The Casual Carpool

I was recanting memories of the Casual Carpool with a fellow employee the other day. I don’t use it anymore, since I live in the City now, but for anyone who lives in the San Francisco East Bay, it’s one of the best and definitely cheapest ways to get into the SF.
Basically, there are spots around he East Bay, which have been designated pickup spots due to their proximity to freeways that lead into the City. The particular spot I waited at was at Monte Vista & Oakland Avenue near Piedmont. People in the area will go to these spots and stand in a line. Drivers would then come by and pick up two people in order to get three people into their car. This enabled them to not only use the carpool lane on the freeway, but also not have to pay the toll for the bridge. This process saved the drivers around 30-45 minutes of commute time, as well as the $2 for the toll. The passengers didn’t have to pay anything and also got into the City faster than just about any other way.
People were always shocked when I’d tell them about the system, since they assumed that there were flaws in it, or that you might get kidnapped, killed, or whatever else people think can happen from total strangers. In reality, it was pretty much a completely trouble-free system that works without any problems. In its 20+ years of existence, there has never been a problem with people using it. I believe this in part to the safeguards that are inherently part of the system. For one, you almost always get into a car with one other person, thus making it hard for do anything to the two of you as you can both overpower them. Secondly, suspicious people always look, well, suspicious and there are a lot of witnesses to watch who gets into what car. Lastly, you don’t ever have to get into a car you don’t want to get into and some people decide to exercise this option, but even though I’ve gotten into cars they’ve skipped, I’ve never had any problems so to speak.
Now, I have had a couple of odd encounters. The first was this woman that picked up myself and another guy. She was on her cellphone, which is something of a no-no in the carpooling land. For the entire 25-minute trip I had to listen to her break up with her boyfriend, over the cellphone who was on the East Coast. It had to be one of the more annoying spots in time I’ve ever experienced. The second odd experience was getting into the car of another woman who had a little post-it note on her window asking that people not wear cologne of perfume in her car. Not a big deal I thought. But, it ended up that she started talking on her cellphone as well as being a terrible driver. She was just rude, but we still got there is one piece.
That is one thing though, in that you have to get used to how other people drive. A former boss of mine had one story that actually sounded scary, but let me preface this by saying he had some mental problems and I suspect that this may have been totally fabricated as he was being weirder than normal when he told me about this. Basically, he got into the car of some guy with another guy. The guy was an erratic driver and when they got into SF, the guy wouldn’t let them out of the car and started to go back on to the freeway. Much of the story doesn’t add up and I think it was embellished to a large degree, since I’ve never heard about this problem from anyone else who has done the carpool and many have done it for years.
If you use the carpool, there are Four Basic Casual Carpool Rules:
1. No talking unless the driver initiates it. This may seem unjust, but people have a lot of different viewpoints on things and for such a short ride, there’s no reason to make things uncomfortable, or even dangerous to one another.
2. No radio, except for National Public Radio (NPR.) This is done, since it is one of the least offensive radio programs out there and other morning shows can be jarring to people. And music, let’s not even talk about peoples’ different musical tastes. This rule does get broken often and you have to deal with listen to some real bonehead stuff on occasion from drivers who don’t know or don’t care about The Rules.
3. The drop off spot is in or around the Transbay Bus Terminal in San Francisco. You don’t ask to go further and you don’t complain about being dropped off there. Sometimes drivers will say where they’re going and ask if you want a further ride at which point you’re free to accept if you want or take the option of the TBT.
4. No cellphones