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This couple's rule ... carpool
Riding together helps husband and wife bond, save gas

In a busy, two-income household, sometimes a couple's gotta get a little creative if they want to spend some more time together.

Charlie and Anne Ellison have found a way to do exactly that - not to mention that it helps them avoid wear-and-tear on both their cars and saves them plenty of money on gas.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Ellisons carpool, commuting from Walton County to Gwinnett.

"We usually take his car," Anne said, referring to her husband's fuel-efficient Scion XV, "which he loves. And of course, it's a lot better on gas, so that helps, too."

Charlie, who typically gets dropped off first, works at Oakland Meadow School, a special entity school in Lawrenceville. Anne, meanwhile, is a part-time employee of Micromeritics Instrument Corporation, a Norcross company that manufactures scientific instrumentation.

Anne said her workplace is actually where the idea originated.

"Our company at Micromeritics, we joined forces with the Clean Air Campaign," she said, "and we've got at least 10 or 15 people here who do some sort of carpooling."

It's even easier for the Ellisons, who don't have to stop by any other houses.

The arrangement, it turns out, is beneficial in several ways, the couple said. For the first 90 days they rode into work together, the Atlanta-based nonprofit paid them $3, as long as one of them logged in.

Soon, their names were being entered into giveaway drawings, for which they were eligible to win Visa gift cards. Charlie has already won twice so far.

Anne, who has been participating in the Clean Air Campaign longer but has never had her name drawn, said, "Lo and behold, like, the month after (Charlie) started logging in, he was one of the $25 Visa gift card winners. And it was so funny, because apparently that very same day, they had picked his name a second time."

But it isn't just about saving money on gas or collecting monetary rewards.

"It also gives us a chance just to communicate on things that we normally wouldn't in the morning," Charlie said.

On the road, the two discuss errands they need to run, assignments they're working on and their general day-to-day lives.

"We're apart, as are most people, eight or 10 hours a day," Charlie said. "So just that little extra time that we get to spend together is always nice."

Anne agreed, adding, "We don't always talk about serious things. Sometimes we just have fun discussions, or find out what happened to the other person during the day and such."

Riding in the same car after a long day of work has advantages, as well.

"Sometimes," Anne said, "I can talk him into going out to dinner, since we're already out."

Charlie said it often beats having to ride hungry all the way home to fix something.

For some couples, sitting together in traffic each day might lead to arguments. But the Ellisons, who will celebrate their 15th anniversary in April, haven't run into any problems so far. Well, except for one:

"I will say this," Charlie said. "This is the only controversial issue: She requires a little more heat than I do. I have to roll the windows down to get more air, and she turns the heat up full blast. But other than that, it's pretty good."

Perhaps just as importantly as fostering a healthy marriage, the Ellisons' arrangement cuts down on air pollution.

"The Scion XV that we drive already gets 35 miles to the gallon, which is great," Charlie said. "But (carpooling) does help the environment as well, so we're not out there with two vehicles. I mean, really, when you're both going in the same direction anyway, why would you do it any other way?"