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Life in the HOV lane

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“Discuss parking, just discuss parking” , I tell myself as my algorithmically asssigned carpool driver was pulling to a stop. For finding someone to carpool, I use a smartphone app that uses a sophisticated mathematical algorithm to combine the worst principles of blind dates with carpools. So your driver could be random- intelligent, handsome, round, ignorant or a neo nazi with tikki torches. I am looking for a safe icebreaker with this stranger – something that wouldn’t give me a black eye or a belly rub during the morning commute. After much contemplation, I decide to use parking because no one likes parking and there can be no debate about it.

Just as the driver pulled in and I was parking my resolve, I heard the music change from chest thumping Bhangra dance beats to the funeral voice of Michael Krasny. Something about me makes people change their radio stations to National Public Radio. Initially, I thought it was my shaggy hair and went with a marine crew cut but it happened again. I thought it was my bad breath and got three root canals and some wisdom teeth extracted. I even switched to Axe deodorant. It has just kept happening. If it does not stop, I may soon have to check in with a therapist or a gastro-enterologist.

As soon as I get into the car, I introduce myself and compliment the driver on a really compact car that can be easy for parking. He goes silent and then tells me that he has had marital issues due to this car especially the parking. I press no further as I don’t want the ice breaker to turn into a jaw breaker. I spend yet another ride in silence reading a Mashable article on 21 things to discuss with a carpool buddy.

The next day, the algorithm matches me with a Tesla. I feel the need to be ready for her. I show up clean shaven and nattily dressed. I even polish my shoes. I don’t prepare for an ice breaker for the driver. It has one hell of a cruise control so I don’t feel that obligated to engage the driver. To my surprise, there is another rider. Sometimes the algorithm does it – speed date combined with carpooling. Instead of riding shotgun in the car, I am pushed into the oblivion of the backseat and I have to be satisfied with just the cup holders.

Then came the big announcement that has changed the carpooling discussion- Amazon’s search for a Big HQ. I have played it off in different ways and every single time it has worked. “By the way, where do you think the next Amazon HQ is going to be? “, “Do you think El Paso, TX and Boring, OR can be the next HQ”, “Will give you a real estate tip- try buying a place around where Amazon opens a HQ and the value is going to shoot up”, “I read somewhere that they are building the new HQ in the shape of the River Amazon “, “Whichever city gets Amazon’s HQ better have good salons because Bezos wants all employees in that HQ to look like robotic clones of him” Amazon has quickly taken over as the Facebook of the middle aged adult. Even people who cannot name the prime numbers are prime members. Everyone loves to discuss their shopping exploits even if it is as ridiculous as solar powered tongue cleaner or a microwave safe hair comb. Amazon is my new comfort zone.

When the ride ends and I get off at work, sometimes I feel perfectly fine and sometimes I am not and there has even been a time when I felt nauseated due to poor driving. Despite its many shortcomings, I do not regret it. As one person driving an expensive electric car, who picked me and another person up on a balmy Wednesday morning, puts it – “I succeeded in taking two cars off the road and I am happy about it.”

Epilogue: Even if you not an environ”mental”, there are ton of other benefits to not driving everyday. I am sure Mashable has a piece about the 33 different benefits of not driving everyday to work.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

September 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Commute, Uncategorized

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