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  • Waiting for a ride

January 29 The Last Day


Vallejo 7:20 AM

It’s Friday, January 29 and the last commute day of this month.  Only 5 months until the carpool drivers have to start paying the $2.50 toll.

This morning only 3 of us stand in line, and cars start pulling up right away.  I’m in the back seat of a beautiful grey VW Passat.  This is a very new car with a sleek interior.  The driver is a stunning Asian lady with a wonderful fur jacket tossed over the back of her seat.  There’s a paperback book laying in the otherwise pristine back seat – “Think and Grow Rich”.  A CD is playing what I think of as airport/elevator type music, but it’s mostly piano and is not bad.  She has the volume up and the car is vibrating with the sound.

Extreme Friday light traffic.  7:45 and we’re already rounding the overpass at Emeryville.  My egret is not in sight, but a few little waterbirds (sandpipers?) are scuttling around in the shallows.  We’re in the City at 8 AM.

Happy weekending.

January 28 The Results Are In: Pay the Toll

Vallejo 7:30 AM
I join a dozen people waiting in the carpool line. This is a no-kidding, heavy duty cold wet fog and I’m glad I am wearing a warm coat and hat. Have you noticed that many people (most actually) do not wear hats, or even gloves in the coldest weather. How do they do it? It’s been proven that much of your body heat escapes through your head. But I’ve also read that if you keep your big toe warm your body will be warmer. How odd is that. Moral is always wear a hat and socks in cold weather. Everything in between is negotiable.

The line moves and in about 10 minutes I’m tucked into the front seat of a 4-door silver BMW with a sunroof. The driver strongly resembles Wally Cox. We head out through the fog which is thick as can be on the Carquinez Bridge, but then an amazing light show begins. Near the end of the bridge the sun is back-lighting the fog and we leave the bridge in a golden cloud.

The mix of sun and fog through the hills on either side of the freeway is spectacular. Wally Cox gets on his cell phone. He’s having a high-tech sort of conversation with his office.

He ends his call and asks me if I’ve heard about the new bridge tolls. (see Michael Cabanatuan’s article in today’s Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/28/BA0D1BO1M7.DTL) Of course the conversation picks up. How could I resist! He agrees the toll is not fair, but shrugs when I ask him about it. We then discuss fast trak and the transponders (car pool drivers will be required to have them come July 1). My transponder has not beeped in months and I wonder how the fast trak folks are keeping track of my car’s bridge crossings. Wally says they’re probably reading the license plate, but suggests I order a new one.

The sun is fully blasting away as we cruise past Berkeley. Then around the corner onto the Bay Bridge approach and there, once again, is the lone egret contemplating the traffic and the bay shore waters he stands in. I wonder if this is the same egret I see most mornings.

Wally returns to his cell phone. It’s cozy in this car and I’m thankful I’m feeling better. We go back into the fog and across the bridge into San Francisco.

January 27 – The Vote is In/uh, is this a Toyota?

Come July 1 us carpoolers will pay tolls, too.  $2.50 a car during commute hours.  The Bay Area Toll Authority voted unanimously today (see SF Appeal online news: http://sfappeal.com/alley/2010/01/bay-bridge-tolls-officially-jacked-up-as-of-July-1.php)

Vallejo 7:30 AM

I slept later this morning, trying to get rid of a flu-ish feeling.  A break from the rain today, just a damp blanket of fog, but no cars either.  A short wait, though and soon I’m in a big warm SUV, in the front seat with a quiet driver who looks quite a bit like Andrew Jackson, even down to the hair style, at least in profile.

Traffic is moving along smoothly and I’m drifting in and out of a nap when I realize I am riding in a TOYOTA! Oh my god, is this one of the 8 models that has just been declared unsafe? The problem seems to be a sticky gas pedal for nearly 6 million cars. I peer down at the driver’s gas pedal foot and it looks like the pedal in this particular Toyota Highlander is working just fine this morning.

We are up and onto the Bay Bridge at 8:05 AM and safe and sound into the City.

January 26

Vallejo 7:20 AM

The line of cars is a block long and my ride is a big white Mazda SUV driven by a tiny older woman.  To her delight, a friend of hers – another tiny older woman – comes along and gets in the front seat.  They happily talk.  Traffic is not bad so I’m surprised to see a collision in our carpool lane, near Hercules.  It looks minor, probably result of tailgating.  A fender hangs off of one car and the other car seems to be tilting to the side.  As we carefully pass them, both drivers are furiously working their cell phones.

No rain this morning, but there’s 13 feet of snow up in the Sierras.  Hope that means no water rationing this year.

The City is wrapped in a light mist as we cross the Bay Bridge. The ladies in the front seat laugh and talk.  Here we are at 8 AM already in the City.

January 25

Vallejo 7:20 AM

Wet and cold, but a ride is waiting.  This is a large commercial van, so it’s just me and the driver.  A pleasant guy.  We agree this weather would be better enjoyed on a walk along the north coast looking out at a stormy sea.  He adds “as long as there’s a warm house with a hot toddy waiting for you at the end of the walk”.

We settle into the rainy ride and NPR.  There’s a piece on the lemurs of Madagascar – I learn there are 33 species of them, from the tiny dwarf lemurs to the largest varieties.  They survive, in spite of recent years of political unrest in Madagascar and the plundering of the rain forests there.

