*Editor’s note: I wrote this piece a few weeks ago and then opted not to post it. The same thing happened to me three weeks in a row, so I’m posting it now.
99 minutes. That’s what the sign said. At this point, I’d already been in the car for 20, maybe 30 minutes, but according to the sign, it would be another 99 minutes to my destination. My destination was work, where I go every single day. I wish I could call the sign a big, fat liar, but I can’t. It was being honest with me.
Yes, this is going to be an angry diatribe against commuting. I hope you stay to commiserate, but I won’t blame you if you want to get out now.
There’s a story I heard on Car Talk several years ago that stuck with me. Tom, in his younger and more vulnerable years, had a job he liked at a company he liked, but it just wasn’t right. Here he explains what finally pushed him over the edge and caused him to quit.
“…The schlep was getting to me— an hour each way. I couldn’t move to Foxboro, because it was nowheres-ville. I HAD to live in Cambridge (my Fair City). BUT, what finally did it was a tractor-trailer truck that almost did me in on Route 128 on my way to work one day. Shaking in my little MGA after that experience, I asked myself a simple question. “If I had bought the farm out there on Route 128 today, wouldn’t I be bent at all the LIFE that I had missed?” I drove to work, walked into my boss’s office, and quit.
My boss was convinced that I had taken a job with a competitor. He just couldn’t understand the actual truth. Life was the issue.”1
I’m with Tom on this one. LIFE is the issue. I’ve always been a commuter. Even when I was staying in London, I had to take the tube for nearly an hour each day to get to class. And whether I live down south or on the east side, there’s just never been an easy way to get where I’m going. It’s exhausting.
In my recent games class, another commuter, one who has to go from the east side to the west – a far shorter distance than I travel in length but not necessarily in time – designed two games based on commuting. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my frustrations, but then, if I were alone, it would make it so much easier to get back and forth to work. I read somewhere that as costs of living in the city go up, more people opt to live in the suburbs and commute, pushing more cars on the road and increasing travel times.
I’m sorry that I am contributing to the gridlock but living in the city no longer suits me. I’d be bitching about that far more than I do commuting. Really the best, and as I see it only, option here is for me to get out of the rat race entirely. Now if only I had a brother with a thick accent and cackling laugh who wanted to open a mechanic shop and share auto advice on the radio.