, and a guy in a pickup truck pulled over. He was 78 years old, nuts, and he talked like he was missing all his teeth. He was out that day to pick up potatoes from the fields and sell them. As he explained, the harvesters miss potatoes and leave them behind, and he would drive onto the fields after the farmers had left and fill up a couple of boxes.

We were driving past endless potato fields and he would stare around wildly, looking for farmers. “You cocksuckers!” He’d shout. “Where are you cocksuckers? All them potadas are gunna burn!” He must have spent a solid half hour gumming about potatoes, he knew everything there was to know about them. When we did finally pass a field being harvested he shouted triumphantly “There you are you cocksuckers! I’ll be back!”

As I slowly learned, Potato Man had had a hard life. “You got a girlfriend?” He asked me. I said no. He showed me a picture of a woman. “This is the lady I was taking care of,” he said. She had died earlier that year, and his son some time before that.

“I used to pick up bottles along this road.” In Canada many homeless people collect bottles and collect the deposits on them. “I used to jerk people off for fifty bucks. I’ve slept in boxes, abandoned cars, you name it, I’ve slept in it.”
We were off the highway so that he could scope out potato fields, and anyway he had some burning hatred for the TransCanada Highway that I didn’t understand. We passed a cornfield and he pointed into some trees at the edge. “That’s where I used to pull up my truck. I’d pull in there, go take some corn, and go sell it.”

More and more he would talk about jerking people off, and slowly the stories started to be about hitchhikers. He’d picked up eleven hitchhikers that summer, he told me. He said he’d been telling another hitchhiker about his sexual encounters, and that hitchhiker had told him to stop and jumped right out. “But I ain’t never attacked anyone!” he told me.

He also warned me several times not to go to Kitchener, Ontario because it was “full of queers up there”.

The closer we got to the end of the ride the more desperate and up front he became about what he wanted from me, though he never came out and said it. “I ain’t never attacked anyone,” he said, As we were pulling to a stop, “but if someone gets it out I’ll play with it!”

Now I was spooked. Maybe I should have jumped out too, but I wasn’t scared, just disgusted. I bought a doughnut from Tim Horton’s to feel better, but that didn’t really help. It was Tim Horton’s so I don’t really know what I’d expected.
In the next car I was wary. “What does this guy want from me?” I wondered. But he was just another nice guy. Thank God.
I caught a third ride, slowly making my way north, slowly feeling better. My driver was a salesman from Maine. He would visit Canadian companies and sell advertising slots on American TV.

We were getting along fine, talking about whatever, and then he asked me if I had a girlfriend. I said no, and he said something I didn’t quite hear. And then, after a pause, “You wanna make a little money?”

I knew what was going on, but thinking there was a chance all he meant was “Do you want to get a job while you’re travelling”, I answered “Maybe.”

“I’ll pay you to let me jerk ya off while we drive.” His voice kind of oozed and purred, oily. Every time I think back he sounds more like Heath Ledger as The Joker.

This time I said no. He nodded.

“Thought I’d ask.”

More afraid of an awkward silence than of him, I picked up the conversation again. “So you’re married, huh?”


“What’s that like?”

“Marriage? It’s alright.” There was a pause. “But I’ve been bi my whole life.” He still sounded like The Joker.

After that ride I was feeling terrible. I’d hitchhiked thousands of miles in Europe and never had anything like this at all! I was starting to think back to all the rides I gotten in my life. What were they after?

The Joker had told me he’d pick me up again if I was still there after he was done in the town, so I was really hoping I’d get picked up before I saw him again. Thankfully a couple French speaking guys let me into the back of their minivan and completely ignored me. I leaned against the window, nervous and exhausted. My eyelids were starting to droop. “What the hell,” I thought, “these guys are probably fine,” and I fell asleep.

They woke me up when they were turning off and I hopped out. I started walking and started to feel good again. The sky was clear and the sun was warm. For the first time in 24 hours I took off a layer of clothing. I wearing a rainbow patchwork jumper and a swagged out Turkish sunhat, and I thought to myself I must look like some kind of weird ginger hippie chinaman. I giggled a little, and a great euphoria welled up in me. I laughed and grinned and breathed in the fresh air. This was real hitchhiking! Out here in the middle of absolute nowhere, surrounded by a sea of trees, walking on highways and being picked up by repressed homosexuals. I was miles from home, miles from anywhere and I felt so alive!

At the top of a hill I could see for miles. All around me was green forest, dotted with blue lakes. It was just me, the land, the sky, and wind at my back, blowing north. Ahead of me I could see a big sign prohibiting anyone from walking further. That meant civilisation! I was getting close!

