Tuesday, October 12 – Now Where Was I?


September came and went and my blogging sort of went with it. Crazy workload at my job overwhelmed me. But casual carpooling continued and so did my observations. Here’s a synopsis of the last few weeks.

SEPTEMBER 13 – 17
It’s quite chilly today, overcast and not a hint of sun. Monday morning ride with such a pleasant looking guy. A nice “good morning”. A great new and comfy Honda Prius. But once we hit the freeway it all went very bad. Tailgating like you’ve never seen. 80 mph right up to a car, then a lane change. Thankfully, traffic got heavy around Pinole and all lanes, including carpool, were moving at about 35 mph. Mr. Kamikaze Driver is in his 30s, striped shirt and tie, suited up for the office.

On Tuesday, I’m off to an early start and a full and crazy day of work waiting for me. It’s still overcast and chilly. A large flock of geese fly over on the way to the carpool. We’ve got a full and crazy commute this morning, too. 20 or more cars are lined up waiting for riders. I’m in a small Honda sedan. I pay my usual dollar, the rear seat lady pays $1.25. Lots of cars on the freeway, but we’re all moving pretty fast. Electronic sign says ’39 minutes to San Francisco’. The driver is a small fellow all in black, pleasant. Near Berkeley a flock of wild ducks flies over the freeway towards the bay. I always enjoy the sense of timelessness I experience when I see the bird migrations. They did this before we were here and they will be migrating after we leave. I hope. The toll plaza is hideous today – huge backup. We of course whiz through at 60 mph.

Wednesday I’m riding in a Saturn with a sun roof. A child seat is next to me in the back. Once again there’s lots of traffic and the weather’s a bit chilly. I’m wondering if I should have worn my white suit jacket today or not. There’s an event at work which calls for a bit more dressing up and I’d already planned to wear the jacket, thinking we’d be enjoying our typical warm September. Maybe it will warm up once the fog burns off. A nice calm driver. He’s a big guy and tall and the other gent in the front seat is about the same size. The front seat passenger wears a cap with “Giants Community Fund” printed on the back. We’re 23 minutes from San Francisco according to the sign near Berkeley.

Thursday it’s another Honda – a Civic sedan. There are 2 fellows in front, myself and another lady passenger in back. A warm day is predicted for everywhere but San Francisco. As we get closer I see a huge fog bank shrouding the city. By the time we reach San Pablo the sun is a memory. There’s no talk in this car, no chochkees hanging from mirrors. The lady next to me carefully applies makeup. We are four workers ready to go to our jobs. Approaching Berkeley and Golden Gate Fields I see the Marin hills off to the right looking unusually spectacular with bands of fog and sunlight wrapped around them.

Here’s Friday with a lineup of cars around the block at the carpool lot. The ride is a 4-door pickup with a humorless driver. I think I’ve ridden with this guy before and he got real nasty about the quarter situation ($1.25 toll vs $1.00), so I just pass him $1.25. He doesn’t even say thanks. Traffic’s light and we move along at close to 70 mph. Thick fog at Pinole – it’s like being in a cloud. Visibility and speed diminish along with a sense of up and down. Fall starts next week and it truly feels like the season is a’changing.

SEPTEMBER 20 – 24
Tuesday, September 21 is a great and memorable ride. I’m back to my later 7 a.m. departure and am happy to see a long line of rides waiting. I pass up a low-slung sports car and get in a car from the movie “Harlem Nights”. This is a white DeVille Chrysler 2-door convertible sedan. The interior is white and red leather. The dash is all red, the steering wheel white. The driver is wearing a crisp white shirt which sets off his dark skin dramatically. His hair is very short and curly. Various beauty product bottles – oils, lotions – are stuffed into the pouch on the back of the driver’s seat. The car is really warm which nicely compliments the decor. This car was built before air bags and harness type seat belts. Although it looks like a lot of restoration and love has gone into this car, the interior of the roof is loose and sagging a bit, creating a tentlike feeling. I’m in the back seat and my head brushes the draped ceiling. The music is loud but good R&B that I don’t recognize. Heavy drums and bass. I feel like I’m in a 1950s movie. I love that DeVille is embossed in the white leather on both the driver’s and passengers’ doors.

Wednesday it’s chilly again but we’re promised hot weather as the week goes on. After a 5 minute wait I’m in the back seat of a Honda sedan. I remember this driver. He has a twitch of his right shoulder. Traffic stops and goes for a few miles. The driver’s twitching as he soldiers along at the wheel in this hellish traffic makes him seem somehow vulnerable and brave at the same time. Near Albany I look across the bay and see the city splashed with the morning sunlight with a backdrop of thick puffy fog which at a glance looks like a mountain range. I flash on Denver.

Thursday’s traffic is heavy and a mess. The ride is a 4-door pickup which sits high in the air. I like those rides because I can get a good overhead look at the costly and lengthy construction of the Bay Bridge. A wide green ribbon with a medal attached hangs from the mirror – like an Olympic medal. I can’t make out what it says. The tide is totally out today with mud stretching a couple of blocks away from the shore. It’s a long ride.

Friday comes with beautiful weather. It’s sunny and sure to be a warm day. I climb into an SUV with I assume a husband and wife in the front seat. A passenger is in the back seat. They signal they’ll take another passenger and as I walk around the back of the van to get in I suspect they will want full toll from both of us. Sure enough, there’s a printed sign strategically placed in the tray PLEASE PAY DRIVER $1.25 AS YOU ENTER. THANK YOU. Well at least there’s no question about what’s expected. But I find it quite irritating. There’s a smug kind of attitude up there in the front seat. Although it doesn’t seem that there’s any liability or licensing situation when a carpool driver receives reimbursement, this is an INFORMAL carpool and I wonder about having a sign like that without an appropriate license or insurance. I’m going to do more checking. The wife in the front seat is playing with her I Phone. The rider next to me is passive, unreadable. Dark glasses and earphones. A grim ride.

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