January Casual Carpooling Diary


TUESDAY, JANUARY 11. I’m in a Honda sedan, with Christmas decor hanging from the mirror – snowflakes, a silver angel with gold wings, a bell, plus a company parking pass. The driver takes an extra passenger, so we’re four in the car, and I see that she unabashedly accepts $1.25 from each of us. I wonder if she does that every time. The driver is youngish, wearing a jaunty black cap with a little brim. Traffic’s heavy, but the carpool lane moves along with no trouble.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12. Its a bit warmer and because I’m running about 30 minutes later than usual, there’s more light in the morning sky. A much more optimistic way to start the day than in the damp, dark chill. The ride is a Toyota sedan, the driver a 50s something lady, pleasant. We all comment briefly on the warmer temperatures and then settle down. I saw a brief flash on the news this morning that UC Berkeley had just released a study on carpooling in the bay area – something I’ve been waiting for since the toll increase July 1.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 13. My ride’s a shiny new Mazda 3. Weather is wet sprinkles, but nothing serious. But ah, the sunrise – flaming orange and red! Guy driver is in his late 30s with a cute short, standing-on-end haircut. We pass a huge truck carrying a load of flattened cars. I try to count how many cars are squashed together, but give up. They’re too tightly smashed together, but it could total 100 cars. Fallen warriors taking their final freeway ride.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 14. I’ve ridden in this VW Jetta before. I remember the driver, but not the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke, which I wasn’t aware of until we were underway. 60s something guy in Friday casual. Navy blue wool jacket, khaki trousers. There’s a handsome leather briefcase on the back seat next to me. The driver turns up the radio – KCBS – for the sports news and then switches to KFOG. He fiddles with the air dials and we get a blast of perfumed air – kinda spicy, a little floral. It’s not bad and it covers the cigarette smell pretty well. It’s a fast Friday light commute and we’re in the city in 35 minutes.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 18. 3 foggy days off work and now today we’re back and the sun is out. Fog still lingers in low spots along the freeway and out in the ocean. Traffic’s heavy and sluggish. The electric freeway sign near Hercules (yes, that’s a town, for you out-of-staters. Hercules was begun in 1881 as company housing for the California Powder Works – manufacturers of dynamite and other explosive products. The town’s name came from the company’s leading explosive product – Hercules Dynamite.) says it’s an hour to San Francisco. Usually it says 25 to 30 minutes. Quite a few non-carpool cheaters are ducking into our lane and slowing us down. The light holiday traffic is definitely over. I’m in a small Ford pickup truck, the kind with a back seat, but it’s small and the three of us are tightly tucked in. The driver’s a young guy, in his 30s. He spent his holiday (Martin Luther King, Jr Day yesterday) at the zoo in San Francisco with his kids a 5 year old girl, 10 year old boy.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19. A beautiful morning, sun, clear air, about 50 degrees. The weather lady on Channel 4 this morning said it was 85 in L.A. The West Coast is drying out after a soggy beginning to this month. I’m in the back seat of a VW sedan. When I pass my $1.25 toll up, the driver holds out a glass jar that has a hand-lettered sign “$1.25 per person”. The front seat passenger gets in and says “I don’t have any change; I’ll catch you next time.” The driver is clearly not happy with this, but off we go. We enter San Francisco, basking in the California golden sun.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 20. Full moon. Gorgeous sunrise. I’m in a Nissan. Me and my big bag are squished into the front seat. Very heavy stop-and-go traffic in all lanes. The carpool lane is packed and moving even slower than the other 3 lanes. The driver is a round, jolly fellow, dressed all in black. Nearer to the bridge I see the tide is way out.

MONDAY, JANUARY 24. Four of us are in a Volvo sedan. It’s a chilly morning but the young Asian-American driver is not going to turn on the heat. In fact, I see the a.c. is on. I’m wedged into the front seat with my usual big bag. Traffic is plentiful, but moving between 40 and 50 mph. The warmer sunny weather should hang around this week, but this morning it’s the fog and sun light show. Beautiful. I’m earllier than usual, getting back into training for the May 15 Bay to Breakers. So I’ll stop at the gym before work. Groan.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 25. The thick fog swirls around us as we leave Vallejo. Visibility is nearly zero crossing the Carquinez Bridge. I’m in a Chevrolet SUV. A big bald guy is riding in the back seat, I’m in front with the driver. She’s early 50s casually dressed in sweater and slacks. “Your SF Giants” decal is on the windshield. No a.c. today but the heat is at the lowest possible setting and the car is quite cool. Something about the combination of damp and fog that makes it feel even colder. I add my toll payment to one of the cupholders which is holding a fat makeup brush.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 27. Long cold line today. Vallejo and the surrounding area is suffocating in the thickest, wettest fog I’ve seen. It is relentless, accompanied by a brisk icy-cold wind. After a 10 minute wait in the line of riders I’m in the back seat of a Toyota sedan. Mom is driving and her 12-year old daughter is in the back seat, next to me, doing homework, headphones plugged in. Radio is STAR 1013. We emerge from the fog, somewhere around El Cerrito and suddenly it’s a brilliantly sunny morning. Traffic drags past Berkeley and I enjoy the view across the bay of the city softened in a hazy morning glow. The power lines along the freeway are filled with small birds all in line enjoying the morning sun.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 28. The fog thickens. I’m in the back seat of a small Toyota. Feels like an unusually small interior, but I’m not sure of the model. The driver’s wearing her Friday jeans, hanging on to the steering wheel which is encased in a plastic cover featuring Betty Boop. The toll $ is important to her and she looks expectantly at me when I first get in, struggling with my bag, my seat belt, my bulky scarf, and then finally I pull the $1.25 out of my coat pocket. She drums her fingers on her tightly-jean-clad leg as we roll along. The dusk-light light has enveloped the entire bay area this morning.

MONDAY, JANUARY 31. The last day of the first month. Perhaps the fog is finally lifting. There’s a gorgeous sunrise with little pockets of fog hugging the low land areas.
I’m in the same Chevrolet SUV as last Tuesday, the one with the “YOUR SF GIANTS” decal on the windshield. The driver is again dressed casually, and I wonder where she works. Today’s news announces that construction begins on an underground subway link in the city, from the CalTrain station to Chinatown. Stockton Street, which runs alongside Union Square, will be torn up for a year and half.

2 Responses

  1. Add on Carpooling Diary : on http://www.youtrip.it we can travel by swap and it’s all free!

  2. http://www.youtrip.it, carpooling made in Italy !

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