Upsurges in work and cabin fever are not the only signs that winter break is on the horizon. Posts begin to sprinkle the Student Digest several weeks in advance, politely inquiring about rides to the Portland Jetport, Boston, New York, and other destinations. Some hopefuls offer gas money in exchange for transportation, while others ply with baked goods and "sparkling conversation."
Do these ride-requesting Digest posts actually get results? "Yes," said senior Sam Minot.
"I've always been surprised at how many responses I get to Digest postings. I've traveled down to Boston or Portland at least five times this semester with people I met up with from postings," he said. "I find Bowdoin students are pretty generous in offering rides, even to people they don't know."
According to the majority of students interviewed, ride sharing often depends on two things: luck, and the destination and direction in question. Some students did report finding fellow classmates willing to go the distance with a stranger in tow.
"I didn't know if people even read the posts or want some stranger getting in their car for six hours," said Francesca Perkins '10. "Last year though, someone was willing to give me a ride to New Jersey for Christmas break."
But when Moriah Churchill '11 asked for a ride to the Lewiston and Auburn area, she got no response.
"It was a more unlikely request, so I didn't really expect a [response] anyway," she said. Tana Scott '10, recalled similar problems.
"I go north to Camden, so ride sharing never works for me," she said.
Students seeking rides to and from Portland, however, said they are generally more successful.
Although the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) sponsors a shuttle to Portland and Logan airports for major breaks, many students opt to forgo the $20 to $30 fee in favor of hitching a ride with a friend.
"This whole ride sharing thing seems to exist only between direct friend groups," said Chelsea Jackson '09.
Cassie Rodrigues '10 agreed.
"For Thanksgiving break, I asked for a ride on the Digest and also sent e-mails to friends who had cars. I got a much bigger response from my friends," she said.
To alleviate what Caitlin Clerkin '11 called a "scramble to get from place to place," other colleges and universities offer more steady ride sharing systems and other transportation options. Schools including Middlebury, Tufts, and Amherst have joined forces with Zipcar, a car sharing service that allows its clients to reserve vehicles. Although Zipcar is usually only available for customers 21 and over, the program has been extended to anyone over the age of 18 on college campuses.
At Tufts and Williams, online ride sharing message boards are offered for students.
Tufts's ride sharing board is not even affiliated directly with the university. Rather, it is set up "by students, for students," and advertises itself by saying: "Need a ride? Offering a ride? You've come to the right place."
Williams student Melissa Pun '10 says that while the online ride boards are useful to a point, "in the end, we usually contact each other via e-mail or Facebook."
Colby and Bates do not offer campus-wide ridesharing resources. An employee of the Colby Campus Life staff said, "Students really make their own arrangements. They send out e-mails and online announcements."
Similarly, a representative from Student Activities at Bates said that students have "better luck online" finding rides.
While Bowdoin does have an online ride board (www.bowdoin.edu/hitch/), it is not widely used; at present the Web site only has four unanswered postings.
"It would be great if we used a ride board," said Minot, "since I feel bad cluttering up the Digest with ride requests, but everyone would have to check it regularly for it to work."
Though Digest posts do not assign ride requests to one category or particular message board, ride requests on the Digest remain popular and effective because of their campus-wide accessibility. After all, even an active ride sharing board does not guarantee transportation home. Students are more likely to find rides with the right combination of luck and a good cookie recipe.