This commute is killing me.
Nah, not really. I’ve just always wondered what it would be like to say that, and, up until now, I
haven’t been able to because the majority of my jobs have been based in downtown Boston. And, while I’m not claiming I never drove to work…(cough:rather frequently:cough)…during that halcyon era of local employment, the truth is, the closest brush I ever had with the mere idea of a lengthy commute was handily averted when one of the companies that fired me in 2002 was considerate enough to let me go three weeks before they moved their offices to the remote little backwater of Westborough, MA (sorry, Jessie, I know you just moved there and I'm sure it's quite bucolic, but now that you’re a suburbanite you’re going to have to learn how to live with the scorn of us elitist city-dwellers). So I was spared the inconvenience of having to invent a more professionally acceptable reason to quit than my mere distaste for having to get out of bed before first light, and I’ve often wondered if the real reason they got rid of me was not because my “position was eliminated” but rather because they couldn’t bear the prospect of having to listen to me complain about traffic for the next ten years.
Thus, this whole business of getting into my car and driving 25 miles to my new place of employment has been something of a paradigm shift, to say the least. My days of sleeping in, lingering over the morning paper long enough to grow incensed over whatever it is I am reading that particular morning, gossiping with the Uber Mommies at the gym over the sorry state of the locker room coffee maker, and meandering off to my little Cambridge office at 11 a.m. or so are but a fond memory. I’m back on Alpha Bitch Time – up at 5:15, at the gym by 6:30, in the shower by 7:15, and on the road by 8 a.m. sharp.
In theory, anyway.
In reality, I am perpetually 13 minutes behind schedule (not counting the three extra minutes I have programmed into all my clocks in an effort to trick myself into moving faster). I am regularly confounded by complications and such unforeseen obstacles as my newspaper being late (an intolerable offense in my information-starved world which, if the hefty holiday tip I left for the carrier has not satisfactorily addressed, the memory of my bleary eyed doorstep tantrum the last time he was late surely will). Fortunately, I have been blessed with a wonderfully flexible and understanding boss who knows full well that, no matter how late I am running, I simply cannot function without my daily stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 62 in West Concord for a medium-sized Cinnamon Spice Coffee, black no sugar, and the occasional Munchkin (well, okay, the daily Munchkin…and it’s really the five daily Munchkins but only because they don’t sell singles) and cuts me some slack when I amble in at thirteen minutes past nine.
I actually like my little routine now – I guess you can get used to anything if you don’t think too hard about it – and it’s really not the commute that bothers me as much as the loss of two potentially productive hours (shut up – I know I already said I used to be a morning ditherer, but think of what I could be accomplishing!) For a while, I took advantage of the opportunity to practice my singing in what is, when the top is up, a conveniently soundproof environment, but once I realized that all those drivers in the next lane snickering at the sight of me belting out the most heartfelt of show tunes to an empty passenger seat were most likely my new co-workers, I resolved to find a less conspicuous means of entertaining myself and decided it was time to start multitasking. I now write my weblog on my way to work.
This task sounds a lot harder than it really is. I actually come up with some of my best ideas in my car, because when I’m not singing show tunes I talk to myself. Quite effusively. I ask myself all sorts of tough, probing questions about the state of the world, respond to them with wit and aplomb, and, I must say, some of my observations are so hilariously profound I despair for America that I’m not starring on my own talk show. Unfortunately, I tend to forget all my brilliant punditry the moment I alight from my vehicle and make my way to my cube (yes, I live in a cube now…go ahead…laugh) so many of my most scintillating thoughts never make it into my writing.
Up until now.
The other day it struck me that I could record my witty observations for posterity and publication by digging out the mini tape recorder I bought last year for client interviews and using it instead to document the inception of my creative process. I now keep it by my side during my daily commute and maintain a running commentary on my thoughts, observations, and opinions about my life, my world, and, predictably, my fellow motorists.
Don't believe me? Well, see for yourself:
A.M. Transcript: December 15, 2004
7:58 a.m.: Note to self: When gas tank warning light goes on during evening commute, generally good idea to stop and fill tank immediately rather than tell self will do next morning on way to work. Should know by now will not have time because NEVER have time. Will come down to choice between being able to look at gas meter without abject terror or foregoing Cinnamon Spice black no sugar and, hence, ability to function for remainder of workday. Not to mention sacrifice of Munchkin.
