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

    Join 19 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

Week End, Week Begin


Friday, December 10
The last ride of the week is a small Toyota sedan. The driver is a 50s something fellow, wearing a khaki baseball cap. A red rabbits-foot dangles from his keychain. The fog is intensely thick with so much moisture in the air it feels like a soft rain. The car is very warm and I’m comfy in the back seat. The driver didn’t say good morning to me or to the lady who comes along and gets in the front seat. Nor did he acknowledge the toll we passed to him. Now I remember this driver. He’s like a robot. But he’s a careful driver and the car is warm, so I can’t complain. KOIT radio is loud in my ear from the rear speaker – all Christmas music. Traffic is heavy and sluggish today, not at all a Friday light commute. I gaze out the window at my fellow commuters, all of us grimly on our way to work on this wet, gray morning. The burden of the holidays presses down on us. BofA has resumed its foreclosures, after a brief hiatus to justify their questionnable procedures. Washington is caving in to the tax extension. And “Jingle Bell Rock” is loud in the car.

Monday, December 13
I’m tired after a full week end of Christmas chores (outside lights, tree purchased, cards written) plus the usual weekend duties. I’m riding in a vintage Volvo sedan – all leather seats, badly cracked, but still stylish. A friendly mellow guy with an Eastern European accent is driving, drinking his Starbuck’s coffee from a styrofoam cup. Another damp, chilly day. The weather people tell us that it’s in the high 80s in L.A. – a mere 500 miles down the road. We are once again serenaded to KOIT radio’s non-stop Christmas music. This morning features several versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. I’m drifting along to the music in this warm car and am suddenly startled to see a big white truck on the other side of the freeway, stopped at an angle, blocking traffic. The retaining wall doesn’t allow a complete view, but from all the emergency vehicles it looks like some sort of unhappiness. It’s affecting traffic on our side of the freeway, too, as everyone slows down for a look. We pick up speed after a few minutes and breeze on across the bridge, passing a lone egret in the bay shallows, and on into the city, which is in a soft-focus fog cover.

This week – Other Tolls of Commuting


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7
Dramatic fog with the sun breaking through is a lovely way to start the morning. I’m wedged in the back seat of a small sedan. I spot a plastic bag of tasty looking cookies next to the driver. I’m dieting (again) and my food radar is highly sensitive. Have you seen the latest reports on American obesity? 68 percent of us are either overweight or considered obese. I struggle to remain in the 32 percent group.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8
What a rainy morning! I almost decided to take the ferry – the early morning news said there was a 3-car accident on the Bay Bridge and that several lanes were closed. At that time, they predicted a gridlock until 9 AM. But it cleared up quickly, so I decided to go with the carpool. An interesting ride in a Chevrolet 3-door pickup. The driver, a construction sub-contractor, talked at length about his tech toys. His phone does practically everything and can even produce a map and driving directions by voice activation. Traffic was still very heavy, so I and the lady rider in the back seat were treated to a series of short cuts around the freeway system. At first I had my doubts, but it actually saved us time and we eventually ended up in San Francisco at the usual time. I mentioned the express lane system that has just begun on the bay area carpool lanes and both of my companions were appalled, as am I, by this nutty idea. “Short-sighted”, exclaimed the driver. “it may bring in a few bucks for awhile, but before long, there will be too many cars and it won’t be worth it to commuters to pay extra for the lane”. I pointed out it that it would also impact the carpoolers by eventually ending the carpool advantage. “If the idea is to minimize the number of cars on the road and make it easier for commuters, funds should be spent on developing better mass transportation. More BART, more ferries, better connections between all the systems.”

As our shortcut took us past a part of the bay I had never seen up close before (somewhere near the Richmond Bridge), the driver reflected that most of the time he just accepts the long daily rides, but he realizes the toll it takes on his time – time away from family and relaxing. “I’m so tired when I get home at night, all I can do is fall into a chair. I spend 10 to 20 hours a week, just driving.” We all agree. The lady in the back seat added, “and if these tolls and fares go up any more, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m at my limit now.”

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9
Today I’m in a big Chrysler (I think) sedan. I’m about to sink into the back seat and spread out with my large bag, when I’m joined by the rider who was in line behind me. Two ladies are in the front seat, so we’re a full load. Happily, it’s warm and feels wonderful – a lovely car. I shift around and get settled and the guy next to me asks the driver, “Mind if I crack the window?” She politely nods yes. Well, it’s more than a crack, and the air is cold. And I DO mind. He plugs ear phones into his head and zones out. I pull out my book and start reading and realize it’s getting COLDER. The jerk has increased the crack to halfway down. Now we have a damp cold breeze circulating through the car. I pull on my hat and wrap my scarf around my neck. Usually it’s the driver who calls the shots on the heat and general comfort of the car, not one of the riders, so I’m a bit surprised that the cold air isn’t bothering the ladies up front.

