I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, particularly with a carful of tired family and a holiday gîte just miles away, but the plaintively extended arm and thumb touched a side of me that I didn’t know I had. I slowed the car.

“What are you doing?” asked my wife.

“I’m going to see if I can help.”

“No, please don’t. We don’t know this person. It could be dangerous.”

My youngest daughter looked up from her Gameboy, her iPod tssting loudly in her ears. “Are we there yet?” she shouted.

I ignored both and stopped the car. The hitchhiker ran towards us as I opened my window. “Thank God you stopped,” he said, smiling broadly. “I’ve been standing here for hours. Bloody French.”

“How can we help?” I asked, pleased at the unexpected presence of a fellow Brit, and my newly-discovered noble side starting to glow quite nicely.

The man pulled out a gun and smirked. “The car would do quite nicely for starters, thank you. Get out, please.”

We obliged and stood awkwardly in the dust as our car drove off into the night. I avoided looking at my wife but felt the sudden drop in temperature. “At least he was polite,” I offered brightly.

“Dad, I need to pee,” said my youngest.

I then saw a pair of lights driving towards us, and with as sane a smile as I could muster, put out my arm and thumb.