Ben Oostdam's

page 18

1957 - 1960

I do not have any recollection of the day I left Manning Park, B.C. the morning after the curative shower, except that I ended up pitching my small tent in a parking lot at the outskirts of Spokane, WA.
I woke up early the next morning and started heading out of town to continue my hitch hiking return to Montreal. So once in a while, I looked over my shoulder when I heard traffic, but when I saw a pickup truck I did not thumb it down, because I presumed it would be a local ride only. The driver did turn around, however, and invited me to hop in.
Since we kept going east, and started the first of a series of animated discussions, I did not ask his destination till around noon, at which time I was flabbergasted to hear that he was going to ....Montreal! He was as happy about this as I was, because he was short of money and this way we could take turns driving through the night.
We only stopped for gas and fast food and kept on going day and night, with little attention paid to the scenery and more to conversation at the times we were both awake. I do remember passing through Sault St. Marie once more.
The name of the driver was Rocco Dino, and he was an excellent narrator. He told me that he was a member of Toastmaster's International, and explained to me their modus operandi. At their meeting, one would draw a slip of paper from a hat to receive a topic about which one had to give a talk some 10 minutes later.
I challenged him to give me an example, and he said to give him any topic. I gave him "geology", and after briefly explaining to him what it was - since he admitted not having heard the word before - he actually shut up for ten minutes and concentrated. He then talked for 5 minutes without any break or hesitation, and gave quite an impressive and almost convincing speech about geology. He told me how important this training had been to his career as a con-man, and told me an interesting series of adventures, just to "kill the time". Some of these I still remember, such as what he did when the madam of a brothel for which he had done a construction job told him she could not afford cash and invited to take it out in "merchandise" ....
In short, I only loaned him $ 20, really cheap on a per mile basis (2637.99miles, or 2,065 "as the crow flies), learned a lot, got home well before deadline, and years later was a guestspeaker at a Toastmaster Meeting in Millersville, chaired by my friend Syd Radinovsky - at which time I pulled the topic: "What the fourth of July means to me." (after 4 minutes skirting the issue I confessed that it was my wife's birthday, celebrated annually with fireworks at others' expense...

P.S. completing this on July 4, 2002, here are some relevant links:

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