Neighbors: Carpooling It on the Grocery Run!

Aug 14, 2008

One of my own nifty neighbors has gone from “Roving Random Shopper” to “Carpooling Shopper with a Plan”.

“If I ever had any free time, I used to just hop in the minivan and cruise,” says this 40-something healthcare worker. “If I saw something I liked in a window, or if somebody put up a “Sale!” sign I could see from the highway or whatever, I’d just pull over and pop in if I wanted,” she remembers with a smile. “But that party’s over!”

“It was like Dawn Patrol,” she says. “Start out early, pack some bottled water, charge up the cell [phone], gas up, and literally go to town—all over the place!” When asked if the cell phone was for checking on goods and services in the area, she responds: “No. It was for calling up girlfriends to tell them what great stuff I was finding out and about…Sometimes they’d get in their cars and meet me somewhere so that we could run around together.

“Imagine that,” she laughs. “Two or three of us driving two or three vehicles to the exact same places—and we weren’t even buying that much! We didn’t think anything of it.”

Enter the economic recession/depression/downturn/freefall/fiscal fiasco/monetary maelstrom of the present day.

“At first I felt like it was some sort of punishment, having to all of a sudden—well, think—before I set out for somewhere. I was used to things being different, you know, before the gas thing started.

“But with prices going through the roof, I was forced to step back and think this thing out,” she says. “As a single mother with two eating machines in high school, I was getting whacked, hard, by all this stuff that’s happening now.”

Now past the shock of today’s economic climate, this woman and a few friends have recently set up a single day per week for grocery shopping, and they’re trying to stick with that strategy. “My friends and I do our food shopping in basically the same places, so some of us are now carpooling for the first time, and trying to get that done together.”

How easy is that to coordinate among several people? Is it not a logistical nightmare? “You’d be surprised how much fun it can actually be—and we’ve already begun to see savings on gas!” she reports.

For such an undertaking, she explains, “the main thing is to decide whether there’s going to be a regular car and driver, or if you’ll all be taking turns.”

This one-time freewheeler says the crew now maps out a sequence they’ll follow, and as yet, there has not been a rash of gas-sapping detours. Time spent in transit is generally given over to catching up on each other’s news, discussing future plans, and of course, saving the world—a favorite pastime of friends everywhere.

Ah, and there’s one more thing Our Heroine says helps a great deal when, as in her case, as many as three people pile into a single vehicle to go shopping together: “It really helps if everybody’s ready on time.

“It’s not like we’re hustling to get to work or anything,” she says, “but nobody wants to grow old in a car just waiting for someone to finish their sweet roll.”

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