I got one last ride that day, with some kind of cultural minister from Quebec City. As we drove he told me all kinds of interesting things about Canada and about Quebec, and around us towns and houses started to appear again. The mighty Saint Laurence River appeared ahead of us and led us to the city. We crossed over a great bridge to the island and took the scenic route into the old town, my driver pointing out different buildings and interesting things.

He drove me right to the steps of Hostelling International. I booked a room for the night, went in, collapsed on the bed, and slept.

That night I took a long walk in the rain. I had a lot to think about. The last two days had been more interesting than whole months of boredom at home. Not only that, but the next day I knew I would be heading for Montreal, and I was excited. Montreal was my goal. I know I haven’t yet told you why I was in Canada in the first place, but you’ll just have to hold on. Things were about to get completely absurd, and I won’t say anything at all until part 2. Stay tuned!

Discuss this article in our forums.

September Vices

by: Jason Waddell

Here’s some shit I’m into.

BoJack Horseman


I don’t know if this is actually a good television show. Do we still say “television”, even with a complete disassociation of the physical technology? The phrase “do you want to play Nintendo” outlived my ownership of a Japanese console.

BoJack Horseman is a Netflix produced cartoon about a has-been horse-man, washed up and former star of of a tacky Full House-esque nineties sitcom. The voice acting selection seemed hand picked to pique my interests, starring Will Arnett, Alison Brie and Aaron Paul. I’m well aware that my taste in actors reads like a listicle from Stuff White People Like. The casting got me in the door, and a general need for escapism kept me there.

I don’t know if BoJack Horseman is actually a good show. If you’re looking for something on par with the quality delivered by Arrested Development, Community and Breaking Bad, this isn’t the place. BoJack deals in relatively dark themes for a cartoon, but more often than not misses the emotional mark. Despite my misgivings, I endured the entire first season, which is perhaps a testament. It doesn’t “get better”, so if you’re not sold after an episode or two, I’d give it a pass.

Recommended for: People who don’t need much comedy in their animated comedies.


Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour


I first discovered Todd Barry through his appearances in Season 4 of Louie, where Todd regaled a bar crowd with his retelling of a petty victory over a local comedy club owner who had mistakenly typed his name as “Todd Berry”. Todd Barry practices a perfected style of dry comedy, but here discards prepared material for a script-less crowd work tour. With some comics crowd work can feel like a hack collection of canned barbs masquerading under the guise of improvisation, but Barry’s work is truly entertaining and hits all the right notes.

You can buy The Crowd Work Tour for a fiver over at Louis CK’s site.

Recommended For: People who claim to “love to laugh” in their dating profiles.

This Shirt from Pull and Bear



The above picture is a product of a misguided attempt to win a girl back with the flirtatious guessing game “what’s in my mouth”, hoping she would someday return the favor. We’d been watching Project Runway together in recent weeks, and I had hoped she would appreciate the aesthetic alignment of the shirt pocket with the (spoiler alert) Kinder Surprise capsule. The whole thing was a failure, which goes to show, there’s no accounting for taste.

Recommended for: Losers.


Zinedine Zidane

Recommended for: People who feel the robbery scene from Spring Breakers didn’t live up to its potential.

Notes from the Road: Switzerland

By: James Stevenson

Back in March I was filling in my “Reason to go Switzerland” list, as one does, and it was looking pretty good:

1) I have dear friends there I haven’t seen in a while.

2) It’s not London.

3) It’s my birthday soon, and after I waste lots of money on birthday presents for myself it would be a good idea to miss some work and blow more money on a short trip.

4) I need to hitchhike so I can blog about it and my friends can tell me what a great writer I am.

These were all good reasons but the real reason was number 5:

5) My friend Andrew wants to give me his record collection and he lives there.

I collect records so that I can look cool. I’ve got a bookshelf filled up with records and second hand books so that when people come visit me they’re impressed with my intelligence and material wealth. “A man that devoted to archaic media must be a manly man indeed,” they think. I bought some expensive looking music equipment to complete the effect, and I even bought lights for the room to make it clear that I do actually read.

Sometimes, though, I notice people don’t even glance at my amazing possessions, and that really annoys me. The solution is obviously that I need more records, so when Andrew very generously offered me his collection I gleefully accepted.

