I was out to dinner with a friend tonight, and had a lovely evening, but then had enough time sitting in traffic on the way home (the motorway was closed for roadworks) to decide that I was going to write about traffic in tonight’s post. It’s not the most interesting subject, I know, but it’s very late and I have to do it.
Like many people, I spend a large part of my life commuting. For most of my working life, I’ve lived over an hour’s drive from where I work, and often traveled further for business reasons. Unlike many colleagues, I’ve been fortunate enough to find work within (long) commuting distance rather than have to stay away from home.
It’s always been important to me to get home at night to my family, and sleep in my own bed, and I’ve turned down work that would have stopped me doing that. I know that’s not an option for many people; and I know that some people enjoy that kind of split home/work existence – they spend their weeks working away, then travel home for the quality time at the weekend. It just wouldn’t work for me and I’ve been fortunate.
The downside, of course, is sitting in a car for a long time (it’s many years since I worked anywhere I could sensibly reach by train or bus every day). But, to be honest, I’ve got used to it. I don’t have hands-free on my mobile phone, and won’t use the phone will driving, obviously, so that commute is, essentially, “me time”.
When I first started the long commutes I figured I could use the time to learn a language, but that didn’t work. Back then, cars came with cassette players, and rewinding a section to listen again was impractical whilst also trying to drive safely.
Then I went to audiobooks, and that kept me going for a long while. I could borrow those from the library, and a good book (always the full book, never abridged) would keep me going for days, weeks in some cases. Hard-boiled American crime fiction, Lord Of The Rings (a truly epic effort by Rob Inglis across all three books), Margaret Atwood and more – I roamed a literary landscape and made at least one discovery that will find its way into “How I Got Into….” eventually.
But the big shift was when podcasts came along. I’m now lost without my iPod, and it’s always loaded with enough podcasts to last the commute and any potential delays along the way. Most days, the commute will be all about US sports: the previous day’s The Best of Mike and Mike from ESPN on the way in, and something on fantasy baseball or football on the way home. If that doesn’t cover it, I’ve always got a Desert Island Discs or Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History to fall back on, or an episode or two of Welcome To Night Vale depending on mood (thanks, Kateri, for the recommendation on that one).
I started off this post thinking I’d rant pointlessly about sitting in traffic, but I ended up sounding like I quite enjoy it. Which I don’t. But I have managed to make it bearable.