7:59 a.m. Correction: Munchkins.
8:02 a.m.: Note to automakers still cranking out enormous SUVs without regard to havoc being wreaked on planet: Am writing to Congressman demanding elimination of tax credit now given to selfish Americans who own these stupid behemoths and awarding instead to responsible drivers of fuel efficient vehicles. Bet that will wake you up in hurry.
8:09 a.m. Note to entire Boston metropolitan area: Why oh why such gridlock when only two tiny snowflakes fluttering in air? Snowstorms regular occurrence in this part of country; if you can’t hack it consider relocating to more temperate climate and leave New England roadways to those who can navigate properly.
8:12 a.m.: Note to pedestrians in crosswalk: Either cross or don’t cross. Don’t stand dithering while others wait to let you pass. News flash: state law mandates drivers yield to pedestrians. Will not speed up and hit you while crossing. Must allow you to pass in front of car or risk $150 ticket.
8:13 a.m.: Note to self for future reference: $150 small price to pay to reduce morning aggravation level.
8:15 a.m.: Note to guy in BMW trying to merge in front of me: Don’t even think about it. Saw you in rearview mirror sneaking up in breakdown lane attempting to cut long line of cars already at exit, all of whom understand concept behind “waiting one’s turn.” Crass display of middle finger not intimidating in least. If rules of road not followed by all, chaos will ensue.
8:17 a.m. Note to self: Might be nice idea to do a piece about fireplace entitled “Wood that I Could.” Cute title…but ‘could’ what? Must think on this.
8:23 a.m. Note to tailgater in black Lexus: Please observe it is Nissan in front of me plodding along slowly, not me, so would appreciate you backing off.
8:24 a.m. Note to tailgater in black Lexus now passing on right: Cutting in front of me now putting you directly behind slowly plodding Nissan and will not get you to destination any faster.
8:25 a.m. Note to tailgater in black Lexus now tormenting slowly plodding Nissan: Observe for record my car not tailgating YOU. You should live by example of others.
8:32 a.m. Note to cashier at West Concord Dunkin’ Donuts: Getting coffee poured and Munchkins bagged as I pull into parking lot worthy of gigantic tip. Good customer service not dead in world. Relieved.
8:39 a.m. Note to woman in minivan: My allowing man in Honda to take left turn in front of me from opposite direction is not license for you to piggyback through on his tail. Vehicular etiquette clearly specifies turning allowances voluntary, not mandatory, and extend to one car and one car only. Subsequent vehicles must wait for next kind-spirited motorist and not exploit generosity of first driver.
8:41 a.m.: Note to self: Gas meter warning light frequently inaccurate and fluctuates based on road surface and topography. Do not panic. “0 miles remaining” does not take contributory power of fumes into account. Must stop checking; hyperventilation results in dizziness and increases risk of accident.
8:46 a.m.: Note to heavy equipment operators, including cement mixers, crane haulers, and especially recycling trucks making frequent stops: Appreciate efforts on behalf of environment, but when big line of cars behind you considerate thing to do is pull over and allow all to pass, not rumble along at snail’s pace creating large backlog of angry motorists.
8:49 a.m. Note to aimless retirees going 40 mph in passing lane: Perhaps good idea to leave major thoroughfares to commuters at this time of day. Roadways much more forgiving after 9 a.m.
8:52 a.m. Note to guy in Ford Explorer sporting yellow ribbon stenciled on back conspicuously proclaiming support for Our Troops: Who do you think you are kidding? If you really want to support troops, consider buying smaller vehicle and helping reduce nation’s dependence on foreign oil. That will support troops far more effectively than dumb yellow ribbon.
8:57 a.m. Note to self: Listening to own voice on tape recorder unnerving, but commentary quite amusing and worthy of publication.
8:59 a.m. Note to self: Had good idea for piece but forgot it in rush to praise own amusing publication-worthy commentary. Must guard against unwarranted vanity.
9:00 a.m. Note to self: Arriving at work parking lot at 9 a.m. does not mean on time. Must learn to factor trek from car to cube into morning commute. Will set all clocks ahead by 5 additional minutes to compensate.