My first thought was to hitchhike to England with them, after all, the cheapest way to move stuff between countries is definitely to get other people to pay for gas. I’d never hitchhiked with that much baggage before, though. Would anybody give me a lift? I wasn’t sure until I heard about this:

As the story goes, Tony Hawks, the author, accepted a drunken bet to hitchhike around Ireland with a refrigerator. He started in Dublin and made it all the way around the coast, up through Northern Ireland and back down anti-clockwise. If he could do that then I could do my trip with a couple bags of records. Easy.

So it was settled. I got up early and headed to the spot, an intersection in Sidcup. As far as I know, Sidcup is a pretty nowhere place in south London, but it’s quite dear to me.

I first discovered Sidcup back in 2012, when I was hitchhiking for the first time. It was after a long day of bad luck. I’d been stuck in a gas station in Belgium that morning, trying to get a lift for 5 hours and getting a horrendous sunburn instead. When I ended up on the ferry to England that night I was exhausted and red like a lobster. It was late and dark and I didn’t really have any idea what I was going to do when I got to Dover.

On the ship I met a group of English guys and they offered me a lift. They were five or six rough looking London guys, dressed in leather or whatnot, and they had names like Jacko, Panache, Rizzo and Moses. This one guy Joey was constantly joking around and laughing and the whole scene made me nervous. I honestly thought they were gunna rob me. “What the hell,” I thought, “at least it’ll make a good story”.

As it turned out, they were 1.5 bands (The Vex and The Supernovas) travelling back to England after playing some gigs together in Europe. We piled into their van, and the guys were all holding amps or guitars on their laps just to make room for me on the last seat. They were all super nice, but I was still scared. Once we got on our way they started blasting Chas & Dave, some ridiculous old English comedy music. They were all singing along at the top of their lungs and laughing as we sped down the motorway. I started to laugh too, long and loud and deep, and all my fear just went out of me completely. These were excellent people.

We ended up pulling into Sidcup some time after midnight to drop Jacko off. They asked me if I’d ever heard of Sidcup and laughed when I said I didn’t. I got the impression that nobody has ever heard of Sidcup. A couple days later I was on my way out of London again, and the spot for getting a ride to Dover turned out to be in Sidcup. I was overjoyed.

And so once again I found myself waiting there this March, holding my sign for Dover and watching cars blow past me in the morning air. I nibbled some stroopwafels and waited, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back. A mass of cyclists drove past me and cheered. Later someone drove by and threw a rock at me. After a couple hours, around 11 o’clock, someone pulled over and offered to take me to train station and buy me a ticket to Dover. I turned him down, assuring him I’d get a lift.

By then the traffic was starting to thin a little and I really wasn’t sure I would get a lift, but just as he pulled away a lady pulled over and offered me a ride. She gave me a cup of tea and we sped happily away. My driver was in her early 60s, on her way to a new home outside the city. She’d lived in London her whole life, including a year or more homeless. She’d lived in a building full of squatters, whole families raising children and whatnot. It sounded very communal and friendly; she said the kids were all kind of raised together by the whole group.

She let me out at a service station very close to Dover, and I started asking everyone if they were driving to Dover. One man got out of his car and started walking towards the shop, moving in a bit of hurry. I figured I had nothing to lose and asked him if he was heading to Dover. He said he was.

“Any chance you could give me a lift?” I asked.

He laughed to himself, as if he’d wished he said something different but hadn’t thought fast enough.

“All right. Wait here and I’ll be out in a moment.” He hurried away into the shop, with a funny little smile on his face.

This turned out to be one of the most interesting rides I’ve had. My driver was a doctor on a way to a meeting in Dover. He was in charge of a region of hospitals in the south of England, and he struck me as a very smart man. He often had that little smile, as if the world amused him in many little ways.

We were somewhere in the meat of our conversation when we got to talking about suicide.

“You know, doctors have the highest suicide rate in the country,” he said.

“Oh really? I guess it’s pretty stressful, right?” I asked.

“Well it is, but it’s not really that. I think when a doctor decides to kill himself he knows how to do it. You almost never get a doctor that tried to kill themselves and failed.”

“Do you know what you would do?” I asked after a pause.

“I know exactly how I’d do it,” he replied. “I’d inject myself with morphine and insulin.”

“How does that work?” I asked.

“First morphine to take away all the pain,” he told me. “Then I’d inject myself with insulin and my blood sugar would start to drop. I would drift off and my heart would stop. It would be very peaceful and easy.”

We didn’t speak for a short minute.

