• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 20 other followers
  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Comments

    Zen Martha on Commuting Around (and around,…
    Gypsy Tart on Commuting Around (and around,…
    Raychatter on On the FasTrak
    Miranda V. on Exposed in L.A.
    Victoria P. on Exposed in L.A.
    None on Mercury Retrograde
    Victoria Poulsen on Mercury Retrograde
    Paul Minett on The Lesson of the 405
    Victoria Poulsen on A Toll-Tale of the Blue Truck…
    Commuter Gal on Welcome to the Casual Car…
    Paul on Welcome to the Casual Car…
    Commuter Gal on Welcome to the Casual Car…
    Victoria Poulsen on Welcome to the Casual Car…
    Commuter Gal on February Sunny Groundhog …
    All-time Driver on February Sunny Groundhog …
  • Waiting for a ride

Monday February 8 What about them Saints!!

Vallejo Monday morning 7:20

A short chilly wait.  My ride is an aging Mercedes Sedan driven by a double for John Candy in a leather jacket. His hair is longish, but neatly slicked back.   His friend in the front seat, an African American, is wearing a jaunty tweed cap – he’s a big guy too, but not as big.  He’s leaning his smooth brown arm against the window and I see a silver link bracelet on his wrist.  It’s a beautiful bracelet and I love it.  These guys are serious, intense and although sinister is too strong a word, there’s something a little ‘dark’ about them.  Like they’re professional jewel thieves or bank robbers.  Ocean’s 11 comes to mind.   They’re perfunctorily polite to me, then go back to their conversation.

I sink into the luxury of the old Mercedes back seat.  There’s a couple of cardboard boxes on the seat, a fake leather briefcase and a leather vest.

Traffic is heavy but moving, and we in the carpool lane are moving even faster.

Friday February 5

Vallejo 7:25 AM

One of the down sides of casual carpooling can be the uncertainty of who you share your ride with. (It can also be one of the more interesting and pleasant aspects of this experience.) Most of the time – almost all of the time – there’s no problem. As I’ve said before, there’s a kind of comaraderie in this situation and everyone tries to make it as good as they can. But once in awhile . . . . like today for example.

I crawl into the back seat of a 2-door BMW. The couple in the front seat appear to be together. Once we hit the freeway, I begin to feel uneasy. The driver revs it up to 80 mph, working the manual transmission, tailgates whenever he comes up on anyone daring to only do the speed limit of 65, and goes even faster to pass cars in front of us. From my seat I can easily read the speedometer. Finally I stop looking at it. I can’t hear the bits of conversation between the couple, but I gather, from the driver’s gestures at other cars and his general tone, that he’s commenting and critiquing other cars on the freeway, especially other BMWs we pass.

This car is who this guy is and in a scary sort of way. I don’t like him and I don’t like his car. Finally he’s forced to slow down once we hit the heavy traffic near Berkeley, and I relax a bit.

We arrive in San Francisco at 7:55. Phew. A bad ride.

February 4 Thursday

Vallejo 7:20 AM

I settle into a warm comfy Honda Insight Hybrid sedan.  Wonderful radio all the way in – it’s Sirius, and there’s a great discussion about the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’  issue on Oprah Radio.  The sky is gray with clouds gathering for the predicted afternoon/evening storm.  Yellow mustard is beginning to bloom along the freeway and the pink and white blossoms of the wild plum trees have started opening up all over the landscape.  The gray palette of winter is slowing moving toward spring.

Traffic is heavy, but moving, and it’s a great day to be in the carpool lane.

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.


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.

Monday, February 1 More toll Feedback, and a bit of history

Vallejo 7:30 AM

Running very late so I’m delighted to see a long line of cars waiting – no riders, though.  My ride is a super-huge SUV – a  Buick Enclave.  8 people can ride in this beast.  The driver is a young woman, to my surprise,  and another like her is in the back seat.  I expected the driver of this giant vehicle to be a big overweight guy with KNBR sports radio blaring away.  This diminutive lady, with KCBS on the radio, has a welcoming greeting and smile as I climb in.

Once we settle in and traffic is steady, I ask the driver how she feels about the car pool toll coming up in July.  She’s not happy and says she’s going to look at her commute costs to see if the ferry might be a better way to go.  She’s already paying parking where she works and if the car pool isn’t going to help out with commuting costs, she may give it up.  I point out that most riders I’ve talked to are agreeable to contributing $1 to their rides.  We talk, with some amusement, about how this might be collected – perhaps  some drivers will place a  little collection bucket strategically between the seats, or they may  just have their hand out when the riders get in.  We share concern for the future of the casual carpool.

A historical note:  today is the 109th birthday of Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last living veteran of WWI.  When Frank was born in 1901,  the only car being manufactured was the Oldsmobile Curved Dash.  It did so well that within 2 years Oldsmobile was mass producing 20,000 cars a year.   Also of historical and perhaps odd note:  2 brothers got the contract to produce transmissions for those early Oldsmobiles.  Their names were John and Horace Dodge, and in 1914 they produced their own car.

The Dodge Boys in 1914 in their first car.