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  • Waiting for a ride

Friday and Monday – Riders’ Choices

Friday, February 19, Vallejo 7:20 am

I choose the second car in line, a Honda van, rejecting the first car. I’ve ridden with that driver before and his driving is not so good. The lady driving today is doing a great job.  She’s wearing a black turtleneck and Friday jeans, clutching the ubiquitous silver and black metal coffee container.  Music is odd and discordant.  It’s a tape and sounds like the sound track for a sci-fi movie performed by an aboriginal tribe.  I’m in the back seat with the driver’s running shoes and her back pack.

My weekend is a short one – I came in to work on Saturday.  No car pools on Saturday so I opted to take BART, rather than drive and pay $24 to park in a lot.

Monday, February 22

Back on Monday through the thickest fog we’ve had yet.  I’m in the front seat of a Nissan sedan;  the other passenger is a tall 20-something guy who promptly goes to sleep.  I ask the driver about the big crack on his windshield, and he points to a spot where a rock hit the glass and the crack spread.  He theorizes that the cold weather contracted the glass and caused the crack.   The car is warm and comfortable.    The fog lightens and the traffic thickens as we near Richmond.  We’re moving along nicely in the carpool lane.

I ask the driver how he feels about the new toll that goes into effect July1 for carpool drivers.  Although he’s a regular driver he hasn’t paid much attention to the toll issue.  As long as he doesn’t have to stop at the toll plaza he’s okay with it.  I assure him that the carpool will be fast track (transponder) only.  He was also unaware that many riders are happy to contribute to the toll.


There seems to be a general consensus on car pool etiquette, that says ‘Drivers Rule’.  This means radio, heat, conversation, food, etc. are all at the discretion of the driver. Most of the time this works fine and I think the person handling the horrible job of driving on bay area freeways needs every perk he or she can get.

However – there have been a few instances where it has seemed unfair and even outrageous.  One bad radio experience  I had was in a 2 person pickup truck.  The driver had Rush Limbaugh on LOUD for the entire ride.  This was during the Bush administration.  My politics are about as far away from Limbaugh as you can get, and my blood pressure just kept going up as we rode along.  Finally, when we arrived at our destination, I told the driver how I felt – that to have a strongly politically biased station on in a shared ride is out of line.  He looked dumbfounded.

I’ve also had to endure long tapes of gospel sermons and loud rap music.  Educational, perhaps, but more than I like to take in at 7:30 in the morning on an hour-long ride.   And if you’ve been reading my postings, you know I’ve had many unhappy rides in  cold cars.

I’d like to hear from other car poolers about how they handle this.

Although we don’t do the driving, we do make it possible for the driver to use the advantages of the carpool lane.  In this ‘casual’ system, where it’s pretty much the luck of the draw,  we all still  have  choices – common sense behavior and courtesy for one thing, who we ride with and coming up soon, how we’ll deal with the toll issue.

3 Responses

  1. I hope some casual carpoolers answer your questions from today. It is a problem. It is really difficult to not sound confrontational as you ask: would you mind if we listened to a different radio station?

    I doubt the driver would have a problem with making the change, but there is always the possibility that the exchange will end in hmpf. and silence for the rest of the trip.

    Perhaps one etiquette would be the driver asking: is everything okay? Afterall, this is a symbiotic arrangement.

  2. Most of the carpool cars I jump into understand the etiquette of “NPR, classical, jazz or silence”. Some people don’t, though, and that’s why I carry headphones. I’d rather take control over my own environment than have to have a conversation about The Rules. Some people don’t know, some people just don’t care, and I honestly don’t want to bother figuring out which is which.

    I’ve been carpooling for 7 years now as a rider, mostly from the same spot. I avoid certain cars who I know drive horribly, or whose drivers wear a gallon of perfume. I just wish there was some sort of nasal equivalent of headphones that I could wear for the perfume-wearers…..

  3. Hi Chelsea and thanks for your good comments. Know what you mean about waiting – well, it was just him and me in the truck, and I DID feel uncomfortable about confronting him while we were moving. I’ve talked to other riders who just suffer in silence and never say anything at all about temperatures, smells, etc. You’re right – we should be more assertive. The headphones are a great idea.

    There used to be a lady in the Vallejo line who would bring homeless cats with her (in a carrier) and huge bags of bird seed that she’d feed to the pigeons at the bus terminal. She was very particular and would go down the line checking out the rides before she’d get in. She took it to the extreme! There had to be a certain amount of room, the air had to be just right, and of course the drivers and other riders had to be able to tolerate her livestock. She was a character!

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