I turn my attention to the view. The fog is spectacular and as we approach the city, just the very tops of the tallest high-rises are jutting out of the foggy blanket.
The driver takes us up to Market, which is a nice extra; saves me 2 long blocks of walking to the bus stop, and I grab my bag and get out.

It’s only later at work that I realize I’ve left my book in the car. Damn, it’s a library book, too. Hopefully the driver will find it and contact me (are you out there?)

Rainy Day Commutes


A few reflections from the past week’s car pooling . .
The day before the Thanksgiving holiday was a good day to stay in bed – a cold, wet and dreary day. But I was out on the freeway. My ride was the back seat of a super-sized pick up truck. The driver was a very young-looking guy with an earnest way about him. He asked if I had enough room and drove carefully. A series of Spanish CDs serenaded us on our trip. Several earlier accidents slowed us down. Heavy traffic in and out of the city. I wonder if more people are driving and avoiding the ‘patting’ and screening mess at the airports.

The following Tuesday, November 30 was cold, but not freezing. There was another spectacular sun rise show this morning. Brilliant shades of crimson. My ride was a Honda sedan and started off well. A crisp, business-suited fellow at the wheel was very solicitous about the heat, the reclining features of the seat, room for my bag. However, once on the road he was a terror at the wheel. Driving too fast, zipping in and out of lanes. All made worse by the fact there was very light traffic and lots of room for him to be crazy in. We made the normally 50 to 60 minutes trip in 30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 1 was another cold commute. I rode in an older model Volvo sedan. Not a bad ride except that there was no heat in the car, although the driver appeared to be fiddling with the dials throughout the trip. It was really uncomfortable. I felt like asking for my toll money back. Traffic was heavy and slow, prolonging the agony, although the carpool lane kept moving between 20 and 40 mph. I thought about the impending express lane conversion and if it had been in place on this ride, we would all be moving at about 10 miles an hour.

Thursday, December 2 I’m in a WARM Toyota Prius. 60s something driver is crisply white-shirted and suited. Yet another amazing sunrise. KCBS radio is talking about the November 11 Fastrack screwup. That was the day that traffic on the Bay Bridge was halted for several hours because of the disturbed driver who claimed he had a bomb. In an attempt to get traffic moving, the California Highway Patrol instructed drivers to turn around and take another route, which many did. Unfortunately, Fastrack counted that as illegal, and all those drivers were billed an additional $56. The transportation officials are working to straighten this one out.

Friday, December 3 I’m snug and warm in a Honda sedan. It’s a damp cold morning. Friday light traffic and the news today is that the wrecking ball will begin demolishing what’s left of the Transbay Terminal. I walk past the demolition each morning on my way up to Market Street and my bus, and today I stop for a final look. The old building is pretty well hollowed out, the roof and windows are gone. A surprising number of people have stopped to look and take pictures. The wrecking ball will strike at 10 a.m., after I’m at work. I say goodbye and trudge on.

Monday, December 6.
A break today in the week-end storm. No cars yet, but it’s not a long wait. I’m in the back seat of a Toyota. The driver is distracted as I and the front seat passenger get in. He seems to be reading an auto repair bill, and barely acknowledges us and our toll money. He’s wearing a cell phone ear device and a too-small black fedora style hat. With his black jacket and glasses, he looks like one of the Blue Brothers. Traffic is heavy so it’s slow-going this morning. I stay immersed in my book (The Coming, by Joe Haldeman) and have tuned out much of the ride, but I sense that this fellow is an aggressive driver. It really shows as we exit the bridge and get in the drop off line. A car cuts in front of him and he goes nuts. Tail gating and obviously angry. He’s further annoyed by the fact that the other rider and I do not spring from the car as he approaches the line. When we finally get out, the other passenger and I agree the guy was a road-rager and will not ride with him again.

Once again I walk past the rapidly vanishing old Terminal building, and although much of the building is now rubble, what shocked me was the destruction of the two 3-story pine trees that had been in front of the building, probably since it went up. I guess I knew they would go, but it’s hard to see trees that were so beautiful and majestic hacked down.