Monday, September 3, 2018

Days commuting are not time lost, but time found


     I'm reading a new report claiming Chicagoans "lost" an average of 503 days commuting over their lives, time they "waste" traveling to and from their jobs.
     I am agog, aghast and aquiver.
      I have been commuting in and around the Chicago area for ... 35 years now, going to newspapers in Barrington, Wheaton and, since 1987, downtown Chicago. I've gotten to work by foot, bike, car, cab, train, bus. I once hitched a ride to the office from Belmont Harbor in a lovely Chris-Craft cabin cruiser.
     However done, commuting has always been among the most pleasurable moments of the day.
      Going back to that first job, at the Barrington Courier-Review, driving my grandmother's little blue Chevy Citation. Stopping at a Dunkin' Donuts to pick up breakfast—a raisin bran muffin and, for desert, a chocolate chip muffin. Reaching into the bag, pulling up the top—the best part, dense and glossy and delicious—and pressing it against my lips.
     I lived in Oak Park when I started working at the Sun-Times, and did at first view my daily commute downtown with alarm. For about for 10 seconds, then shrugged and decided, "I'll just have to read 'Remembrance of Things Past' then." Sitting in the front of the 'L,' a fat volume cracked in front of me, occasionally glancing up from the gardens of Combray to watch the city rushing toward me.
     Some of my most memorable moments came during a commute. After we got married, we moved to East Lake View. Sometimes I'd take the 151 bus,. An elderly gent once tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I didn't realize young people still read Thurber."
      "We do," I replied, smiling. "And thank you for calling me 'young.'"

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  1. I remember hearing older people telling of the joys of a Sunday drive or a Saturday trolley ride. They never spoke of a destination, only the trip. And it was almost always a story of enjoyment. Stories of sights and sounds and just travelling for its own sake.

  2. I especially appreciate this because tomorrow will be my first day of commuting to a new job, after 20 months of self-employment/unemployment. Maybe I'll look into audiobooks.

    I commuted on the train to school starting in second grade. It wasn't as bad as it sounds; there were a bunch of us going to that school, and the older kids looked out for the younger ones (as I did when I got older). We did homework and had fun on the train, and the conductors were mostly nice to us, although I think they were sometimes less than thrilled to see us.

  3. Sigh. If only if it were such a positive experience for women! But public transportation esoecially the el us often, well, hell for women. And please women out there don't say it's always been fine for you, like some did the last time I brought this up after Neil wrote about how great public transportation is. Stats bear out that a large percentage of women are harassed specifically on public transportation. Just cuz it's cold by you diesmt mean climate change ain't real.

  4. I calculated that I spent over 1000 days commuting during my working career. I loved being alone and the drive started being mostly forest preserves. Then the Southwest suburbs like Orland Park started screwing things up for me. But, I remember seeing a huge 12 point buck standing majestically in a driving snow storm along Rte 83. There were other instances that made the drive worth it, plus my kids grew up in one community their entire K-12 experience.

  5. In my mid-forties, I faced a life of "tsouris"...the Yiddish word for "troubles"...I was going through a divorce and living in a dark studio apartment on the same street I had lived on years earlier, as a young single. My downtown office job was extremely stressful and paid next to nothing. For almost a year, the daily commute on the Evanston Express was my only escape (during waking hours) from the misery at either end of the 45-minute 'L' ride. Train, work, train, stare at the TV, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

    I wish I could say I made the most of those dirty, rickety, boringly familiar commutes--books on tape, studying for a course, meditation, thinking deep thoughts, or merely planning an escape from my situation. But after a quarter-century, I mostly remember just trying to decompress...numbly staring out the window at the buildings I'd whizzed past for decades, or losing myself in the minutiae of the sports pages, or trying to read. And hoping there were no delays or slow zones or accidents. The travel times doubled when the Great Chicago Flood knocked out the subway for three weeks, and my boss was pissed, but I suddenly had more down time...more limbo.

    Limbo finally ended when I reconnected with my college sweetheart (after 21 years), gave my notice, broke my lease, and left Chicago to live with her. But that's another story for another time.

    1. And there was this gem from third grade: A Southern belle was riding home from the drugstore when her bus hit a pothole, and the bottle of pills in her hand flew out the window. She yelled out: "Oh, no...mah asperns, mah asperns!" And the bus driver said:" Hell's bells, lady, just stick it out the window..."


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