carpool highway sign
Carpooling offers many advantages over a solo commute. With one car doing the work of several, your commute can cost up to 75 percent less by reducing the costs of fuel, parking, and tolls. Further, your greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced. In many cases, you’ll get to work faster because most major freeways have lanes set aside for carpools. You’ll feel pretty smug in them, too, cruising past all those people driving alone. Finally, you may also be able to enjoy the company of pleasant individuals. However, if you aren't aware of these top 5 red flags in a carpool partner, the advantages of carpooling could be outweighed by unpleasant situations.
The one thing in life that will never change is the fact that things change. Vacations happen, sick days happen, and business trips happen. People sometimes have to be at work earlier, stay later, or leave in the middle of the day. Some of these situations can be anticipated; others just pop up without warning. The changes you can anticipate should always be worked out in advance with the other members of the group. For the unforeseen issues, the group should have a contingency plan in place, so the rest of the members aren’t stranded if a circumstance arises that makes the car or driver unavailable.
People with unpleasant attitudes are people you will see pretty much every workday. It’s to the benefit of you and everyone else in the group to interview people before allowing them to join your carpool. Ask them questions about their interests; try to gauge their attitudes about things you know others in the pool agree upon. Ask them questions to try to determine the nature of their empathy or compassion. In other words, try to figure out whether they’ll be an asset to the group or a source of tension. People who are quick to anger or who talk about unpleasant topics should be avoided, and such an interview may also give advance warning of some of the other negative attributes of a carpool buddy.
Generally speaking, everyone in the car has to be at work around the same time, so when one person is late, suddenly everyone is late. While it should go without saying, we’ll say it anyway; punctuality is a key factor that enables a carpool function properly. Ideally, everyone should have a pickup time, and within that pickup time there should be a grace period of five minutes or so. If a given member’s pickup time is 7:00 am, and the person isn’t at their pickup point by 7:05 am and hasn’t phoned or sent a text message, that lateness becomes a problem for everyone else in the group.
Though this point is closely related to the previous point, the differences can quickly become apparent as the carpool strays off route. The carpool should exist for the sole purpose of getting the members to and from work safely, efficiently, and affordably. It’s best to limit the activities of the carpool to driving to and from work. Side trips, such as picking up dry cleaning or running into the store for a last-minute dinner item, should not be imposed upon the other members of the group. Nobody wants to wait in the car after a long day at work while someone else attends to a personal need that's better handled on his or her own time.
In most cases, all members of the carpool group have agreed to share the expenses for fuel, parking, tolls and the like. Whatever you come up with in that regard, you want carpool members who will pay up right away, and without being asked to do so. Many people are uncomfortable asking for money they're owed, and lagging behind on payments puts them in an anxious situation. A carpool is essentially a business arrangement, so keep an eye out for red flags that may indicate a potential member can't keep up with the agreement. And if you’re in a situation that makes it difficult for you to pay, be up front about it with the whole group so everyone can figure out an amiable solution to the situation.
Arrangements like carpools fall firmly into the realm of “Do unto others, as you’d have them do unto you.” By and large, common sense and a passing familiarity with social graces are all you need to be a good carpool member. If you find yourself unhappy with a member (or members) of the carpool, your best move is to be up front about it, as diplomatically as possible. Odds are if you’re not happy, other members of the carpool are experiencing some discomfort, too. If it turns out you’re the only one, depart gracefully and find yourself a new group.