Nineteen eighty nine I pulled over and picked him up a few miles out of Thunder Bay on my way home from work. He could have been one of our Finnish neighbours who had arrived decades ago to work in the lumber camps north of Lake Superior and now sat in small tidy kitchens that looked the same as they did forty years earlier drinking coffee speaking Finn. Not that he looked like a lumberjack on the contrary I mean his age clean simple well weathered appearance neatly combed hair one hand on the comb the other following to make sure every lightly oiled strand was in place. He wore a short sleeved polyester shirt with a stripe the type salesmen used to wear on hot summer days faded trousers adidas and carried a small cardboard suitcase. Smart casual well cared for fashion from secondhand bins the most unlikely looking hitchhiker I had ever seen.
He inquired after the local economic situation noting the probability of depression and high unemployment. Pardon? Having approached several homes without a cup of coffee or sandwich to spare the last woman peering anxiously through a window not even opening the door what other explanation could there be.
His journey began in Toronto where he lived on the street for years medicated dependent sick and dying until resigned he gave up on doctors and prescriptions and surprisingly began to feel better. As health returned his view of life and circumstances changed he decided now would be a good time to travel and see Canada. If you lived on the streets you could certainly live on the highway. He hitchhiked by day slept in ditches and under trees by night covering himself with whatever he could find. It was all matter of fact and so far working out.
I dropped him off at the grocery store in Kakabeka and gave him whatever was in my wallet. Unfolding the bills a momentary glow lingering smile he looked me directly in the eyes took my hand and said the oddest thing. God bless you in business.
I have always been grateful to him.