Seven tips for rideshare / carpool newbies

I recently joined a rideshare to get to and from work, and so far it’s been great. My car mates have been pleasant, it’s really nice not to worry about driving, and what I save in time (thanks to accessing HOV lanes), money (gas, tolls, parking, wear and tear on my car), and stress (road rage) is incredible.

However, in my short time as a carpooler, I’ve learned there are a few unwritten rules you might want to follow in order to stay in the group’s good graces and avoid being “that passenger.” Here are a few suggestions when getting started:

1) GET A FEEL FOR THE VIBE

Each person is different, and each individual trip will likely be different. Get a feel for the personalities of your fellow riders; know who likes to talk and who likes to keep quiet, and check the vibe of the ride on a daily basis. On sunnier days, people might be in better moods and more talkative; when it’s dark outside the energy might be a bit lower. Adjust how you behave to fit the situation.

2) NO-NO ON THE PHONE CONVOS

My wife calls me a mama’s boy because I call my mother every day (in my defense, she IS 3,000 miles away). But once I joined the carpool, I knew better than to call her, or my other relatives and friends, while on the road. Just like on a subway, bus, or any mode of public transportation, people don’t care to hear about the details of your life. So wait until you’re home to hit people up on your phone.

3) YOU’RE NOT ON “AMERICAN IDOL”

I love to sing. And while I think I have a pretty decent voice, it’s not better than the artist singing the song on the radio. That reminds me of a burn my friend said to me once when we were listening to a song in the car and I sang along:

Friend: Who sings that?

Me: Oh, that’s (name of artist.)

Friend: Let’s keep it that way.

It takes almost every fiber of my being not to belt out a song I know the words to, but I refrain because what may sound like sweet music to my ears might sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to others.

4) WATCH WHAT YOU EAT

It’s like that rule at work about microwaving fish – don’t bring stinky food into a carpool. Enclosed space. Lots of people. Trapped smell. When it doubt, leave it out. ‘Nuff said.

5) DON’T BE THE WEAKEST LINK

When the head of the rideshare asks you to be at a certain place by a certain time for pickup/dropoff, don’t disappoint. Allow yourself enough time to get to that location as scheduled, so that you don’t hold up other passengers. We all have lives, and we all want to get back to them as quickly as possible without being slowed down because of someone else. As Mr. Spock said in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” So be respectful of other peoples’ time….and be on time.

6) SILENCE IS GOLDEN, ESPECIALLY AT FIRST

There are many benefits to the fine art of listening. Not only can you learn a lot by keeping your mouth shut, but when it comes to a rideshare, it may help get you in your fellow passengers’ good graces that much faster. I’ve found that many people like to talk (about themselves) more than listen (to others talking about themselves.) So if you cede the floor at first, they may see you in a more positive light. Once you’ve established yourself as a respectful rider and listener, chances are you’ll get your chance to speak.

7) AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

There is a lot to like about being part of a rideshare. Sure, you give up some creature comforts of driving solo, but in my opinion the overall positives far outweigh the negatives: you get a ride to and from work, get to avoid most of the heavy traffic, and you save a ton of money on your commute. To this carpool newbie, that’s a winning combination. Happy riding!

by  Derek Wing

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