January 10


Oh yeah, it’s still cold. Colder actually. All the brilliant green grasses that have come up from our excessive rain are poking their heads through an icy blanket of frost this morning. No wait for a ride, and it’s a warm Volvo sedan. Very pleasant lady driving, but once again as we get onto the freeway she starts the cell phone fumble, even gesturing with both hands! Traffic is heavy and moving fast and she needs to pay attention. I didn’t sleep well last night and my nerves are on edge so I’m hyper-nervous, clutching the arm rest and looking tense. After she finishes a second phone call, she says “Am I making you nervous?” “Oh yes”, I reply. “You really need to focus on your driving, and you can’t do it talking on a cell phone!” She politely apologizes and I do forgive her. Her daughter may go into labor today and she was trying to get through to her to let her know her schedule today. She doesn’t want to miss the call when labor begins! The back seat passenger is plugged into her headphones and ignores us.

I appreciate her sensitivity to my discomfort and we continue the ride chatting about the tragedy in Tucson, crazy talk show moderators who fan the flames of such madness, our jobs (she teaches at City College), education in general and the odd weather. “It snowed in Atlanta” she exclaims. Her sister. a recent Atlanta transplant from colder climes called her this morning surprised to see snow. The world is feeling more upside down than usual today; the warm ride and good conversation help to set it a little straighter.

Car Pooling and Commuting in the Cold First Week of the Year


Wednesday, January 5 Icy cold morning. No fog today, and an incredible sunrise, with bands of pink and gold against a sharp blue sky. I’m in a small Hyundai sedan and snug and warm in the back seat. The driver is a slightly plump pleasant-looking fellow with a beatific smile and wire rimmed glasses. In his black jacket and trousers and white shirt, with a close-cropped thinly-haired head, he’s a stereotypical country preacher. He graciously accepts our toll contributions. It’s a quick ride today, moderate traffic. When the San Francisco skyline comes into view it’s a knock-out. The early sun is bouncing off the high rise windows making a golden light show. The toll gates are nearly empty – where is everybody? Maybe skiing in all that lovely Sierra snow.

Thursday, January 6 We are squealing and moaning in the carpool line this morning. There’s a really dense frigid fog and a brisk wind that feels like small sharp knives on your skin. After about 5 minutes of this agony cars start pulling up. One rider ahead of me in lin is a guy I frequently see. He’s huge – must weigh well over 300 pounds. When I’ve watched him getting into cars the car noticeably sags. Two drivers this morning turn him down, refusing him a ride. Poor fellow. I and another lady get into a small and tidy 4-door Dodge sedan. I’m in back next to a child’s car seat. The driver is being stingy with the heat. I can see it turned down to the lowest setting. Perhaps because he himself is a quite large fellow. The sun is out in Berkeley – no fog, but the city is invisible, covered in the same thick fog we left in Vallejo.

Friday, January 7 Brrr. That damp cold wind is still with us out here in the casual carpool line. About 20 riders are lined up waiting and shivering. The lady in front of me has a horrible cold and I instantly decide not to get in a car with her, even if it means waiting longer. The rider in line in front of her turns down a ride so the coughing, sneezing lady takes the ride. I move up behind the rider who declined the ride and ask her why. “The car smelled like cigarettes and the ashtray was overflowing”, she said. I agree I would not have taken the ride either. After 10 minutes our ride is a big lovely BMW sedan, the full luxury model. Warm. Yum. A young very pretty dark-skinned driver greets us. Unfortunately, just after we enter the freeway she gets on her cell phone and spends the entire 40 minute commute laughing and chatting and I stop relaxing. She occasionally adjusts the heat and radio (KISS-FM) with her one free hand.

It’s a very gray morning, no lovely sunrise to welcome us on our journey. But traffic’s light and we’re breezing along at 70 mph. (and with only one hand!).

MUNI BUS SHELTERS. I usually walk the 3 blocks up Fremont from the carpool drop off to Market Street and catch a bus. Often I have to wait in the bus shelter, and I’ve noticed that it’s really not much of a shelter, especially in this cold, wet miserable weather. The good feature about it is that is has automated signage that keeps riders informed when the next bus is coming. I noticed in Monday’s Chronicle (January 3 Bay Area section) that SF Chronicle writer Will Kane wrote about the bus shelters, and it sounds like I’m not the only one who finds them lacking in, well, shelter.

They are aesthetically pleasing to look at, but they’re full of cracks and openings and on a rainy, windy, 40-degree 7 o’clock commute morning, they provide little comfort. The designer, Olle Lundberg, disagrees, saying they needed to be open for people who are disabled or in wheel-chairs, but I’ve seen people in wheelchairs trying to navigate in and out of them and it isn’t easy. They’re just not wide enough for people to really get into out of the weather and they are very breezy.

