Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Commuting: My Sentence

Posted by PintofStout on February 15, 2006

The day starts early. Cold and groggy, you feel your way through the darkened house to find coffee or a shower or both. If you lived closer to work, you could sleep in for another half hour or more. It may not seem like much, but ask anybody who just got up earlier than they wanted to and the 9 minutes of snooze will pale in comparison to a full uninterrupted half hour. Why do we do it?

We get up earlier and risk our lives (quite literally, did you ever see the accident statistics related to distance traveled?) so that we can live in a suburb or so that we can have a choice of a better job. The price of a better job has serious costs, though. Financially, I may be able to do better with a lower paying job that was closer to home. Besides the cost of going to work such as clothes, lunches, donations for group gifts, and possible training or education; transportation is probably, by far, the most expensive aspect of working. Like trying to douse a fire with gasoline, we try to improve our lot in life by traveling further in the name of a buck. We pay for the vehicle itself, insurance to drive the vehicle (forced at gunpoint to buy this), gas, oil, tires, and any repair that may require the sale of a kidney (made illegal, unfortunately) to pay for; all so we can make $1.50 more an hour.

Objectively, the higher wage can be worth it; with some critical thinking and a calculator, you may find that after the cost of this new job, you’re still doing better than before. Subjectively, though, you have harder questions to answer. For instance: How much is your time worth to you? Can you handle the long, thoughtless act of driving for that long? and is all this worth it?

My commute takes an hour each way (slightly longer than the average at my company and only shorter than only two other employee commutes). That is 10 hours per week spent unpaid, unproductive in my car – 25% of the time working or 20% of time spent on work (including the commute). This time spent with the other assholes behind the wheel frustrates sometimes and saps all energy and motivation other times. While troops in combat sometimes have the 1000-yard stare, a long commute can give a driver the half-mile stare by the time the commute is finished. These are just the effects from driving. Sitting in traffic amplifies the effects like ecstasy at a Michael Jackson sleepover.

What else could be accomplished in that 10 wasted hours of my week? Well, I could watch most of the entire Star Wars saga on DVD (13.4 hrs)(Fast forwarding through credits and slow parts). I could have driven to warmer climes (Virginia Beach, 8.22 hrs., Nags Head 10.2 hrs.): I could have flown much further. I could mow my lawn 10 times, or expand my garden, or actually cook a nice dinner during the week (with lots of time left to enjoy it). Perhaps I’d read half of a long book or two or three short books (who knows how much you can read in 10 straight hours). I could play half a game of Civilization II (although I can get the 1000-yard stare from this, too). I could write 10 blog entries. I could attend night classes. There are endless possibilities rolled up into 10 hours per week of driving to and from work.

I feel beaten into submission by this commute and this job to the point where resistance is futile. A change is possible, but the nature of the situation makes realizing that change much harder. The situation I’m trying to see through is fogging my ability to perceive. So I resign myself to this seemingly inevitable life sentence of spending a good deal of my life inside my car, driving where I don’t really want to go, only to have to drive back; not really getting anywhere.

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