Another Sign It’s Time to Go Home
American novelist Erma Bombeck wrote a hilarious book titled When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. The big news in NZ is all about a French tourist who has been hitchhiking around the country, and although he doesn’t seem to know it, is looking suspiciously like his passport photo.
One of the more popular ways to travel in NZ is backpacking and even in the big cities there are all sorts of backpacker hostels. Seeing people of all nationalities trekking alongside the roads with big packs is a normal year round sight.
Although there are many options, a popular way for backpackers to see the country is by hitchhiking and when my wife and I are travelling around New Zealand we routinely pick up hitchhikers. So hitching a ride from just about anywhere in the country is usually not a problem as long as you look half way human.
Enter this French guy who has been in NZ for an unspecified period of time but who supposedly has been making a career out of backpacking around the world and has so far visited 70 countries.
To me, that would make him a fairly savvy traveller, considering that he’s survived 69 other countries where hitchhiking is probably not as easy or safe or accepted as it is here.
So what we can’t understand is why he has ended up as national headline news this week and with a bill of $3,000 for damage to road signs that he inflicted in a tantrum as a result of not being picked up for four solid days. In court, he claimed that no one “even offered water.”
To clear up some of your obvious questions, no he is not weird looking and no he was not hitching in some godforsaken corner of the country. He was in one of the most popular tourist sites in the South Island.
He claims quite simply that he was ignored for four straight days and admits that in frustration he did damage some signs but not to the tune of $3,000.
Worst of all, he now claims that New Zealand is the worst country he has ever been in and should be renamed “Nazi Zealand” and that the worst aspects of the US were better than NZ.
As is usual with unusual media stories, this one is crying out for some back story.
Locals who were interviewed said they had in fact seen him wandering around but didn’t think he was hitchhiking because he didn’t have his thumb out.
Other locals claim that he was seen with a finger, which was not his thumb, being displayed at passing motorists and someone called the cops when they saw him lying in the road. Apparently he mouthed off to a Department of Conservation officer and was seen acting “strangely” at other times during the four days.
I can’t help feeling that if one has hitchhiked through 70 countries one would probably have developed a fairly broad understanding of human nature and would have developed an ability to cope with the unexpected and also get along with a variety of people. And also have the ability to get a ride in a popular tourist spot in less than four days. You kind of have to wonder what went wrong.
What is also interesting is his suggestion that NZ be called “Nazi Zealand” because of his treatment at the hands of the justice system. I have to believe that in his travels he would have picked up some sense of the way people view and interact with law enforcement in other countries.
And he should have realized that to get a $3,000 fine in NZ he had to do something pretty bad. Or at least make a lot of people very mad.
After all, NZ is the country where earlier this year a woman protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, threw a rubber sex toy (aka dildo) at the Minister of Economic Development. As she tosses the dildo she yells “This is for raping our sovereignty.” It was a perfect shot to the nose, and as American comedian John Oliver said, if you did that in the US, you’d be dead before the dildo hit the ground. She wasn’t charged with anything and you can see the footage here. As the security men escort her away she’s actually looking around for someone to get arrested by and the minister seems to be having a chuckle over it.
So as I was saying, there is some backstory to this French hitchhiker story that we’re not getting and I’d love to know what he did to make everyone so mad.