“Fill the car with premium gas,” he replied.
“That’s it?” I was surprised by his nonchalance.
“Use your common sense,” he said, then added, “The passenger door doesn’t open from the outside.” And here I’d thought that he’d leaned over to open my door because he was being chivalrous.
And that was it: Halil disappeared into his home, and I drove off in his 1995 BMW. His car was now my car; that was the extent of our sharing.
Details: Sharing options
In the sharing community of locals and visitors, what’s theirs can nowadays become yours or mine. The grass-roots garden of on-the-go give-and-take is growing wildly, allowing travelers to pluck an assorted bouquet of items to enjoy on their vacations: cars, apartments, meals, bikes, boats, local expertise, even friends and dogs.
The homespun rental services and social swaps are rooted in the neighborly tradition of borrowing a cup of sugar or a rake, if everyone lived in a co-op run by opportunists. In many cases, the purveyors want to make a buck off their surplus goods, but they often charge fewer clams than traditional suppliers. Sharing arrangements also foster unique opportunities and interactions that you’d probably never have with, say, the Avis rental agent.
To experience the sharing universe, I assembled a trip to San Francisco based primarily on these outliers. I wasn’t a purist: I flew commercial air across the country instead of hitching a ride through Craigslist or RideBoard.com (Michael: “57 year old and friendly mellow dog driving Route 80. Share driving, gas and hotel room”).
But once on the ground, I relied solely on off-the-corporate-grid services, such as RelayRides (car), Tripping (pals, accommodations), Meal Sharing (home-cooked dinner), Spinlister (bicycle) and Vayable (tours and outings). I also sniffed around Boatbound and PhoRent, which feature recreational vehicles that require helmets or strong captaining skills. I was comforted by the fact that if I crashed the scooter or the speedboat, I could hire Lyft, a ride-share service, to transport me to the emergency room.
The waiting game
Rachel was my first wannabe-share. She wore dangly earrings and beamed a broad smile. In her online profile, she described herself as a “fun creative chef” who specialized in French, Italian and seafood. She called her pre-birthday dinner “Summer Night Delight.”
Rachel appeared on HomeDine, a meal-sharing Web site where members post their let’s-eat events and invite strangers to grab a seat and dig in. She had 20 spots for her San Francisco meal and was charging $22 for raw oysters with pickled serranos, strawberry spinach salad, steak with brie and mushrooms, and French bread pizzas.