By Craig Davis, Craigslegz.com
There is always risk involved in traveling – more so the bolder the venture.
The reward comes in seeing the world unfold, both the intriguing places and the people that inhabit and enrich them.
Often it is the people that make the trip. Other times travel reveals the dark side of the human spirit.
Such was the case with the traveling pioneer known as HitchBOT, who met a cruel demise this week in Philadelphia.
Granted, there are much more heinous acts being committed at any given moment against people and creatures of flesh and blood. But it is always disappointing when creativity and inventiveness is mindlessly stifled.
A couple of university researchers in Toronto created the hitchhiking robot as a social experiment to see how the friendly droid would fare relying on the kindness of strangers on long-distance travels.
The robot could spout facts from Wikipedia and was social-media savvy via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but was totally reliant on people to get from place to place.
The project gained widespread attention as HitchBOT completed a coast-to-coast traverse of Canada last year. It made its way unmolested across Germany and in the Netherlands.
The 21st Century Kerouac set off in July 2015 from Boston on a journey across the U.S. bound for San Francisco. It made it only 300 miles before being decapitated and plundered on a Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Difficult to say what conclusion can be drawn from the misadventure. It does offer a rejoinder any time someone asks, “Aren’t you afraid of traveling abroad?”
Our Craigslegz travel alien BeBop, whose ongoing random tour is being documented on this site, offers a thumbs-up to the hope that HitchBOT’s creators rebuild the bot and get it back on course. They have indicated in media reports they are not giving up on the experiment.
It is one of those endeavors that are fun to rally around and take on a mass following as a simple diversion from the daily dose of tragedy and travesty. HitchBOT’s handlers have plenty of company in feeling let down. That is evident by the numerous photos on his Twitter feed showing the robot interacting with various travel companions.
Too bad stupidity intervened, though it isn’t surprising. It would be naïve to say the world has gotten meaner in the several decades since I frequently traveled by thumb. It’s not a new phenomenon.
It’s also not the first time the so-called City of Brotherly Love seemed inappropriately named, and not simply because Santa Claus once got booed there. Ask any athlete who ever played there, it’s a tough crowd.
Perhaps it was a premonition that prompted me to not take BeBop on a recent working trip to Philly. Some places you can’t be too careful when you’re a stranger.