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   Date: 12/5/08

Together, the Ride Goes Faster

Carole Fuller, director of strategic marketing in College Relations, began carpooling this fall when Smith joined the UMass Rideshare program, which offers a carpool matching service. She writes about the experience for the Gate.

Carpooling partners (left to right) Pam Lester, Carole Fuller and Deb Letourneau.

Carpooling 101

By Carole Fuller

It’s cold and a little dark at 7:45 a.m. in the Greenfield armory parking lot. Within minutes, three cars swing into spaces. It takes a few minutes to transfer gym bags, briefcases, purses and lunch bags into the designated “car of the day,” but soon the 25-minute ride to Northampton is under way.

Our trio has been carpooling from Greenfield to Smith for about six weeks: Pam Lester, marketing specialist in the Smith Executive Education program, hails from Gill; Deb Letourneau, a longtime Smith employee now in the Office of Admission, is from Montague Center; and Carole Fuller, who works in College Relations, lives in Greenfield.

A carpooling arrangement among three people with distinct schedules is a surprisingly tough thing to coordinate, we have found. Deb takes classes and has duties in Admission that vary her departure times from the office. I have activities that occasionally change my commute for three to four days at a time. And during the growing season, Pam, a member of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), picks up her weekly allocation of produce from The Food Bank's farm store in Hadley.

Still, it’s working for us.

Although each of us had thought about carpooling for some time—particularly as gas prices shot up—we found it difficult to locate rides until recently, when Smith joined the UMass Rideshare program, which offers a free carpool matching service. Within a few hours after Smith promoted the program to the college community, we found one another and were emailing to see if we could create a working arrangement.

I know for many people, the ride to work is the only “private” time they have all day. But by riding together, we discovered we have things in common, and the trip seems to go faster with conversation. We are also comfortable being quiet, especially in the mornings.

“I work with a lot of deadlines and details,” says Deb, “and not having to drive all the time removes a little of that stress from my day. It’s nice to know I can just ride along for a third of the trips.”

Pam gets pride points for a morning workout at the Greenfield YMCA well before 7:45, and the Yankee thrift demonstrated in her tips on all sorts of bargains. Deb’s day extends on the other end with early evening classes whose discussions often find their way into travel conversations. All three of us are gardeners, cooks, and food preservers, so growing tips and recipes enter the conversation, as does talk about what’s happening at Smith.

There’s never any money exchanged because it’s too complicated with the shifting schedules. Instead, we decide who is driving during the next week and what days we are on our own. We trust that it all evens out over time, and no one has to feel stressed because their schedule changes and they can’t be the driver.

It helps to have three mature women who can organize projects —and, importantly, who have a great sense of humor.


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