THE CARPOOL MIX


TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2011
A sunny morning, short line of riders and I’m soon settled into the comfy back seat of a big, shiny white Nissan Maxima. I turned down the first ride (car was small, filthy, driver looked unfocused) and was glad I did. I no longer have qualms about being a bit picky about my rides. I am paying my way, after all.

We take off on this lovely morning, three ladies. The driver, an African-American lady in her 40s, with a stylish short, spiky hair-cut, designer dark glasses, power suit and the front seat passenger, a diminutive Asian lady in her 50s, a beige cloth coat, and me in the rear, the Caucasian lady dressed-for-the gym-before-work Commuter Gal. The casual carpool throws people together at random, sometimes in funny ways.

Like the day I saw an impeccably dressed fellow, perhaps 50-something, squeeze into the back seat of a brilliantly colored VW bug. The two guys in the front seat, who were together, were chuckling around with their wild hair, tatoos, and loud sounds coming from the tape deck. From the look on his face we could see the passenger had realized his mistake too late as they zoomed off. Or the lady rider who always had a box of kittens with her and usually a large bag of bird feed as well. She would interrogate the drivers about the car’s temperature and choice of music before she accepted the ride. I used to see her clutching her kitten-carrier and feeding the pigeons at the old Transbay Terminal. She once told me she rounded up stray kittens to take to the SF Humane Society.

I often see car pools out there on the freeway made up of unlikely combinations of people – serious readers as passengers and a very flamboyant driver jabbering on her cell phone; an older, solid driver with a young girl in the front seat meticulously applying her make up and a large angry looking lady in the back seat on an animated cell phone call. Or a construction guy’s pick up truck with a pair of Montgomery Street executives squeezed in the rear and front seats. For a long while there was an immensely over-weight and odiferous passenger who would barely be able to climb into the unfortunate waiting car, and once he did the entire passenger side of the car would lower at least 6 inches. I was the rear seat passenger with him once. Only. I haven’t seen him for awhile.

Usually the mix is not so dramatic and much of the time the ride with strangers is not so strange – we are all sharing the agony of getting up early and having to commute for the better part of an hour or more just to get to work. Most of us share a sense of humor about the commute and its frustrations and enjoy the exchange of conversation or just the the quiet time to read and ponder.

Today’s comfortable ride was fast (for the carpool lane, anyway – about 40 minutes), and we 3 ladies expressed our thanks and wishes for a good day to each other as we left the car and went on our way.

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