March 9, 2012

Holy cow! My casual carpool accident report, part deux

Posted in uncategorized tagged at 9:57 am by Marise Phillips

So here we are, stuck on the freeway, all dressed (and all shook) up, with nowhere to go. It’s a very strange feeling, being stuck in a disabled shell of a car, as a steady swarm of traffic flows around you. Feels a bit like watching a movie, and then suddenly realizing you’re in it.


What also feels surreal is how unconcerned our driver continues to act regarding the well-being of his two passengers. Granted, I know he doesn’t know us, but seriously? Dude needs some sensitivity training. All he seems to care about, once the obligatory brief noises are made about whether we’re dead — no? ok, great! — is getting into his glove compartment, despite the fact that my knees are directly in front of it. He doesn’t bother with an, “Excuse me,” before reaching across brusquely, rifling around looking for things, not finding them, swearing loudly some more for good measure. Completely oblivious to the words his backseat passenger is using to explain how the impact caused her to jam her already-bad knee into the seat back, and HARD. Mr. Evil Principal has no interest in such facts. He hates Ferris Bueller. And with every passing second, it’s clear that he wants us out of his car and out of his life, asap.


That is, until that magic moment when I switch into peacemaker mode by looking for ways to validate his point of view about how the accident may have actually happened. Ways in which it might not be his fault. Looking ahead of us, I notice a pickup truck is also at a standstill, parked just in front of the car we rear-ended. So I wonder out loud, “Oh, wow… maybe that guy was just stopped there all along. If so, maybe the guy in front of us had to slam on his brakes? That would have made it really hard for you to stop in time.” And as soon as these words of comfort emerge, Mr. Cray-Cray gloms on to the idea, insisting, “Yeah! That’s what happened! Give me your information so you can back me up — that’s what happened. You can tell them.” Them being his insurance company, I suppose.


And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh no, no way. I was just saying that to be nice. Don’t you get it? Even if that pickup truck *was* stopped there the whole time, you should have been scanning the road 3-4 cars ahead of you. You should have known 30 seconds in advance that you were going to have to avoid him.” But what I’m actually saying is a non-committal, “Mmmm,” while wondering how the hell I was going to extract myself from him now. As per usual, I simply return to my trusty e-voidance device, the iPhone, and continue composing texts to friends and a pithy but outraged 140-character shout-out to the twittersphere. As I hit send, I glance behind me and notice that my fellow passenger is just as social network-obsessed. She’s clearly having as much fun with this as I am, and wants to make sure all her friends are kept up to date. A fine woman, no doubt!


Meanwhile, it occurs to The Gingerbread Man that it’d probably be a good idea to start making his way over to the right shoulder. We slowly make our way through three lanes of traffic — a process which elicits no honks, which I find rather remarkable. At last we are in the safety zone, and I waste no time in breaking out of the little smashed up metal box I’ve been trapped in. Though only 5 minutes have elapsed since it happened, it feels like more than an hour, and I’m more than ready to be on my way. I’ve got meetings and stuff — no more time for accident related shenanigans! 


But of course we have to stick around and endure him scrabbling around for paper to provide our contact details. We have to waste more time pretending like I’m going to tell the world “his side” of the story, etc. But despite all this, what ends up catching my attention above everything else, is that my fellow passenger’s name is Nimmi Solomon. A name you don’t hear too often, and now that I look at her, take in her 5’1″ stature and sultry dark looks, I realize, “I know HER!!” And it’s not because we both happen to live in Alameda. No. It’s because we met 8 or 9 years ago in San Francisco, at the Edinburgh Castle bar’s Trivia Night! Our mutual friend Kristy Sammis (initially an “imaginary friend” from Nimmi’s POV) brought us together through a shared love of Tenderloin dive bars and the arcane rituals of Trivia Gaming.


This, of course, only proves my partner’s long-held belief that there are only 200 people in the world. Eventually, you get to meet them all. And some, several times — others, in the craziest of places. And for a lucky few, the crazy and the repeat is combined. Nimmi is one of those people whom it’s a real pleasure to meet again. Fun, funny, cooler than shit. That’s her. So when I realized who she was, I couldn’t wait to remind her, “Girl, we already KNOW each other!” You know?



