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Synchronicities on the 5 Freeway: The Universe Gives a Hitchhiker a Ride

Carl Dietz

In 1977, barely 20 years old, I was hitchhiking home from San Diego on a Sunday morning. Standing at an onramp to the 5 Freeway, I noticed a cardboard sign on the ground that read “Huntington Beach.” Because that was my destination, I picked up the sign and held it up instead of using my thumb as cars entered the freeway.

Within five minutes, a man in his 50s, a tuna fisherman returning home from weeks at sea, stopped his rusty pickup and gave me a ride. He mentioned my sign and that he grew up in Huntington Beach but had long ago moved to Oceanside. Learning I was a surfer, he shared memories of the surfing life in Huntington Beach 20 years earlier. After dropping me off in Oceanside and wishing me luck, I waited at the onramp with my sign, feeling happy about the ride and the stories he shared.

Only a few cars passed before one pulled over. The driver, aged mid-thirties, had seen my sign and told me he didn’t normally pick up hitchhikers but since he had lived in Huntington Beach ten years earlier, he pulled over. As we spoke about Huntington Beach, he asked if I knew Utica Street. I told him I lived at the Corner of Utica and Delaware.

Unbelievably, he told me he had lived on the same block. I tried hard to not believe him, but he had mentioned my small street before I had. Because he was heading home to San Clemente at the time, he dropped me off in San Clemente. By that point in the day, I felt like the entire universe was giving me a ride home.

At the next offramp, after ten minutes, I set my sign down. Just then a car pulled over, the driver curious if I needed a ride. Noticing my Huntington Beach sign as I entered the car, he remarked on the coincidence, revealing he was also headed there, having just moved in with his girlfriend. When I told him where I lived, he seemed shocked to learn that he was moving into the apartment right above mine.

Honestly, I was a little frightened by his story, but I had already experienced so many coincidences, I stayed calm. Then I learned he was telling the truth when he drove straight to my street, parked right in front of my apartment, and his girlfriend, spotting us from the balcony, waved and came down to greet him.

A few days later, they invited me over for pizza. As we ate pizza, his girlfriend told me she was from San Diego, and grew up on Arizona Street — the very street I had been hitchhiking from that Sunday. I kept that sign for decades, telling my story over and over. My wife finally tossed it in a move.

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