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Pooling Around, Casually

What was your reaction the first time you heard of casual carpool?
I used to walk past a casual carpool stop on my way to BART. I was new to the Bay Area and didn’t understand why cars and people were lined up in a nondescript side street during certain parts of the day. Finally, a friend announced he was going to give it a try. Imagine that – getting in a car with a stranger and getting a free ride to work! I wished him luck, and walked with him on my way to BART.
Turn out, he had a good time. His first ride was in a big cushy Lexus SUV with a nice group of people, and he got to work in the same amount of time for free. He kept trying it. Eventually, he became a regular casual carpool commuter. His friends became vicarious carpoolers, always ready for the next story about his exotic commute.
The variety of stories about casual carpool are what make Commuter Gal’s Pooling Around such a fascinating read. She tells it like it is. Sometimes, it’s good (“We zip past the gridlocked toll plaza at 60 mph and are in the city by 8:15 a.m.“). Sometimes, it’s less good (“The driver is being stingy with the heat. I can see it turned down to the lowest setting“). Sometimes, it’s just weird (“The driver is a dead-ringer for Wayne Knight“).
It sounds like Commuter Gal composes these from her phone mid-ride. As a collection, they give an excellent impression of range of casual carpool experiences.
2/14/11 – It’s a little drizzly and overcast, but no standing in line for the riders – a long line of rides is waiting for us. I hop into a Valentine-Day-Red Chevrolet truck – a Silverado. Very comfy and even some leg room in the back. The driver is a polite fellow with very short hair, practically bald and a weird-looking beard on his chin. He’s wearing camouflage clothing. A small green fish chochkee dangles from the mirror, looks like a bass. Traffic is bad, but the carpool lane has a definite advantage this morning and we make the 30+ mile commute in under an hour.
2/2/11 – A huge line of cars all the way around the block. I’m the only rider, at least for the moment. I get into the back seat of a lovely, luxurious Cadillac. A very stylish lady is at the wheel in a wonderful black & white checkered pant suit. She’s model thin. A great hair cut and perfect manicure. I want this car and that haircut! The car reminds me of the Chryslers my parents always used to have – big, leathery, roomy. This one has a sunroof, and a super large gps screen. It’s a beautiful sunny morning and there will be more of the same today and for the rest of the week. Almost impossible to imagine the howling snowstorms going on in the east. But the bright sunny light on Groundhog Day means Mr. Groundhog has seen his shadow and we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter. Mmm. We roll past Berkeley and the view of the city in brilliant light and shadow is reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting.
1/11/11 – 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.
Want to create your own new commuting experiences? Give casual carpool a try.

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