I told him about how the Celts used to throw themselves off cliffs when they got old and decided they’d become burdens on their families. (Come to think of it, I have no idea if this is true.) They also used to go into battle almost completely naked, wearing nothing but a golden torc. I said I had this crazy idea to get up on a building, get naked, put on a torc, and jump off when I was old and thought it was time. He was afraid of heights and didn’t like the idea.

We agreed that there’s never really a point in your life when you think it’s time to die. The desire to live is buried so deep in us that it is very hard to reject. That said, there is a beautiful French phrase: “L’appel du vide”, or “the call of the void”. It’s the temptation some people feel in high places, on top of a building or a cliff, the temptation to just take that plunge. I’ve had that feeling before. It’s terrifying.

In Dover I made my way to the ferry terminal and tried to get a lift with someone. I never have much success here, as most people already have their tickets booked and just drive straight to the ship. I didn’t waste too much time and bought a ticket pretty quickly.

On the ship I asked every person I could find, and all but one kind man turned me down. He was driving south to Paris, and could take me about one hundred kilometres before we’d have to part ways.

We got on the road and settled in for a long ride. Brian, my driver, lived on a houseboat in Paris and was a pilot for EasyJet. He must have been sixty or more. Years ago, he’d studied aeronautical engineering, and he was telling me all kinds of things about the degree he did. He loved to tell me stories about the things he’d studied, since I knew a little about the mathematics he’d done. He told me about proving little mathematical things during his degree, and I got the feeling he rarely talked to anyone that he could tell these stories to. Now that I think about it, he strikes me as a little lonely.

He told me he was hitchhiking once and had been picked up by a one-eyed man in a Jaguar. One-Eye was on his way to a date, and he was pretty nervous, so he brought Brian along with him. They went to a pub and had a few drinks, and when the girl arrived she turned out to be stunningly beautiful. One-Eye was still a little nervous, and they invited Brian along with them. Brian could tell it was going to work out and left them to it.

He told me later that he wanted to get a motorbike when he retired, and ride around like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2.

“When I leave the plane after a flight I always say to the crew ‘I’ll be back!’, but they never get it.”

Brian ended up going out of his way and taking me another 80km to a gas station near St. Quentin. He let me out and we said a warm goodbye. After a good ride the goodbye is always a little strange. You’ve been friends for a few hours and now you both know you’ll never see each other again. You both feel like saying “Hey well I’ll see you again soon, right?” but you don’t, and there’s kind of a hole in your words where this sentence is supposed to go.

Brian drove away and I went into the shop. I idly watched the TV, where Daniel Radcliffe was doing a dubbed sex scene in French. It was pretty late; not many cars were coming through and the truckers were all bunking down for the night.

Eventually the place closed up and the staff kicked me out of the café. There was still one little hallway open in the back of the building, so I found a corner where I could hide and curled up to read a book and get some sleep. I wasn’t sure I was allowed to sleep there, so I didn’t get my sleeping bag out or anything. I lay down under my sweater and shivered nervously all night, wondering if the door next to me would open up and some janitor would step through, see me, and kick me out into the cold. It wasn’t until around 4am that I realised how dumb I was being. I got out my sleeping bag and got comfy, but before long a group of truckers started hanging around the coffee machines, chatting loudly. I couldn’t get any sleep, so as soon as the café opened I went back inside and got a cup of coffee.

The early morning traffic was coming in and I asking around for a lift. I wanted to head south to Reims, then cut east towards Alsace. Last summer I’d been on this route. I’d actually been picked up by the police because I was standing on the edge of the motorway trying to thumb a lift. They’d taken me to a big service station and there’d been loads of drivers heading to Switzerland, so I wanted to head that way again.

Around 7am I met a young Dutch couple on their way to Geneva. Their car was jammed full of baggage, and they told me they didn’t have any space. They were pretty friendly, though, so I was disappointed. I went back inside the café. Later I saw the man, Jeffrey, again and struck up a conversation. We were just chatting about travelling and whatnot when his wife, Rosmili, came by and joined us.

“We were talking before about maybe moving some of our stuff over and getting a seat for you,” Jeffrey told me.

“But we need to know that you’re not going to murder us,” Rosmili said.

I laughed and promised not to kill them. I guess they were satisfied, so we went to their car and looked at our maps. Geneva was not where I wanted to go at all, but I liked them so much I decided to go with them. They didn’t seem to mind. We piled in and sped away!

“I just want to apologise, in advance,” I said, “but I didn’t really get any sleep last night. If I fall asleep please don’t think I’m rude.”

