Another warm, dry September morning and only 3 riders waiting at the Carpool Line in Vallejo. A comfy new suv pulls up and we were on our way! I’m in the back seat with an Asian fellow, crisp striped shirt, nifty shoulder bag. The passenger in the front seat is immersed in her iphone. The first sign that this might be an out-of-the-ordinary ride is when we do not exit onto the 80 freeway, but cross it, heading away from our commute route. After about a mile my back seat companion said, “Are we going a different way to San Francisco?”
“Oh, I’m just going to avoid the traffic from the brush fire” (see link above) the driver said. She’s a 60-ish lady, stylish in designer jeans and sweater. She exited from the freeway we were on into a Vallejo neighborhood I had never seen before and wound around the residential streets until we emerged – nearly where we started from, somewhere above the 80 freeway, which we could see was indeed gridlocked. A Channel 4 news van passed us as the driver took off again, heading away from the congested 80 and said she was going to Walnut Creek. The Asian gentlemen and I looked at each other with concern. (This would have been an extremely out-of-the-way commute to San Francisco). At that point we became aware of a thumping noise somewhere in the car and the driver looked worriedly around.
“Something on roof!”, my companion exclaimed. The driver immediately pulled to the side of the freeway, cars hurtling by at high speed. She slid out, dangerously close to the traffic, went around to the back of the van, and threw open the rear door. Glass crashed and the smell of wine floated into the suv. “Well, there goes a $250 bottle of wine”, she said and slammed the door shut. Apparently a bottle of wine had been left on the roof of the van. Tension grew.
At this point I realized this might be a weird, if not dangerous ride and wondered about asking to be let out somewhere. Too late. Off we went towards Walnut Creek. There is a freeway that exits before Walnut Creek (Highway 4) and returns to the 80 freeway, and I suggested she take that. Mr. Asian pulled out his smart phone which began speaking to us all with directions on how to do just that. To my relief, that’s what we did. Relief filled the car. Asian nodded off, front seat lady resumed her iphone activities, and I perused my latest Christmas catalog (this one from the Art Institute of Chicago). As the City came into view, glowing in the golden California morning light, a great tune by the Mamas and the Papas “California Dreaming” came on the radio.
Another commute and just another day pooling around.