It’s true, I had to ease my way into car-pooling. I’m not a morning person, so committing to someone that I will be ready at a particular time is a stretch for me. But, after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and others in 2005, gas prices started sky-rocketing and soon they were above $2! (I know, I wish!).
My first carpool partner was easy; I was living in Decatur at the time and I had a friend and co-worker living several miles away but on my path to work. I drove to her house each day and we’d take turns driving from there. She was also not very punctual in the morning and actually welcomed those (many) times that I was late.We hopped on 285 at Lawrenceville Highway and it was easy-peasy from there.
After moving to EAV, it was no longer feasible to carpool with Laura, so I started looking for someone new. And, thanks to Ride Share, I found Rick* (*names have been changed to protect the innocent). Rick lives less than a mile from me and, at the time, worked about 1/2 a mile from me.
It was perfect! A match made in heaven! Working in Gwinnett Co., I was a little worried about coming out to a carpool partner. I know I (pre) judge harshly, but I worried about the red neck attitudes I might encounter in strangers. After all, Rick is an accountant, a football fan, from the rural south, etc. But, not to worry – Rick is gay too. What luck!
At first, it was really great, I was getting to work on time (Rick was obnoxiously punctual, at least in the morning. Not necessarily in the evenings when it was time to GO!), saving on gas and potentially making friends with someone in the neighborhood. The first day Rick drove, he informed me that I was not to speak to him while he was merging onto the freeway. Ok. No problem.
I quickly learned that this meant I was not to speak to him as he merged onto the freeway, or as he doggedly made his way, as quickly as possible across the 6 lanes of traffic to the HOV lane. Um, we have about 3 miles to make it from the far right to the far left lane. What, I ask, is the hurry?? But, I politely ignored it, chalking it up as a quirk. He never said anything about my driving (I’m a good driver, so what could he say?), so I kept my mouth shut.
As we became more comfortable around each other, we began to share more of ourselves and each other. I would take him with me when I was on chicken-sitting duty for A&J (it was on the way home), he invited me to tour his home and meet his partner. Soon, we were swapping stories about work, about our lives outside of work, about our partners and friends. This was all well and good until the day Rick decided to share with me his allergy issues. Which involved details about his daily nasal clearing routine. Ok. I’m an advocate of natural health and net pots, but I DO NOT need to know the details about your schnoz shoveling. Red flag.
The extreme punctuality began to annoy me. The weird circuitous routes that he insisted were shortcuts, really began to piss me off. I began looking for excuses to not carpool. Or to turn up the radio volume to prevent conversation.
Then, he began falling asleep. At the wheel. We both often napped (as passengers) to and fro work. But, this was always on a sunny day, on I-20. I-20!!! Going 60+ mph!
I tend to be overly polite, worried about hurting feelings, embarrassing someone, to a fault. So, at first, I ignored it. He really was just nodding off and would jerk to almost instantly with barely a swerve. But, then it really began to bother me. Why was I not saying anything to someone who was putting my life in danger?? Someone I didn’t even particularly like? So, I offered to drive more often. Or, drive his car if he felt sleepy. He refused, insisting that he just hadn’t been sleeping well.
It didn’t stop. I learned to watch him closely out of the corner of my eye (watching him directly would have been rude, you know?) and as soon as his chin started to drop, I’d start a conversation. Or, yell, “Hey” or something. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t have a heart attack.
Finally, I was done. I would arrive home so tense and angry and scared and annoyed, my shoulders were like rocks (but not in a good, working out, kind of way). It was time. It was past time.
The next time he dropped me at home, I said that I didn’t want to carpool anymore. It was awful. He protested, insisting that I could drive if I wanted. That he was trying SO HARD to not fall asleep. I was done. I didn’t apologize, or acquiesce. I held firm. I think he cried a little. Honestly, it felt like we were breaking up. But, I’ve never looked back.
What is it, that makes us (ok, me) put up with whatever (our lives being threatened, our boundaries being pushed, our esteem being chipped at), no matter the cost? It has been a few years now, and I’ve graduated to better carpool partners. But, I’ve also graduated to honoring myself better. Not putting up with that which hurts me. I am sorry that Rick felt humiliated or whatever, but I am proud that I put me (though it took a while) and my safety first. And, I look back on those moments as learning lessons.