Brimming with optimism about his new carpool arrangement, my husband (H) gleefully calculated his fuel savings and congratulated himself on doing his bit towards saving the planet. His workplace, near Reading, was a congested 40-mile route from where we lived in Surrey; plagued with frequent accidents, road works and frustrating delays. Not to mention £75 a week spent on petrol, and the toll it took on H’s mood. By Friday night, when he eventually peeled himself out of the car, he was monstrous. Complex public transport links would only have got him to work in time to leave and come home again. Moving house wasn’t feasible, as his employment was short-term and uncertain (see previous blog: Redundancy).
One of H’s colleagues lived in the same village as us, just a few streets away. She had also reached the end of her tether with the commute so, together, they cooked up a carpool plan. There was no way around the ghastly journey but at least they could save money and take turns to drive (alternate weeks). It would alleviate wear and tear on their cars, too, which would help massively because our long-suffering Renault Megane was beginning to hint at its displeasure at the gruelling mileage.
The money saving was significant (50% saving, over two weeks).
It seemed like an ideal solution and, despite the cruel 5.15am starts (she liked to get to work early and leave on time, which allowed H no flexibility) they continued the arrangement for some time. The money saving was significant (50% saving, over two weeks). H’s road rage had almost abated and he was getting home at a reasonable time. They chatted about work, engaged in small talk and her choice of radio station only mildly offended H’s sensitive musical ear.
Several months into the arrangement, H began grumbling about the shared ride, mainly over disagreements about timing. Inevitably, there were times when one or the other would need to work late. Both were at the peak of tricky projects, over which H’s carpool partner pulled rank. Her more senior position became an issue as work stress spilled into conversations during the journey.
Her temper was legendary in the office but H had not previously been privy to its full force.
Her project was understaffed and H was, coincidentally, drafted in to mop up the excess workload, on top of his own. Her temper was legendary in the office but H had not previously been privy to its full force. A bizarre spat brewed over which colour she wanted certain parts of a spreadsheet highlighted in. She launched into a furious tirade at H, standing up in full view and earshot of the entire open plan office, turning increasingly red, and threw in a few choice insults at him, too.
The ride home was silent. She was driving, and H, though still reeling, had no choice but to keep his feelings about her outburst (which he later described as nothing short of psychotic) to himself until he got home. He decided that the money on fuel was worth every penny just to have his car to himself, and to regain the timing flexibility he’d lost. He took great satisfaction in choosing his own radio station, too.