Holy cow! My casual carpool accident report, part 1

Posted in uncategorized tagged at 9:55 am by Marise Phillips

I’m a casual carpooler. A regular rider and occasional driver. I find it fascinating, a real home-grown approach to problem solving. The Oakland Bay Bridge can take over an hour to cross, and the toll costs $6 during rush hour. But if you have three or more people in your car, you can zip through the carpool lane and only pay $2.50. It used to be free, but a new carpool toll went into effect in July 2010.


Interestingly, there is still lively debate over whether riders should contribute to the toll. Some drivers post a sign or ask for a dollar from each rider. Sometimes riders are considerate enough to offer without being asked. Personally, after offering a bunch of times and being turned down repeatedly, I now only pay when asked and never expect payment when I drive. To me, it’s a win-win already — no need to muddy the waters by being chintzy. But that’s just the way I see it. The message boards are full of dissenting opinions.


So this morning, when a shiny new black Nissan Altima pulls up, I’m second in line. This means I’m stuck with the front passenger seat, sitting next to our driver, a ginger-haired, mustachioed man in his early 50s. He looks a lot like the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Probably not the best sign.


Regardless, male or female, mustachioed or clean-shaven, I shy away from drivers, so the front seat’s never my first choice; I prefer the relative comfort and solitude of the back. I’m guessing the majority of riders share my opinion on this. I have certainly long forsaken the practice of yelling “shotgun!” which was big back in high school. Ah, the days before I added misanthropy to my general life approach.


Anyway! Back to this morning in the black Altima. The three of us exchange good mornings, remark on the sunny but chilly weather, and get on to the real business of ignoring each other for the rest of the ride. A few minutes later, about a mile into the commute, we’re on the freeway and my attention is completely focused on my cell phone. I’m either writing an email or reading my feeds.  I may even have two phones out in order to do both simultaneously.


All of a sudden, the driver shouts, “OH SHITTTTT!!” at the top of his lungs, slams on the brakes, and rams into the car in front of us — at a rather alarming speed. I’d guess 25? 30 MPH? The freeway was crowded but the traffic was moving along at a good pace. Not the best time to be changing lanes while following too closely.


I scream as my head hits the ceiling and I am jerked back into place by my seat belt. I feel like crying, I am so startled and upset. The airbags do not deploy. I am still gripping my phone(s). The hood of the car is seriously crumpled and an odd chemical smell escapes from the right side. I realize that I am going to be very late for work, because the car is in bad shape, and the driver will clearly have some ‘splainin’ to do.


Once I realize that no one appears to be hurt, I snap into giddy mode, thinking, “Oh boy, I can’t wait to tell EVERYONE about this!” Blame it on the endorphins or shock or something. I start writing messages to my workmates entitled “You’re never going to believe where *I* am!”


All the while, Mr. Cray-Cray at the wheel is shouting and swearing and pummeling his dashboard, ostensibly incensed at the driver of the car he just hit. (Or perhaps at himself, on some level. He’s no youngster, so he must know by now that if you rear end a car, there’s a 99% chance that you were following too closely. Just a thought.)


Plus, (though I may be reading into things too much here), I’m thinking maybe he should have claimed the 5th, instead of screaming at the top of his lungs, “Not AGAIN! I can’t believe this is happening again! FUCK!”


Yes, my friends, THESE were the first coherent, more or less non-profanity-laden sentences to fly out of his mouth, post-impact. Just a teense implicating. As to his accident-prone-ness-icity.


So let me get this straight, Mr. Ginger Principal Mustache Man. Either this is not your first accident in your brand new car, or perhaps it’s just not your first idiotic move with casual carpool riders who are trusting you with their lives. Would’ve been nice to know this before I got in.


At any rate, it takes him a full couple of minutes after all of this went down, to remember there are other people in his car and perhaps it might be good to inquire as to their health.