Posts Tagged 'carpooling'

Carpool Survivor

I am lucky enough to be in a carpool with five great people for my two-hour round-trip commute. (I found them through Carpool Match Northwest.) We save money, save emissions and have fun. So on the morning of April Fool’s day I tossed off a prank email to them.

I wrote: “It has been such a pleasure knowing you! My new inheritance means I can now afford a new Prius. I’ll soon be driving alone to work in it with Steve Earle cranked up full blast. warmly, Alison.” I chose Prius rather than Hummer to enhance my credibility.

Still, I thought they would zing me back with: “B.S.! April Fools!” Or at least: “If we agree to play Steve Earle, won’t you stay?” But instead, I basically got a dead silence. Not good. So in the late afternoon I emailed that it had been a fraud. “Of course I’m still in the carpool. I can’t believe you believed me! I’m not a gold-digger, not with you for the money.”

It turned out that Sam had decided I was a rank poser, only having pretended all this time to care about the environment. (Have I mentioned my carpool is 67% environmental attorneys?) He was laughing by the time he debriefed with me — “This is carpool survivor!” he said, but I could see he had seriously disliked me for an entire day. Whoa. John was more vulnerable. He said that, knowing break-ups often happen for reasons other than the stated ones, he’d been convinced I’d just manufactured an excuse to dump them all. (I decided this might not be the right day to ask John about his abandonment issues.)

It doesn’t take a background in counseling (though I happen to have one) to see that a carpool can bond and take on some family dynamics. It wasn’t that funny to threaten to leave. I had upset them.

Yesterday, a gorgeous spring afternoon, I was waiting for the gang at the Agriculture building at the Mill Creek bridge. I climbed up on the bridge embankment just for fun. As Sam and John approached, I yelled, “My carpool hates me! I’m going to jump!”

“Don’t jump!” they called. I climbed on down and all six of us got into Richard’s van. We talked, read and joked the hour back to Portland, probably happier together than many families. While driving alone isolates us from others, the game of Carpool Survivor rewards us with community and I plan to be the ‘last woman standing’ in it.

Advertisements

Biodiesel, Carpooling and Happiness

In my ongoing quest for the diamond-cut life of happiness without excess consumption, I notice a couple of things.

Many non-mainstream choices I make, like carpooling, increase my happiness. (This gang of public-interest attorneys I’ve gotten mixed up with is turning out to be a hoot. So-o-o-o much more fun than driving alone.) Other choices my household makes, like heating our house with biodiesel, has a fairly neutral daily impact on our lives, aside from knowing we’ve reduced our emissions, which knowledge makes us happy when it happens to cross our minds.

My thought here is that it’s easy to live inside the box of mainstream choices without even considering whether the greener or lower-consumption choice could be a happier one. Most people in our country commute alone and emit lots of carbon as they heat their homes — without even expecting any satisfaction from either of those activities. In fact, it’s normal to complain about commuting and heating bills. I think we should raise our expectations for our own happiness.

Research on happiness states that the single biggest predictor of it is the number and quality of the relationships we have with others. Interesting that relationships are something we earn with our behaviors, like kindness, and are not something we can buy or consume. Going outside the box of mainstream commercialism is looking more and more like a well-kept secret. I think we should all be blowing the lid off it.

The Five-Carat Commute

On the first day of my new job in Salem, Oregon yesterday, I left my house in Portland before 6 a.m. and got home about 6:4o p.m. I spent three hours and forty minutes total on the commute, including walking to and from the Capitol Mall to my building.

Ye gads. To think that millions of people around the world do this for decades of their lives in order to earn a living and provide for their families. I respect the patience and tenacity this kind of commuting takes (I have usually taken the bus downtown or worked from home).

So why is mine the five-carat commute? My five carpool partners, who keep me from doing the long drive by myself, save me money and reduce my carbon footprint. (Well, I’ve met two of them so far, since not everyone goes to Salem daily.) They are friendly and fun and make the drive go by quickly. I alternate between conversation, reading and working on my laptop. My quality of life gets to remain high due to my carpool.

To find out how much money you could save by carpooling or using other travel options use this commute calculator. Note: I found my carpool through Carpool Match Northwest.

My New Job In Transportation Options

Last Friday afternoon I got the best phone call of my professional life, to date. It was the friendly voice of Michael Ward at Oregon Department of Transportation, offering me the job of Transportation Options Program Manager.

Starting next week that will be my new job and Michael will be my new boss. I’ll be the voice, the advocate, the ‘concept salesperson’ at ODOT — in the state of Oregon — for public transit, carpooling, bicycling and other transportation options. Why do these matter so much? The more we use these options instead of driving alone, the more we build the health of our climate, communities, bodies and bank accounts. As with renewable energy, transportation options build our future.

Thor and I danced for joy at the coast Friday night, to Peter Gabriel’s extended version of In Your Eyes. Many of you know I will dance at the drop of a hat, and even rope Thor into joining me, but this was a particularly happy dance. Why? I have wanted and worked for this kind of full-time right-livelihood position since 2002. It took a long time, and a lot of help.

Big thanks to my husband’s support and to colleagues, friends and mentors Karen Frost, Dan Kaempff, Vicki Lind and many other great people at TriMet, Metro, TOGO, W.T.A., OLCV, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and other good organizations.