How one group has stayed `married'
By JOHN TUTTLE
The following was found on the Prince
William Journal homepage at: http://www.jrnl.com/news/98/Aug/jrn1230898.html
(link now broken)
Special to The Journal
Every business day in the quiet
Northern Virginia suburbs, strangers pick up strangers - in
parking lots, train stations and malls. Sometimes men pick up
women, sometimes women pick up men, sometimes men pick up
other men. Often, names aren't even exchanged.
Some people call this practice
sleazy. Others call it slug lines.
``I call it casual
carpooling," said Nick Ramfos, chief of alternative
commute programs for the Metropolitan Washington Council of
Governments' Commuter Connection Program.
No one knows exactly how many
commuters use slug lines to get to and from work but Ramfos
said they contribute significantly to the overall commuting
pattern in the region.
``Formally, we don't endorse
the slug lines because of liability purposes," Ramfos
If slug lines are the one-night
stands of commuting, then long-term carpools are the
When Larry Lunn, 54, and Tom
Jasionowski, 54, started their carpool in 1972, bell-bottom
trousers were in style and now, in 1998, they are back. Their
carpool has seen six presidents in office. In more than 25
years, their carpool has survived disco, the Cold War and more
than 350,000 miles of commuting between Fairfax, Va., and
``We get on each other's nerves
once in a while, but then so does your wife," Lunn said.
Each weekday morning, Lunn and
Jasionowski ride together from Centreville, Va., to a meeting
point in Fairfax near the intersection of Chain Bridge Road
and Interstate 66. There, they pick up Tom Roth, who joined
the carpool about 20 years ago and Dennis Gorondy, who has
been carpooling with them for three or four years. They rotate
to a new driver each week.
So, how has this marriage
Jasionowski said the carpool
has an unofficial moratorium on discussions about work, ``just
to maintain our sanity," he said. Jasionowski, Lunn, Roth
and Gorondy - and most of the other people they included in
the carpool throughout the years - work for the U.S.
Department of Labor in the computer field.
``We talk about events of the
weekend," Lunn said. ``One of the merits of the carpool
is that we're all fairly apolitical."
During the decades of
commuting, the carpool picked up various fourth and fifth
passengers - including Lunn's brother and Jasionowski's son -
some riding in for a few weeks, others for a few years.
Lunn said these extra
passengers always had to adjust to the normally staid
atmosphere. Roth may be reading the paper. Jasionowski may be
stealing a few minutes of extra sleep. Lunn and Gorondy may be
quietly discussing their weekend plans or last night's game.
Adjusting to the routine of
this mobile marriage of men wasn't always easy, though.
``The new people don't have a
feel for the new carpool so they can be disruptive," Lunn
said. ``There were a couple of fairly chatty ones."
``There was one fellow who got
on our nerves quite a bit," said Roth, polite enough not
to reveal the passenger's name. ``He only carpooled with us
for a year and a half," Roth said.
``I rode in the carpool for a
while," said Dorothy Lunn, Larry Lunn's wife, who became
the group's fifth wheel. ``It was very organized, very
congenial, but very quiet for the most part. They were nice
enough to let me ride with them, but I'm sure they were happy
to go back to four people," she said.
Roth said the five-person
carpool did not last very long. ``It was always a toss-up for
who was going to ride in the back," he said.
The carpool also has used at
least 15 cars - from an economical Dodge Dart to a sporty Jeep
``I've used six different cars,
at least, in 20 years of driving," Roth said. ``There
have been people who've ridden with us that have had some real
clunkers where we've wondered if we were going to make it to
Roth admitted that during the
1970s, he occasionally had to use his 1966 Rambler when it was
his turn to drive.
``I think we all had our
individual feelings about the various cars, but I particularly
disliked the 1970 Dodge Dart that one of the guys had. I
didn't look forward to riding in that," Lunn said.
