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Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants

Tobias Kempf is a hitchhiker who needed a ride to Charlottesville in order to greet his fiancé who was flying in from Germany. (Dave Ellis / The Free Lance-Star)


Some people thought I was crazy. Some people laughed. My wife, well, she got a little mad.

Last week, while returning from Richmond, I picked up a hitchhiker for the first time in my life.

I spent part of my childhood in the 1970s living in Southern California.  My family, including my mom and older sisters, routinely picked up hitchhikers. Some of them they knew, others they didn’t. Back then, it was no big deal.

Nowadays, it’s almost unheard of to help  a stranger in this way.  Most people tend to think of hitchhikers as potential serial killers.

I saw Tobias (he pronounces it Toe-BEE-us) Kempf sitting near an Interstate 95 on-ramp. He was trying to get to Charlottesville to meet up with his fiancée, who was flying in from Germany.

It was because of his colorful pants that I decided that if he was still there when I returned,  I was going to pick him up.

Kempf turned out to be a nice guy. When I asked if I could take his picture, he said it was the least he could do.

It’s a shame that we as a society aren’t less suspicious of the strangers we meet. We tend to come to each other’s aid only in times of great disaster.

Despite what other people may have felt about my little adventure, I was happy  I did it. I met someone  I might not otherwise have met, and I was able to offer him a hand when he needed it most.

Besides, what kind of serial killer would wear pants like that?

– Dave Ellis

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