Muni has installed 100 of these shelters so far, with 1,000 more planned before 2013. The cost per shelter, $10,000 is underwritten by Clear Channel in exchange for exclusive advertising rights.

Inadequate bus shelters are perhaps a small issue, compared to the greater woes of commuting and working and getting through each day, but when added to the frustrations of traffic, tolls, inadequate public transport, it matters.

Two Winter Rides


Thursday, November 4 First of all, last night’s (November 3) sunset. The best I’ve ever seen, including Hawaii. Truly. The western sky was filled with layers of red and golden light. It was spellbinding, and a fitting close to a very wild, outrageous and special day. The celebration in San Francisco today for the Giants brought 500,000 people out on the street to laugh, scream, wear orange and black and share a few crazy wonderful hours. Wow.

Back on the freeway this morning, I’m in a Chrysler SUV. Two guys in front, I’m in back. The driver is a dead-ringer for Wayne Knight (the actor who played ‘Newman’ on Seinfeld and also the computer tech in Jurassic Park). KNBR radio is re-telling highlights of the world series and yesterday’s events.

Tuesday, December 21 The solstice today, officially the first day of Winter. However, the days now begin to get longer, and I always think of this day as an overture to Spring, rather than the beginning of Winter. I’m in a big Chevrolet van. Both the driver and passenger in back wait patiently as I struggle with my bag, plus a bag of office Christmas gifts. The guy in back finally takes my big bag and puts it in the back seat. The driver looks good in a gray striped suit trousers, a pink sweater and a gray scarf tied jauntily around his neck.

Guess I missed last night’s lunar eclipse. When I got up at 5:30 a.m. the moon was full and bright. As we approach the view of the city the sun slants through the clouds and makes a golden San Francisco. Spectacular. Traffic is holiday light and this looks like about a 40-minute commute today. I start my winter holiday tomorrow. Today is my last commute of the year. Merry Christmas!

Out with the Old, In with the New – 2011 is here


Tuesday, January 4, 2011. Groan. It’s time to get up at 5:15 a.m. and go back to work, after nearly 2 wonderful weeks off. A hard start to the new year. Huge fog going on this morning and we can barely see out the windshield en route to the casual carpool. As the sky begins to lighten, the fog clears slightly. My first carpool ride of 2011 is in a big Ford Pickup with a roomy and comfortable back seat for me and my stuff. Both driver and truck are very tidy and organized. His jacket and satchel are neatly stowed behind the driver’s seat. Driver is wearing a dark plaid shirt and black trousers. Crisply neat hair-cut, slicked back. With the combination of the country music on the radio and the pick-up truck, this guy would look right at home wearing a cowboy hat. The passenger in the front seat talks about the weather for awhile, actually for quite awhile, and then settles down.

We take off in light fog, but as we cross the Carquinez Bridge it’s like being in an airplane. No bridge, no water, no visuals at all. Just thick, thick fog. Sight returns after we get across the bridge and traffic is moving along. A last spectacular look at the fog just before we round the corner to the bay bridge – it lays like delicate lace over the shallow water near the shore.

OLD YEAR/NEW YEAR. It’s time for the old to make way for the new and in California we have our new Governor (Jerry Brown, inaugurated in Sacramento yesterday, California’s 39th governor). It’s a tight budget for him to work with (a $28 billion deficit). I hope this doesn’t impact us commuters with yet more tolls and restrictions and higher mass transit fares.

The old Oakland-Bay Bridge is gradually being taken over by the emerging new Bay Bridge and its 525 foot tower. The tower’s fourth and final section will be in place in March, 2011, and the bridge is now expected to be completed in 2 more years – 2013. We’ll be feeling some of that work in early summer when the lanes get re-routed again.

This morning, as I walked up from the carpool drop off to my bus stop on Market Street, I was shocked to see all the open space where the Transbay Terminal used to be. A lot happened during my 2-week absence. You can check out a speeded up-time-lapse video of some of the demolition at
transbaycenter.org/construction-updates/construction-cameras/demolition- camera. It’s fascinating watching the site grow dark as night falls, and gradually light up with the morning light and traffic. This winter will see the end of the demolition and the beginning of the new foundation construction.

I’ve been looking at new cars – it’s getting time to retire the old Hyundai. I plan to get a hybrid, but have been so happy with my Hyundai Elantra, I’d like to continue with Hyundai. Especially after reading December’s reports from both the auto insurance industry and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Topping their lists of the safest new vehicles for 2011 is Hyundai Genesis (large sedan) and the Hyundai Sonata (mid-sized). Hyundai even got a high mark from the auto insurance people on its small SUV, the Hyundai Tucson.

Happy New Year to us all and safe commuting.