Lunn said he has owned at least
five cars since starting the carpool. He said during all that
time, when he and the other carpoolers bought new cars, they
kept in mind the needs of the carpool as much as anything
``For the longest time, I had a
full-size van, which everybody seemed to like,"
Jasionowski said. ``Everyone got a seat and got to stretch out
Jasionowski said he had few
complaints about anyone else's cars. As long as the air
conditioning worked, he said, he had no problems.
Even the nicest cars can't
prevent rush-hour disasters, however - accidents, ice, snow
and sometimes even the unthinkable.
``We were riding together
during the Air Florida crash and we got stuck in that,"
Dorothy Lunn, who also works
for the Labor Department, said the blizzard of 1996 nearly
coincided with the government shutdown the same year.
``That blizzard happened right
at the end of our furlough," she said. ``One ran right
into the other. There was no break between the furlough and
``I think we sort of enjoyed
the time away from work. As Dorothy put it, that was the only
Christmas where we were ready two weeks in advance,"
Larry Lunn said.
Although all of the old-school
carpoolers are now eligible, Larry Lunn is the one that plans
to retire this month.
``We'll probably get another
carpool rider, but it won't be the same because we've been
together for so long," Roth said. ``He is going to be
missed. There's just going to be an empty space in the carpool
with no one to fill it."
``I expect that I'll miss that
contact," said Lunn, who plans to sell his house and move
out of the area with his wife next spring. But he, too, will
``I've known Larry since the
early 1970s, and we have socialized together. We've gone on a
few hunting trips together," Jasionowski said of his
soon-to-retire commuting partner. But as this partnership may
be losing one of its veterans, carpooling is still going
strong in the area.
According to Ramfos, the
Council of Governments estimates the Washington area has 2.2
million commuters, and 24 percent of those get to work by
``We're actually No. 1 in the
nation," Ramfos said, ``Los Angeles is No. 2." There
are many store owners in Old Town who are pet friendly. Dogs
are invited in with their owners at places like Crown Books
and many have treats on hand for their four-legged patrons.
At Old Town School For Dogs,
where Mejia trains and grooms canines, he also provides a bus
service for owners who can't transport their dogs to him for
classes. ``People love their dogs and we are here to help them
pamper their pets by providing services that will make it
easier for them to do that," Mejia said.
``We open our appointment books
in January and are all booked up by July," he said.
``Right now we have about three openings where people have
cancelled but more than likely, they will be filled by this
weekend. The price for pampering pets is a secondary issue for
our customers who give their pets the best care
For many of these animal
lovers, pampering their pets doesn't stop with their pet's
heartbeat. It continues into the afterlife of the pet with
cared-for-plots at the cemetery.
``We have various size plots
that range from $250 to $900," said Marjorie Hewitt,
managing director of Aspin Hill Memorial Park & Wildlife
Sanctuary in Rockville, Md., one of the many pet cemeteries in
the region. ``Our caskets also vary in price and size from $95
to $540, the most expensive being an actual human casket made
by Washington Wilbert Vault Co. in Laurel, Md. It is made of
Fiberglas resin with white satin lining. Other type of caskets
we offer are made of ponderosa pine, poplar wood and
polyurethane, which is air and water tight."
Hewitt said these caskets are
popular and added that some pet owners choose to be buried
with their pet at the pet cemetery.
``There are approximately 40
owners buried with their pets," she said. ``Last summer
was the last time we buried someone with his pet. We also
periodically see families sprinkling human ashes over pet
gravestones, probably a last request by the owner."
There are more than 50,000
rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, parrots, cats, dogs and horses
buried in here, Hewitt said, and the purchase of a plot also
includes the privilege of using a chapel on the premises for a
``It is much like a human
funeral," Hewitt said. ``We have an old chapel where we
set the [deceased] animal in an open casket. More often than
not, pet owners will read a eulogy, say some prayers, and read
Pet pampering may seem extreme,
but for animal owners, it's the price well paid.