Carpool and Rideshares: My New Social Circle

Today for the second time in my life I picked up two strangers and drove them across the San Francisco Bay Bridge. We met under a freeway overpass in Oakland, and, as the two guys got in my car I hoped they had no motive other than getting to work.

My motive was to save $4 and whiz through the carpool lane across the bridge.

By the time we arrived in San Francisco, we all had developed a huge coffee jones after I spent the last 15 minutes heralding the virtues of Blue Bottle Coffee. First I dropped one guy off. Then I parked and bid adieu to the other.

Five minutes later I ran into him at the cafe, which, he declared, he just had to check out. We ended up chatting and parted ways after he got his coffee.

A few weeks ago I drove from Oregon with 3 guys back down to the Bay Area, after responding to an ad on Craigslist. My friends and I fully screened the driver to make sure I wouldn't become a news headline. Quite the opposite. After the 6 hour drive, which included a stop at In n Out, I'd become good friends with two of them and had the chance to practice my Spanish with the other, a visitor from the Basque region of Spain.

My cost? $25. 

In past years I've taken casual carpool rides, and a shared drive from DC to New York in college remains a fuzzy but interesting memory.  I'm starting to cherish the unexpected synchronicity that can happen when you meet strangers who need to get to the same place and also have the motive of saving money.

Now I feel that the chance to connect with people is an even greater reward than "feeling good" about being green and cutting down on gas consumption.

If you're looking at share rides, it can't hurt to get the people's real names and ask if they are linked into various social networks to see who they "really are." Add common sense and follow your instincts at the expense of feeling rude if you decide suddenly that you don't feel right about a ride. 

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