Tuesday & Wednesday, February 2 & 3: A view from both seats


Vallejo Carpool

On Tuesday I drove – I haven’t done that in awhile.  A friend needed a ride for an early morning medical appointment at UCSF, and  we stopped to pick up our third passenger at the carpool line.    Before we left I tidied up the car, filled the tank with gas, cleaned off the windows.  My friend was too tired and apprehensive to carry on a conversation, and the rider in the back seat quickly fell sound asleep, so my drive was a quiet one.  Traffic was fairly light and we made good time.   I felt more tired than usual as I walked into work – negotiating the 80 freeway commute is tense work.  No napping, reading, or leisurely looking out the window when you’re the driver.

Coming back home that evening, I picked up two passengers at the Beale Street line, and again was lucky to be in relatively light traffic.  The problem with that is with fewer cars on the freeway, people like to go faster, and many people think the car pool lane is the speedball lane, so although I was doing 65 – 70, I had several impatient tailgaters come up behind me.  My riders both fell asleep, and as I drove along I thought how trusting people are.  I could be Mad Max at the wheel for all they know.  I felt a deep sense of responsibility and a shiver of fear.  I’m not Mad Max, but I’m just a carpooler myself.  I have no invisible shield of protection out there on that freeway.  These two ladies trusted me and the system to get them home safely, and that’s what we did.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, Vallejo 7:25 AM

I’m a rider again today – in the back seat of a TOYOTA HIGHLANDER!  One of the killer cars!   Maybe this is why the driver is driving in such a chaotic way – she ‘s hesitant and uncertain, impulsively stomps on the gas from time to time.  Get focused, lady!  Her rosary hangs from the rear view mirror and I hope that whatever powers it has will deliver us safely to the City.  Sitting next to me, inexplicably, on the back seat, is a very tiny blue,  plastic dog – about an inch tall.  It falls over from time to time as we swerve along, and I prop it back up.  Every few miles the driver opens her window, which shoots lots of cold air into the back seat.  I think she’s having a tough time with the ride today.  After making this drive myself yesterday – twice – I don’t know how drivers can do this day after day.  It’s nerve frazzling and a stressful way to start out and end a work day.

The casual carpooling experience creates an unexpected sort of bonding between all of us participants.  We rely on each other for our daily journeys, trusting each other and our fellow commuters to reach our destinations.  Thank you to all of you.

3 Responses

  1. Hi!

    I came across this blog from tha trans-tdm list serve. This is an amazing blog. Especially, that simplicity in your words and touches the reader very efficiently. So many carpooler feel the same way, but are unable to express in words, and so the real “casualness” of a carpool remain undescribed. You overcome this burden so easily when you write this blog.

    I’m impressed. I’m inspired. Thank you.

    Best,

    Jay T.

  2. Hi CG,

    On the east coast, casual carpooling is a distant dream. New Jersey is not yet ready to embrace slug-lines with all their heart. Unfortunately, people here feel complete and safe only when they are covered by 3 tons of steel with single occupancy.

    I grew up in India, and so I can relate well to ridesharing, and casual carpooling. I’ve shared motorbikes, auto-rickshaws (primitive version of a taxi), cars infinitely and never ever imagined that there also exists a society which considers sharing to be almost a social stigma.

    To get people out of their 3-ton seats is my job now. I get to talk to a lot of employers, commuters and residents trying to understand their apprehensions. Some really have valid apprehensions, some just feel their’s are valid, and many others have yet to start thinking deeper.

    People like you, and blogs like this will indeed kick-start that process of thinking and induce that spark.

    Best,

    Jay

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