Approaching Richmond the rain stops and we mosey on into the overcast City.

January 22 – Days of hope

Vallejo 7:30 AM

I’m in a Chevrolet Trailblazer with a sunroof.  We move along enjoying Friday light even on a wet sluggish day like this and soon approach a gray and wet Bay Bridge.  Only in a large vehicle like this can I peer over the old  bridge to see the work on the new bridge and there it is – coming along.  Today we learn that many of the steel structures for the new bridge will soon arrive – from China.  This, after nearly a year’s delay and an uncomfortable history of Chinese lead-filled toys, killer Chinese Pet Food, tainted cosmetics, and just recently, toxic-laden children’s jewelry at Wal Mart.  But we have hope that this time they will get it right.

Hope is blooming in Haiti, after the miraculous recovery of 7 year old Kiki Joachin, pulled out of the rubble after over a week. The Haitians now wait and hope for food, water and medical care.

State Senator George Miller on KCBS radio tells us not to give up hope on the Health Care Reform Bill, in spite of this week’s Senate election in Massachusetts (Republican Scott Brown filling Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat).

And KCBS weather promises at least one day this weekend of no rain – maybe a little sun if we’re lucky.

After all, it’s Friday, and after this wet week that is something indeed.

January 21 Hard Edge

Vallejo 7:15 AM

The storm has calmed down, but lingers with sprinkling rain and gray skies.  Again, a long line of rides awaits and mine is a Mistubishi Lancer Evolution.  I jump in the back seat and soon our  second passenger joins us in the front seat.  Off we go, accompanied by fairly dreadful and loud music that seems to be a tape, not radio.  It’s especially loud in the back seat with the rear speaker near my head.  The music goes with the car and with the 2 young Asian gents in the front seat.  Fast,  percussive, shiny, black and chrome.  Very hard edge right down to the clipped bristling hair cuts on both guys.

Both driver and car are  like young racehorses at a starting gate, straining to take off, and go faster.  This car feels like it has a lot of power, and I hear snatches of conversation from the front seat about the engine, lots of zip, high performance and turbo charging.

We make good time, in spite of the wet weather, and arrive in SF at 8:15 AM.

January 20 A Dark & Stormy Wednesday

Vallejo 7:20 AM

The storm rages on but this morning I talk my husband out of driving me to BART and I return to the casual carpool.  As we slosh down the 780 freeway en route to Vallejo I see a surprising number of people driving like kamikaze pilots – tailgating, cutting in and going way too fast on these slick roads.  Kind of terrifying in any weather, but a special thrill this morning.  The 780 is one of the worst freeways for this kind of reckless behavior.  There’s a long welcome line of cars lined up at the casual carpool spot and I run from our car to the first ride in line – a big new safe and lovely Lincoln Continental.   The driver says yesterday’s commute was a bit slow, but okay.  Hopefully today will be without incident.

Unfortunately, there’s no heat in this car – frequently the case.  Does anyone understand the logic of this?  and what is the general rule here?  The driver’s comfort and the riders discomfort?

Traffic crawls – top speed is 40, which is fine with me in this weather.  The meadows and hills are turning greener each day and within the next 6 weeks we’ll start to see the first flowers of Spring.

Slow on the Bay Bridge, with buckets of water falling onto the windshield, and somewhere to my right is the City – but today it’s vanished into the storm.  8:30 and we’re here in San Francisco.  The driver takes me right to my bus stop for the next leg of my commute.

January 19 – Stormy Tuesday

North Concord/Martinez BART  7:30 a.m.

My husband insisted I take BART instead of casual carpool this stormy morning, fearing for me the dangers of the wet freeway and unpredictible drivers.   We head down the 680 to the North Concord BART station, and as we cross the swaying Benicia Bridge with the rain obscuring the windshield, I agree with my husband.  What a storm this is.

I arrive at BART only to have just missed a train, so wait 12 minutes in the increasingly cold wind.  Once we’re underway, I settle into my novel (“Manhattan Nocturne” by Collin Harrison).  I look out at the freeway that runs alongside and am glad not to be in that jammed wet traffic.  After a few minor delays along the way, I arrive at my stop, Powell Street and bundle up for the walk to my office.  This is a real downpour, but perversely, within moments of arriving at work, the rain lets up and the sun comes out.

More storms loom ahead this week. Tomorrow morning I’ll try the carpool again.

January 15 – 3 day weekend!

7:25 a.m. Vallejo, and a really large Nissan Quest suv is waiting for me with the side door open.  It automatically slides shut when I’m in.

Driver is a small woman with a short haircut combed so that it looks like she’s been electrocuted.  It’s Friday Casual where she works I’d bet – she’s wearing jeans of course, and has on a grey hoodie and a canvas vest with a fur collar over that.  It’s a kind of woman-warrior from the steppes look.  It’s good.

Easy Friday traffic and I’m so comfortable in the back of this vast vehicle that I could just stay here all day.  Hey, the Bay Area Toll Authority did a preliminary vote yesterday on the tolls.  No surprise – they unanimously voted for carpool tolling – $2.50 per car beginning in July.  Final vote on January 27.

3-day weekend coming up!