Monday April 5 Sun and Showers


6:40 a.m. Vallejo

Fortified with plenty of Easter chocolate, I’m highly motivated to be up early to get to the gym. A very cold wet Easter weekend here and this morning is more of the same. Two ladies are hovering at the riders’ line, indecisive about which car to get into. I go ahead and get into the first car, an older Toyota pickup. The driver is a grizzled older guy with long gray old-hippie pony-tail hair. He’s a painter, clad in old overalls with lots of paint splattered tools on the dash and poked into the cup holder. This is definitely a working vehicle for him.

“No one wants to ride with me this morning. I wonder why” he says. I diplomatically point out that perhaps the two ladies probably wanted to ride together (which they couldn’t do in this 2 person pickup). “No, he says, “they weren’t together, they just didn’t want to ride with me. I don’t know why riders are so picky – it’s a free ride.” I agree, but tell him that some people prefer a newer vehicle, or a larger one, or maybe are waiting for a friend. I add that some ladies are reluctant to ride alone with a male driver. I am quick to add – before we pick up speed on the freeway – that I avoid dangerous drivers who drive too fast. He agrees that would be a definite consideration.

He’s been driving and occasionally riding in the casual carpool for about 10 years and asks me if I know a lady named Barbara, who used to be what some of us in the line called a ‘monitor’ for the carpool line. I may have known who Barbara was, but not by name. The whole ‘monitor’ thing used to amuse me no end, when I took casual carpool home at the end of the day (now I usually take BART or the Ferry – the carpool line at 5 PM is L O N G, and the wait for a ride is often an hour). The self appointed monitors were riders who would position themselves at the head of the line, and as drivers approached, would urge them to take more riders. This was done by holding up fingers on their hand, leaning forward and calling out (depending on the size of the vehicle), “3, can you take 3?”, or “4, take 4 riders!” These people were great, like cheerleaders, and the whole pack of people waiting in line would be energized by them. And they were very effective. Many drivers would acquiesce to their urgings and take an additional passenger or two, which helped move the line along considerably.

One lady monitor in particular (and perhaps this was his friend Barbara) was very enthusiastic in her urgings, and one evening when a large van pulled up she persuaded the driver to fill his van and take 6 passengers, and she called out to the line “6, roll ’em out, 6 riders!”

My driver said that Barbara had been hit by a car at the Vallejo car pool line area, one evening after work when she had been dropped off and was crossing the street to return to her parked car. I have long thought that this was a dangerous situation. It’s a busy street, just off the freeway, and gets chaotic with riders being dropped off, drivers making u-turns, cars pulling into the car pool lot (which is also a Greyhound Bus station), and there is no 4-way stop or street light there.

I asked when this had happened, and he said several years ago. I also wondered if she had survived, since he was speaking of her in the past tense. “Yeah, she made it, but it was a hit and run, and the driver left her for dead. They airlifted her to a hospital and she was there for quite awhile. She recovered, but never rode carpool again.” He got to know Barbara through the carpool. They discovered they were neighbors, and worked near each other in San Francisco, so she was a regular rider with him, whenever their schedules coincided. “She worked for a law firm, and they were real nice to her. It took her almost a year before she could go back to work. They never found the guy who hit her.”

Our ride today is moving quickly – almost like a Friday. It may still be a Spring holiday for some who have not returned to work. We’re almost over the bridge by 7:20. The driver asks me where I work, and when I tell him, he says he goes right by there and is happy to drop me off. Wonderful – a ride right to my door. I picked a great ride this morning.

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