I am the Dagwood of my vanpool. The van leaves the parking lot at 7:27. On a good day I arrive at 7:26:58. My vanmates generously find this habit amusing rather than annoying.
It seems like a small thing, the ride to work in the morning, the ride home at 5, only an hour a day, one twenty-fourth. The more I think about it, though, the more I think our van family, as we call it, is not a small thing.
“Family” rings a bit hokey in cold, hard pixels, but the title fits. Like family, we didn’t choose each other but are stuck with what we got. Also like family we enjoy each other and watch out for one another even though we do not all share religious beliefs, political convictions, or lifestyles.
When a van member’s dad died, we passed the hat for a gift, and a few of us attended the funeral. When a spouse was diagnosed with cancer, someone remembered to check in after each doctor’s appointment until she went into remission. At my novel-finishing party, some of my vanmates helped me celebrate.
We recently had a baby shower, the first van baby since I’ve been riding. “It’s so nice to get to spend lunch with everyone,” the mother-to-be said. There’s no particular reason this statement should be true of sixteen randomly selected people, but it is.
In a world as polarized by insignificant differences as ours is—and probably always has been—I find it remarkable that everyone in this group decided to bear each other goodwill. The vanpool policies do not require kindness; everyone came to this behavior on his or her own, unprompted. And yes, there are vanpool policies. Seriously.
Not to say that we are a community of saints and bodhisattvas. I’m sure I’ve said things that cause others to roll their eyes once they’re off the van. We have our periods of drama and our moments of pettiness, but we show up for each other in small, important ways.
In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron talks about paying attention as a means of connection. On the van, we pay attention to each other’s lives, and, for me at least, it helps.