Blogging Through Team Brown and Caldwell's Carpool Adventures

Carpool Log: Thursday, July 24, 2008 – Something Smells Rotten in the State of Colorado


Jack's Story:

Not a day goes by…

Months from now when Kati and Sarah and their families have nearly forgotten about their experiment in carpooling and Kati's car smells normal again, a hint of skunk will still drift behind me, my wife and my dogs.

The dogs got the worst of it, but fie upon whoever said "close only counts in horseshoes." Close counts in skunk. Just ask my carpoolies.

Through the stench, it's hard to come up with chatty blogma about schedules and gas savings and camaraderie.

But it occurred to me last night that I'm not very close with my coworkers. A few groups of BC employees have pretty close relationships, have dinner at each other's places, have to crash on each other's couches sometimes. While I like just about everyone I work with and enjoy their company both at work and at functions outside the office, Kati is the first to see my house (as far as I know). We've been renovating a disastrous yard, so it's not much fun to have folks over unless it has snowed. The front yard has come under some semblance of control, so I hope change is afoot.

Now that the air in my office is humid with Glade odor neutralizing spray, two things are clear – Glade odor neutralizing spray does not cover skunk, and I will never have the moral footing to protest my officemates' colognes or perfumes.

Wish me luck hitching a ride home.

Kati's perspective:

I drive by Jack's house this morning to pick him up. I remember the location because it's the one with the forest of flowering foliage.

Jack and his wife have really improved the neighborhood with their green thumbs. They have a lovely home. It's a beautiful morning, the sun is shining, the windows are cracked.

Just as Jack enters the car, I get a whiff of something familiar, and slightly offensive. Those darn skunks! So, as we pull away, I say to Jack as I'm rolling the windows down all the way, "I smell skunk, let me air it out. Yuck." Sheepishly, Jack replies, "Uh.. that's me. But I brought Glade."

Sarah gets in on the ordeal when we pull up to her house, and she opens the front door to witness Jack spraying himself down quickly before re-entering the car for the rest of the trip to the office. Are you kidding me! This is just too much. Needless to say, we laughed until we cried, all the way to work. I work on a different floor than Jack, but every couple of minutes I think I catch a hint of odor wafting… is it on me now? Is it in my clothes?

Mental note: Glade odor neutralizing spray does not neutralize skunk.

Hey Jack – good luck hitching a ride home.

Sarah's perspective:

Okay – so it is always a concern that your carpool buddy might not wear deodorant, have garlic breath, or have eaten beans for lunch.

These are real, everyday items a person might expect out of a coworker. But this skunk bit far surpassed the realm of the expected. This is "out of the box thinking."

Monkey arms had portions of his body hanging out the window all the way to work this morning. With the windows open and skunk boy in the back we were able to make it to work without being absolutely overwhelmed. We also got to hear, with greater clarity, the high pitched whine that Kati's car makes when in motion. Altogether it was unbelievable. I am nearly in tears writing this.

Someone asked this morning if we were going to keep on carpooling next week. This week has been such fun, I am sad to see the challenge reach its final days. Writing a blog with Kati and Jack has been an enlightening experience – Jack can really make a person laugh (and I already know Kati well so her personality/words don't surprise me).

Makes you think that time spent in close quarters with coworkers each morning and evening could possibly make for a better working relationship -- or it could make you throw up. Good luck getting home tonight Jack. Oh – and I have been to your house Jack – to pick up the crutches.

Now that is another story all together.


Carpool Log: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 – The First Schism


Sarah's take:

Kati and Jack were quick to point out that they were ready to leave yesterday at 4:45 p.m. as planned. I ended up getting down to the car about 7 minutes late because I was intercepted by my boss. What can you say to your boss? Sorry, I have this carpool thing? Well, I did say that – and it did help to speed things along. However, "I have to meet my carpool" or "I have to catch my bus" isn't my favorite thing to hear from people when I need them to do something for me. Work gets in the way.

We had our first schism this morning. Kati and I were ready to go from my house and Jack was a no show – so at about 7:40 we decided to roll. We did a bit o' the car seat musical chairs dance this morning, but it was easier since we didn't have to squeeze Jack and his monkey arms (note that Jack named his own arms, I did not) into the back between two car seats.

Turns out that Jack had to ditch us and ride his bike in at 5:15 this morning to put in some more hours at work. Work gets in the way.

I may have to ditch this afternoon and go home early to prepare for a big family party at our house this evening. It is only Wednesday and the Carpool Gang is starting to fall apart. But we still like each other – so we are having fun falling apart, I guess.

Jack weighs in:

You'd think a couple of DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) would naturally be able to work at home. But we cook up all sorts of "other," and professional work simmers on the back burner until it's charred and smoldering and it sets off alarm bells at 4:30 a.m.

So here's the take-home message from missing the morning's commute with Sarah and Kati: I sure enjoyed a cool, quiet, invigorating, sunrise reunion with my bike. Oh right, and clearing the space and schedule at home to allow meaningful work afterhours would ease the pinch that carpooling puts in my schedule.

Kati's two cents:

Yup, work gets in the way.

Like this 11:30 conference call I have today that I prepped for last night (at home). Really wish I would have remembered to bring my work in with me this morning -- turns out I had to run home to grab it, doubling our daily miles. I have a guilty conscience about this that's just tearing me apart right now!

When I mentioned it to my fellow carpoolers, trying to asses whether this is a carpooling sort of issue worth mentioning on our blog versus a Kati-is-a-space-cadet sort of issue that is wholly unrelated, I find I am not alone. Jack's response, "I think it's worth a mention. I would have gone back with you to get my shoes, socks and a belt. Yeah, see you at the office-wide function at noon today..." I'll make sure you grab another picture of monkey arms, this time shoeless, sockless, and beltless (and I'm certain just as cool as a cucumber, regardless).


