I have a long commute to work – 41.3 miles, to be exact. Several years ago my husband and I decided that we wanted to live in the country, away from the long lines of traffic lights, where it might take 20 minutes to drive 2 miles. So we moved away from the cookie-cutter neighborhoods of suburbia to the rural countryside just north of Cumming, Georgia. That was while I was still in school. Just before I graduated I was offered a job at my Alma Mater, Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. My first two thoughts upon the job offer were: 1. Yeah! I’ve got a job! and 2. Damn, that commute is gonna suck. And it does. It really, really sucks. Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the nation, and I get to enjoy it 5 days a week. On a good day with no traffic (like a weekend) the drive takes 50 minutes. Most days it takes me and hour and 15 minutes, one way. My record for longest commute is 3 1/2 hours round trip on one particularly bad day. So, yeah, I spend a lot of time in the car.
Like most things in my life, I try to look on the bright side and I’ve found that there are some hidden benefits to a long commute:
At home I have three kids, two dogs, a kitten and a husband. At work I supervise a group of about 5 college students. So quiet time is hard to come by in my life, except when I’m driving. I silently work out issues at work, plan my weekend, write blog articles in my head and try to guess what song the person in the car next to me is singing. When I was a kid I used to hate it when my dad would say “Let’s just listen to the quiet.” But now I get it. Silence is golden.
I recently switched from an Android to an iPhone and my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of podcasts. When I’m not in the mood for singing (because I sing along to every song I listen to) I dive into a different world and listen to someone else talk. My favorites are the story-telling podcasts, including The Moth, RISK! and This American Life. The stories told in these episodes are so captivating I will completely zone out – not a bad thing when traffic is moving 20 MPH. PS: I’m always looking for new subscriptions; Tell me in the comments about your favorite!
Long phone conversations
Remember when you were a teenager and you’d call your friends and hang out on the phone together, just letting the conversation flow? I can’t stand doing that now. When I’m talking on the phone it’s usually only because the message I need to deliver is too long to text. I like to get right to the point and hang up. However, when I’m stuck in the car alone, sometimes I get bored and just want someone to talk to. My dad lives in Maryland, my brother in Florida, and my best friend in Arizona. I enjoy the uninterrupted conversations I have with them, without needing to hide in the bathroom to escape the chaos of my home.
Listening to an album start to finish
I still buy CDs. I like the art that comes with them and am obsessed with knowing the correct lyrics to every song I sing. I know you can get all of this online, but I just prefer to own the physical album. I’ve never been a fan of singles and prefer to appreciate an album as a whole. I’ll pop in a CD and listen to the entire thing: the intro, the steering wheel pounding anthems, and the soulful love songs. I think you get to know an artist better that way than just listening to your favorite of their songs over and over again. My most recent favorites include FUN., Katy Perry and Muse. I always keep every album by my two favorite artists, John Mayer and Mariah Carey in my car and listen to them regularly.
Even though I’m inside my car with the comforts of climate control, I really enjoy watching how my view changes, not just from one season to the next, but throughout a single day. It’s the middle of winter now, which means I leave my house before sunrise and am wearing sunglasses by the time I arrive at work. My drive home is the opposite. I get to enjoy the beauty of sunrise and sunset every single day. It’s the only good thing about shorter winter days.
Becoming friends with morning show hosts
Radio morning shows are my guilty pleasure. They are the gossip magazines of radio. The topics they discuss are often superficial and the “news” usually revolves around pop culture and celebrities. But I listen to them often, because they are pretty funny too. I know the names personalities of the members of my two favorites, The Bert Show in Atlanta, and Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, syndicated from NYC. I know which show members would annoy me if I met them in person and who would be my new BFF. I’ve talked to the cast of The Bert Show on air three times in the past year. They are my friends, and don’t try to tell me otherwise.
But it’s not all good
There are, of course, plenty of negatives to having a long commute, but I don’t like to talk about them as much, so here’s a short list:
- My kids are always waiting for me. No more explanation needed.
- I’ve become an aggressive driver. Not crazy, road rage aggressive, but I drive fast and get super annoyed with people who hold up the left lane or don’t know how to merge.
- Listening to music on the radio is so boring. Boring boring boring. I’ve been in the car long enough to go through their rotation and hear the same song more than once on the same station.
- There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in traffic that is backed up for miles only to discover when you get closer that it was because of something dumb, like a piece of tire in the road that everyone is scared to drive near.
- Driving sucks when you have a bad headache.
I hope that one day my commute won’t be so long. I envy anyone who can get to work in under 30 minutes. But I love my job, so for now I deal with it. And who knows, maybe someday when I do have a short drive to work, I’ll miss some of the things on my list and be nostalgic about having all that time alone in my car. Nah – having a long commute sucks.