In the end we rode together for five hours or more, and we talked the entire time. They were absolutely excellent people, interesting and friendly and smart. We bullshitted about all the things I love to bullshit about: films and books and music, travelling, people, and of course the standard intellectual conversation things like religion and death and happiness and whatnot. They’d been married twelve years, but they seemed to me still very much in love, and very happy. They told me they’d decided not to have kids. They were perfectly happy enjoying the world together as the two of them. They were very refreshing; I wish there were more people like them.

When we reached Geneva the goodbye felt very wrong. That hole where one of us should have said “Hey, we should keep in touch” was gaping and obvious, but we both resisted. We hugged and they pulled away. “Be safe!” Rosmili shouted.

I was finally in Switzerland, and I was starving. I bought a gigantic Easter bunny and a loaf of zopf, which is this amazing Swiss bread made with some inordinate amount of butter. I made my way lazily toward the train station, eating happily. My weariness started to set in, and I began to feel terrible. I kept eating.

I thought about hitchhiking to Zurich, but when I reached the train station I got jumped by a bunch of ticket machines. They beat me up and emptied my wallet. They threw a ticket to Zurich at me and said if they ever saw me around there again there’d be trouble. I got on a train, stuffed my mouth with butter bread and chocolate, wondered why I felt even worse than before, and fell asleep.

Four days later I was back on the road with fifteen kilos of vinyl that I could barely carry. I managed to get home to London in one day: 19 hours and five lifts door to door. Not much of this trip stands out in my memory, except this rich Swiss hippie telling me about his expensive music equipment and how he preferred LSD and DMT parties to cocaine parties. I remember one of my drivers telling me to go to Laos and rent a motorbike. I also remember taking the train home from Dover with this random dude I met on the ferry. We didn’t have much to talk about except this other little kid who walked passed and said “You’re a couple of cunts, aren’t ya,” then disappeared down the train.

Now it’s midnight two months later and I’m in a café watching old guys play chess. I’m trying to work out what my closing thoughts are. There’s something hypocritical about a guy with a top mathematics degree sticking his thumb out and asking for help, getting total strangers to carry his Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd albums six hundred miles across Europe. There’s also something strange about meeting amazing people and deciding never to see them again. There’s something wonderful about that funny little smile my second driver wore. I don’t know what it all means, I’m just going to keep hitchhiking until I work it out.

Ode to Tinder: Part 1

Ode to Tinder

“It’s a Match!
-Send Message
-Keep Playing”

I always keep playing. Welcome to Tinder, the interactive “Hot or Not” game where acceptably attractive locals occasionally interrupt your day with mundane conversation. Tinder: train your stereotyping in minutes a day. Tinder: where something better is surely out there.

For the unacquainted, Tinder is a multiplayer filtering exercise wherein one attempts to eliminate from contention potential matches in the dating pool as ruthlessly and efficiently as possible.

Phase 1: The Photo

Your goal here is to train your mental algorithm to reject candidates mechanically and without error. You’re the motherfucking Henry Ford of the dating: the more optimized your assembly line, the higher your profits. Humans are a commodity, act accordingly. Here are some tips to jumpstart your own algorithm.

Rule 1: Isolate or bye-solate

Screenshot_2013-11-22-20-08-00 (1)

Have they chosen a photo that leaves them with an ambiguous identity? Is your match not competent enough to recognize the function of a dating site photo? Chances are, they don’t legally possess the mental faculty to grant consent, even while sober. Avoiding sexual assault allegations starts with you, and it starts by swiping left.

Rule 2: Bot recognition


Does their pic seem too good to be true? Can you count the bumps on her areola? Is there a URL in the photo? Courting a robot only ends in heartbreak. There are other (living) fish in the sea.

Rule 3: It’s me or the dog


Rule 4: The Duckface

Screenshot_2014-01-11-13-34-30 (1)

I downloaded the wrong picture from my phone, so you get this instead.

Rule 5: Gender-Bender

Screenshot_2014-03-01-12-43-34 (1)

Occasionally a user will register as the wrong gender. If they can’t properly navigate a registration form, chances are they can’t hold their own while you attempt to verbally navigate the intricacies of financial reform. I’m not saying you shouldn’t swipe right, but should you do so, you’ll find that Hector can only service you as a physical, not intellectual, sparring partner.

Rule 6: What’s in a name?


Okay, this was a little misleading. I love the name. This was actually a test for you all. Take a second. Have you figured it out?

Here we stand in clear violation of Rule 1. I don’t actually know which one the account holder is. I’m looking for a date with Doritos, not with Chris Hansen.



Join us next week, when we discuss Phase 2: Texting, Breeding Between the Lines