July 22, 2008

casual carpool, serendipity and radovan karadzic

Casual carpool” is one of those (sub)urban fabric things that makes life in the Bay Area go ‘round…and occasionally makes it just a bit more interesting. Every morning commuters gather at one of a couple dozen sites in the East Bay, matching up drivers with passengers to make the trip across the Bay Bridge. Passengers get a free ride into the city, and drivers get passage into the H.O.V. lane, and a free ride through the toll plaza. I’ve been doing casual carpool (as a passenger and a driver) on and off for about the past 10 years, and every once in a while something extraordinary happens.

This morning on my way in I picked up two passengers, and with the radio tuned to our local NPR affiliate (I’m fairly certain that there’s a law on the books in Berkeley that states that casual carpool vehicles must have their radios tuned to NPR), we made our way to the bridge.

The lead story in the 8:00 hour was, of course, the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the man behind the three-year siege of Sarajevo and the massacre at Srebrenica. As the story began, a gasp came from woman in the back seat of the car, and while the story played on she interjected with the occasional sotto voce “Oh my God” and “Finally.”

When the story ended, she offered up an explanation. “I worked for the United Nations for two years collecting evidence for the case against against Karadzic,” she said. “I’ve waited a long time for this.”

Every once in a while casual carpool produces nice little moments of serendipity…and I’m sure the occasional missed connection. This morning took the cake for me: this stranger had devoted two years of her life to the case, and I got to witness her hearing the news of his arrest for the first time. As the kids would say, [this is good].

As she got out of the car at 2nd and Howard, I offered my usual “Have a great day.”

“I already am,” she replied.