When I started seminary many years ago, I carpooled the 77 miles each way with an assortment of in-flux characters. (We'll use code names here to protect the innocent.) It was a complex system. Mondays I rode with Andrew. Tuesdays and Thursdays with Rick, alternating semesters with Andrea, and I don't even recall why or when Sam was travelling with me. We were all in transit, from one city to another from one life to another.
Andrea was a stunningly pretty and very intense Baptist seminarian who held up her life as an example for all to follow. Andrew was a budding writer and adjunct professor. Sam was a law student. Rick was a PhD in philosophy and another adjunct, but he also waited tables with me. I was a former teacher turned seminarian who held three jobs to pay the bills. Other than being without health insurance and the road, there were no ties that held us all together.
What I slowly noticed about the carpool was that although I was the only link between all the carpoolers, we started to talk alike, share the same ideas, come to unexpected conclusions together. At first I thought it was kismet. Andrea felt that God was leading the way, to which Andrew quipped, "Shouldn't God be chipping in on the gas, then?" Sam by nature and training questioned everything including the meaning of "same" or "ideas". Rick said it was just too much time breathing the same air.
I was reminded of the carpool on several occasions recently. When a handful of other bloggers and I were all charmed by the "Leading Lady/Man" test... when I read a ridiculously perky Sunday edition of the Washington Post... when my family collectively ping pongs between hope and despair in the hospital waiting room as my dad is in the ICU. It is all the carpool effect. I've just made this up, but in my sleep deprived state, I think I'm onto something.
The Carpool Effect says that any group of people will begin to share significant personality traits if exposed to one another for long enough. The shared traits can be linguistic, emotional, sense of humor, philosophical, even their subsequent life decisions. The evidence of the Carpool Effect in the original carpool was:
1) Rick and Sam both left their careers and took up dramatically different ones. Rick went from philosophy professor to cop, Sam from lawyer to doctor.
2)Andrea was called by God to leave her perfect exemplary life and begin prophesying. Like Hosea, Jeremiah, and others before her, this did not go well. Unfortunately in our day and age the gift of prophesy is called by many names, all of them in the diagnostic manuals used by psychiatrists. It is reported that she completely forgot about her life during the carpool years and never became a minister.
3) Meanwhile Andrew almost died from some sort of organ breakdown and after his transplant had moderate amnesia. It is reported he was unable to continue with his critically acclaimed writing.
4) Less interesting, we all took up some of the same hobbies, shared recipes and colds, and told the same jokes for about 18 months.
The evidence of the Carpool Effect in recent weeks is:
1) When have UU bloggers ever agreed on topics (without the prodding of an umbrella group)? And of all things to agree on... the leading man/lady test? I know over 10 bloggers and others who have found this worthy of contemplation and posting. This could only be the Carpool Effect.
2) I take the Sunday Washington Post at the house. One Sunday the professional obituaries were centered on a theme of "Heartless Bastards Finally Die." The next week they were grouped around "Wonderful People Kick the Bucket. Drats." Other articles throughout other sections held the theme. I imagined all those Post journalists in a very large sedan working each other into the same mood, breathing the same air.
3) And then there's family. While my father is in the ICU my Uncle Dan is visiting to watch over his brother and help the rest of us. Uncle Dan deserves several sermons and a blog devoted solely to him. Uncle Dan is NOT in the carpool. He arrived one week after our ordeal began and he was like Mary Poppins rolling into the nursery. Until his arrival, when we were up - we were all up, and when we were down... ugh.
Uncle Dan has cheated death on numerous occasions, one quite recently. He has completely resisted the carpool effect. We all go up. Dan stays steady. We all go down, and he is still steady, hopeful, encouraging. The result is a new carpool in my house. The children are happier. My husband and I are calmer. Things seem less bleak. Uncle Dan is definitely the driver around our place.
I'm sure you've been waiting for a point here. I'm too tired for that. But on next great day you have, look around at those with whom you shared it. And next time everything goes to the dogs, look at your carpool then, too. We really do have a strong effect on each other. The people we share our lives with matter in this moment, and when we are no longer together. As I always say when we have a crop of new members join the church: now that you are here, we are different.
Finally a shoutout to Miss Kitty, a lovely blogger in the great Pacific coast of America. She breathed a little breeze of sweetness that made it all the way across the country and helped me through this day. Her blog is now on my links. Check her out.