Carpool Log: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 – Flush-o-Meter Emergency

By KATI PETERSBURG, Senior Engineer, Brown and Caldwell

The trials of the carpool have commenced! At 4:00 pm on our very first day, my fiancé called me at work to ask if I could pick up our daughter from daycare, since he had an emergency at work and had to stay late. Get this – the flush-o-meter (yeah, that's what it's called) valve on a toilet broke, and they had a flood in his building. Uh-oh. I needed to get her by 4:30, but our carpool wasn't leaving until 5:00! What would I do?! I dashed down the hall to grab my fellow carpooler, Sarah, out of a meeting to confer.

After a frantic five minutes and a hurried phone call to Sarah's husband, we had him lined up to take care of my kid until we could all get home. Phew! Meanwhile, Jack sauntered down from the third floor to our 5:00 pm meeting spot just as cool as a cucumber (his usual manner), clueless to our near-disaster here on the second floor. Those pesky kids…

Another thought, my reasons for carpooling are a bit different than most. Since I usually ride my bike to work each day, I was looking for convenience (not having to shower at the office every morning!) and a shorter commute time, from about 45 minutes to 15, each day. I'm finding that, already on Day 2, I miss those miles on my bike. My resolution? I'll be taking a two-hour lunch today to get some miles in. Since my evenings usually demand that I'm a parent before a cyclist (although I try to get in a ride or two with my daughter in the trailer), I may find that this whole carpooling/work thing seriously impinges on my riding time each week.

Carpool Log: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 – The Car Seat Dance

By JACK KEITH, Engineer, Brown and Caldwell

"Is that daddy putting his bike on top of the car?"

"He's not a daddy."

Not yet, he isn't. I'm sure the joys of parenting outweigh the challenges, but carpooling sits squarely on the challenges side.

Take the car seat dance. This one goes there, that one stays here today; will Jack fit where we just took the other one out? A pattern would eventually develop, certain car seat assignments would standardize to meet each day's need, but the dance continues until the little musicians grow out of car seats per Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 213 set forth in Section 49 C.F.R. 571.213, as amended. Dire results for a slight misstep, and I'm sure this one is simple as parenting dances go.

As Sarah's boy pointed out this morning, I also brought provisions for a noon bike ride. Like Kati, the bike commute has become an important part of most days and I miss it. In addition to the workout, it's easy to come and go as the day dictates.


Carpool Log: Monday, July 21, 2008 – Tears, Laughter and a Picnic

By SARAH REEVES, Principal Engineer, Brown and Caldwell

So day one is off to a good start. We gathered at Sarah's house to commute together to work and got off in a reasonable time -- about 7:50.

The kids were left with the nanny and, as we pulled away, we could hear a chorus of children crying and yelling "don't go mommy" and "I want my mommy" from what seemed like all the windows in the house. The nanny had her hands full. A follow-up phone call about 45 minutes later confirmed that the crying was short-lived and that all were well.

On the way to work we used the time to talk about the weekend and the company picnic we had on Friday night.

There is always something to talk about after a company function – so we certainly shared some laughs. There were a number of items from the picnic that needed to come back to roost at work, so the extra hands made easy work to unload the car once we arrived.

As we left the kitchen and went our separate ways we set our take off time at 5 p.m. May all our fires be put out by then.


Carpool Log: Sunday, July 20, 2008 – Small Tips, Big Impact

By JACK KEITH, Engineer, Brown and Caldwell

One way to reduce your commuting cost and your own personal contribution to your city's low-altitude brown cloud is to leave your car in your garage a couple of days a week. Your options are countless.

Have your office phone forwarded to your home and work in your jammies. Your nearest public transit access is probably no more than a couple of blocks away from your house. Getting your bicycle tuned up will pay you back in fuel savings a couple of months from now - your health will benefit immediately. Private van pools coordinate your comings and goings with others who work and/or live in your area.

And if your coworkers live nearby, then a slight adjustment in your schedule is all that stands between you and a carpool. You. Your choices. Your cause and your effect. Your finger pointing back at your own chest.

Well that's one set of expectations - fewer miles driven alone results in less pollution and less money poured into the gas tank. Less money poured into oil and gas CEOs' pockets means more moderate reliance on both foreign and local energy giants. Market influence, household budget, earth and air stewardship. A good start.

While in the company of strangers, making acquaintance is the only way forward. The 30 minutes it takes to meet and ride together could be the only time to gab all day. Coworkers are people, too, full of the stories, opinions and laughs that make shared interaction so sweet and unique in this big universe. Take advantage of the opportunity now while wit and wisdom are sharp, because social events just wont be the same at the senior center no matter how hot bingo night gets.

Carpool Log: Sunday, July 20, 2008 – Small Tips, Big Impact

By SARAH REEVES, Principal Engineer, and KATI PETERSBURG, Senior Engineer, Brown and Caldwell

Carpooling will be a fun way to get to work and to share time with coworkers (always up for a good adventure). Plus we will be doing our part to give Mother Earth a bit of a break on air quality and save a few bucks.

But it isn't as easy for those with kids (Jack doesn't have any offspring yet, but we both do). We expect that it might be a little challenging coordinating schedules and responding to emergencies. Hopefully there will be no need during our carpool week.

Kids make you a little less flexible with your time and therefore with your ability to carpool. Hopefully we won't get Jack's underoos in a wrinkle over our need to leave at a certain time or possible delays in the morning because one of the kids wet the bed or bumped their head. We'll see.