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By Jessica T

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About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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Goodbye, carpool

Uploaded: Jul 7, 2014
When I returned from maternity leave, I was aghast at the increase in traffic. My commute seemed as though it had increased by 30 minutes overnight. I hadn't seen traffic this bad since 2007, when we moved to the Bay Area. After the market crashed in 2008, my drive became lightening fast. Six years later traffic finally recovered -- a good omen for the economy but a bad one for my personal life.

I asked a dear friend who lives about a mile away if she'd carpool. We could zip to work in the carpool lane and recover that precious time. Plus, it would be fun. "Carpool?" she asked skeptically. "You always work late!" Alas, it's true. But wasn't I a mother-of-three now who could afford to leave a little earlier so as not to miss my kids' dinner, bath, and bedtime routine?

What she didn't say, but I heard (and cannot deny) is, "You're always late." I am always a little late. She, on the other hand, is pathologically on time. So much so that being even five minutes late makes her anxious. To this day I'm not sure what swayed her, but she agreed, reluctantly.

Carpooling is a strange exercise in coordination and parallel scheduling. I have three kids and a workaday life in the suburbs. My friend has no kids, frequently goes out in the evening, and travels for work and pleasure. It takes a special aptitude for flexibility to work around kid drop-off and pick-up, exercise, and meeting schedules. Sometimes we go weeks without being able make it work. But if we can, we carpool.

Two days a week, we go in a little late. Three days a week, we go in early and every day that we carpool, we leave the office at 5:30. We've made accommodations for each other's quirks. I religiously text her before I leave. She reads her email when she has to wait for me. It hasn't always been smooth sailing south in the HOV. There was the time I had to stay late, went incommunicado at the end of the day, and made her stick around the office later than she wanted. Or the time I picked her up (late) in the wrong location. Or the time I lashed out at her because I was sleep deprived and sick of feeling like I always had to drive due to her indefatigable travel schedule.

Even though it's taken some time to get right, carpooling is simply the best. We regale each other with stories from the weekend, the office, and our pasts. In a world where we are constantly telling women to find a sponsor if you want a seat at the boardroom table, my friend and I have the carpool.

We seek each other's advice on how to handle tricky situations at work. We update each other on new developments, and perhaps most importantly, we coach each other on how to negotiate, live in the moment, deal with high stress periods and crippling anxiety. I may have had a terrible morning with the kids and a dreadful day ahead, but if I'm crawling into my friend's Civic in the morning and evening, I have something to look forward to. I have a laugh and confidence on the way, and I'll be shuttled to work or home more quickly than usual. I can't remember the last time I bought gas, and while cars are probably not the answer to getting to work, we can feel a little better about reducing our carbon footprint.

All of this is to say that I'll be sad next month when we share our last carpool. My friend is relocating, moving on to a big job in a new town. It seems we got quite good at counseling each other - so good that she's finally realizing "her destiny" (as I like to say). Goodbye, carpool - it's the end of a short-lived nostalgic era, like that heart-wrenching summer in Philip Roth's novella.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rob, a resident of another community,
on Jul 8, 2014 at 1:28 am

Nice article Jessica!

I'm sorry to hear you're going to be losing your carpool buddy.

My company's app might be able to help you in the future though. Carma Carpooling matches you with nearby people who want to carpool. You can browse profiles, check photos and even invite friends and colleagues if you don't find any matches nearby.

What's cool is the cost of the drive gets shared also - riders pay drivers roughly $0.20 per mile via automatic in-app transfers. The rider just taps 'start trip' when they hop in, and 'end trip' when they hop out.

Carma is the world's only verified carpool app, meaning we keep a log of all completed trips for your safety.

Feel free to check us out at www.carmacarpool.com, or email us at team@car.ma if you'd like any more info.

Have a good one and happy carpooling!

Rob


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sean, a resident of another community,
on Jul 8, 2014 at 4:43 am

Jessica:
Nice piece... very real about the pluses and minuses of carpooling... but ultimately, as you say, it's a big, big plus.

I carpool every day (using Carma, the app Rob described above), and it's really really fun and interesting to share the journey with people and get a glimpse of their lives, and to help make neighborhoods more neighborly.

Sure, there are time savings and money savings, etc., but the surprise to me is how cool it is to just turn off listening to the radio and just to chat and share stories with each other. It puts more humanity on either end of the day.
Best,
Sean


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jessica T, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jul 8, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Hi Rob & Sean,

Thanks for sharing a new option to find carpooling buddies.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Kristian A, a resident of another community,
on Jul 10, 2014 at 6:39 am

Hi Jessica T.

I'm on a mission to introduce extended use of carpools in Norway. I read your piece and it reminded me a lot of many of the users we have locally. They often carpool in twins like you. My friend Line S used to carpool every day with Tom H. But after vacation no one connected until it felt awkward. It was so funny, they were like teenagers dating. I urged Line to get in touch and they are back in the habit and enjoying it. But Line learned that the regular carpooler can go on vacation or disappear for another reason and has now connected with several in her neighborhood and have more users to select from. She found the other carpoolers through an app called Carma Carpool. There are plenty of these apps, but Carma is the one that has catched on here and makes it easy to find and connect safely to another carpooler. In Norway carpooling equals public transport in persons transported. Still 19 out of 20 seats are empty. Massive potential as you can understand. I'm really passionate about this topic for the environment, the wasted time in traffic and the cost saved. To promote this we have found that a workplace ambassador is the best persuasion to get other people literarly 'on-board' We now have 22 ambassadors and a growing community. Maybe you can help your community or business -or find an enthusiast - and get more people hooked on the carpool experience! Best of luck finding your next carpool friend!



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