review of my commute

June 12, 2007

Let me just say, this is a review of my commute. That is to say, this is a review of MY commute. Not your commute. Not somebody in Los Angeles’ commute. MY commute. So don’t start with me. I’m in a very fragile state right now. On account of my commute.

Logistically, my commute is not complicated. I live almost exactly 30 miles from my office, and the bulk of that commute, 20 miles of it, is on freeway. Freeway widened and improved 4 years ago so we poor humble Utah dirt farmers could show the world that polygamy really is illegal (it is, sort of), and our demographics aren’t THAT homogeneous (they are).

I start each work day by driving from my house at Suncrest, in Draper, at the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, down the mountain three miles to the Holiday Chevron gas station, where I get a 44 oz Diet Coke with a squirt of vanilla, and an apple fritter. At this point in my commute, I am invariably in an excellent humor. I’ve either got NPR on the radio, or, if I got a late start and that unlistenable Diane Rehm is on (by the way, if ever there was a smoking hot older woman who had a face for television and voice for, well, nothing, it’s Diane Rehm. How did this woman end up in radio? And yes, I know she’s got some incurable voice disease—what, do they let people with skin eating viruses host the Today Show?), then I’ve got my iPod hooked up to my stereo and I’m losing myself in the music, the moment, I own it.

But a mile from the Chevron, I get on the freeway, usually at Bangerter. And within a mile, 3 times out of 5, I stop dead on the road. Now, if I actually knew in advance which of the 3 times a week this was going to happen, I think I could handle it. In fact, if this happened 5 times out of 5, well, that would be wonderful, because then I would make other plans.

It’s the randomness that sucks me in. Maybe today will be the day I make it to the office in 28 minutes. Today nobody will jam their mascara stick in their eye and drive their Hummer into the guardrail. Today will be the day someone gets a ticket, but the other 18 million commuters actually decide that none of the rest of us gives a flying, um, care in the world, and we just drive by.

But it is not this day.

I have a question. How many of you have ever gotten in an accident while driving on the freeway? Show of hands.

Do you know why people don’t tend to get in accidents on the freeway? I’ll tell you. Because the freeway has no traffic lights, no cross traffic, no sudden changes in speed, no little rubber balls bouncing out in the road, no dogs. Just between two and six fifteen-feet wide lanes that go pretty much in a straight line to wherever you’re going. What that means is, accidents on the freeway are generally the result of retards and their victims.

I’m a tolerant guy. Really. Seriously. I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon of bad drivers coming from a particular state, region, class, ethnic group, anything. We’re all bad drivers. We all make stupid mistakes. Buuuuuuut. Let’s step back a second.

How many of the accidents that slow down traffic would you really call accidents? And by accident, I mean, your car actually has a mark that indicates you hit something you shouldn’t have. Maybe once every two weeks is the accident that turns my commute from a 30 minute chance to collect my thoughts into a brake tapping, stop-and-go aggravation an actual crash, a jack-knifed semi-trailer, a roll-over, or really, anything other than a “hm, lots of traffic today, hey, look at that, somebody is actually up on that billboard, wait, never mind, it’s just a dummy for a workplace safety ad, whoooah! Look, traffic in front of me has slowed since we’ve just come upon a major interchange, whoops, I bumped the SUV in front of me, let’s stop traffic dead for the next hour while we decide if we should just argue right here in the middle lane, or move to the shoulder, what? The shoulder you think? Okay then, which shoulder? And who’s calling the cops so we can add some flashing lights to this retard-fest?”

Okay, I’m taking my pills, calming down now.

Until I start home from the office, which is maybe two miles from the freeway. Takes me 20 minutes. No, not to get home, to get TO THE FREEWAY.

Whose idea was this, talking about my commute?

Let’s look at the alternatives:

1. Ride my bike to and from work. 30 miles. Massive amounts of traffic. Carrying a messenger bag with my clothes. Maybe 1.5 hours to 2 hours. You know what, no, I’m not doing this. My bike is my recreation, my escape. If I start riding to work and back, and I’ll just end up hating my bike. And I love (LOVE) riding my bike.

2. Motorcycle. I like this. I borrowed a motorcycle for much of the summer. Motorcycles are cool. HOV lane, wind in your hair (well, wind in your helmet vents), all that, I liked it. But I can’t carry a bike for lunch rides, no good in winter, can’t carry skis, and I’d have to actually BUY a motorcycle. Not gonna happen. [Update–I bought a motorcycle. Love it, for the 3 months of the year it’s usable for commuting in Utah.]

3. Drive to TRAX station in Sandy (maybe 10 miles from house), take train from there. Get to read book, listen to ipod whole way, could still drive on days when I want to backcountry ski early morning or bike at lunch. Only downside is guaranteed one-hour commute, each way. On the other hand, I can read, listen to ipod, just sit. Did I mention that already? I save much money in gas. Plus, the regular commute is turning into an hour anyway, 3 out of 5 days a week. And on some days I could ride my bike to the train if I wanted. [Update–I don’t work downtown anymore, this option is OFF the table.]

Oh, I almost forgot, let’s grade the commute (and by we, of course, I mean me—like you get a vote, who are you anyway?)—my commute, like the ending of King Lear, gets my big fat middle finger, new school/old school style, finger fully extended, none of that couched between index and ring finger, look-I’m-a-girl kind of finger, but a full-on middle finger finger. Cuz that’s how I roll. And my kids tell me the framed middle finger is gay now. And I don’t need that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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