Unless you're lucky enough to work from home (and let's face it, you're not), you've got to get to and from work, five days a week. Your commute can be frustrating, time-consuming and expensive, but on the other hand, it can be annoying, costly, and aggravating.
The commute for my current job involves my car, the train or sometimes the ferry, a bus, and the occasional rickshaw. It puts a dent in the wallet, and takes about an hour and a half, one way. So, round trip, that's three hours a day, which works out to fifteen hours a week, and whatever fifteen times four is per month (I'm sure it's a lot). All that extra time and money certainly warrants some serious thought and discussion, but instead, let's look at a couple pages of goofy website shit.
Pick your method:
Car / Bus / Train / Boat
Bike / Feet / Carpool
I can't really think of anything to say about commuting by car, so let me tell you about my spider. He used to live in my side-view mirror. He'd spun a perfect little web over it, and he even knew to hide behind the mirror when I started the engine, to avoid getting blown off when I reached speeds of seventy miles per hour backing out of my parking space.
I often marveled at him and his web. The web itself was quite durable, and even when a strand or two would become damaged, it was always perfectly fixed the next time I got in my car. One morning after a heavy rain, his entire web was gone and I feared the worst, but that evening, as I staggered drunkenly to my car to drive home, the web was back and looking just as magnificent as always. I got quite used to him, my little spider pal. He provided companionship, and gave me a reason to look at my side-view mirror from time to time.
At some point, this clever, industrious little spider got inside my car. And now he must die.
Now, every morning, there is an intricate network of webbing over my seat, steering wheel, gear shift, and old McDonalds bags. I have to claw through it to sit down, and often while I'm driving, a strand will stick to my face and I'll frantically have to paw it off, because there's nothing more gross and creepy than a strand of spider web looped over your ear or stuck to an eyelash. Maybe he is doing me a favor, catching and eating any small insects that live in my car, or perhaps he is hoping one day I will become stuck, and he will inject me with venom and drain my body of blood, like Charlotte did to that pig in that book, remember? That was cool.
If you can commute by car, best of luck. I love to drive but hate traffic, particularly when it's in front of me talking on a cell phone. Sure, I know, I could make things easier on myself by not hitting the snooze button sixteen times every morning, by setting out clean work clothes the night before, by leaving a few minutes earlier, and other time saving yet absurdly unrealistic suggestions. All I'm saying is, it's hard enough driving a stick-shift ninety miles per hour while drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, putting on a tie, and clawing spider webs off my face. And you people driving the speed limit and braking for obstacles, such as traffic signs and tornadoes, are not helping.
I have a secret. When you get on the bus, and start walking towards the back, if you're not holding onto the rail when the bus starts moving, you will be thrown off your feet.
I am the only one who knows this. I know I am the only one who knows this, because I spend every single bus ride watching my fellow passengers, airborne and with a surprised expression on their faces, sailing towards the back of the bus.
I don't know why this is such a hard concept for people to grasp. I could understand if it was someone who had never been on a bus before, which I suppose sometimes it is. But it's not just the rookies, it can't be, because it happens to everyone. They don't hold the rail, and the bus takes off, and they either fly into the air, or stumble forward, or slam into someone, usually me.
It's sort of like a social equalizer, in a way. No matter who gets on, a young professional, an old vagrant, a mother with a pair of infants, a construction worker, a policeman, an Indian... they all became a tangle of limbs in the back of the bus. Dividing lines are erased. It matters not, their color, their creed, their sexual ambiguity... They're all the same.
It was funny, at first. I would sit in my seat, eagerly awaiting the next passenger. I would smirk and shake my head at their foolishness as they started down the aisle, then duck as they flew overhead. It was like my own private show.
After a while, as with most things in my life, it became less amusing and more annoying. What the hell was the problem with these idiots? I started seeing the same people doing the same thing, people who rode the bus every day, like me. Did they have no collective memory? Did they have no common sense? And why did they always, always look surprised?
Now, the annoyance has turned into something else. Something horrible. It started with the old man.
One afternoon, halfway through Chinatown, the bus was stopped for what seemed like a very long time, its door open, waiting for something. After about ten minutes, a small, fuzzy white head came into view. An elderly gent with gnarled, arthritic hands and a cane was making his way onto the bus. Slowly.
A football season passed, and he finally made his way to the top step. The doors creaked closed in a shower of rust, and the old man began shuffling toward the back of the bus. The bus itself did not move because the light was red, and I've been told the bus drivers have started paying attention to these things.
I watched the old man. He had hooked the cane over his forearm and was creeping down the aisle, his hands held out shakily in front of him, legs wobbling unsteadily, his jaw doing that thing that old guy's jaws do. I began getting sick, because that jaw thing grosses me out, and then I began getting nervous.
Come on, old man, I thought, move it.
He hobbled past several empty seats, still not bothering to hold onto anything.
The traffic light perpendicular to ours turned from green to yellow.
Hurry, old guy. Get the lead out. And enough with the jaw, already. The driver gunned the engine, his hands tightening on the ridiculously big steering wheel.
The old man still moved toward the back of the bus, getting closer to me and the great beyond with every step. Not much closer, since his feet only shuffled about a half-inch at a time, but closer nonetheless.
The other traffic light turned from yellow to red. Ours turned green.
I could picture the scene in my mind, the bus lurching forward, the frail old man being thrown to the floor of the bus in a pile of broken hips. What a nightmare that would be for the man, his already crumbling life shattered by a nasty spill. I could see it all happening, right in front of me, so I did what anyone with any decency would have done. I slid over from my window seat to the aisle seat and leaned forward, arms out, so he wouldn't be able to sit next to me. He looked like he smelled.
No, seriously, I would be devastated if he fell and injured himself. We were late enough as it was.
At any rate, he was saved by one of his ilk, another doddering old crone, this one outside the bus, who had waited, in fine doddering-old-crone-fashion, for the light to have almost changed before crossing the street. So, our bus was held up a few moments further by the senior citizen shambling uncertainly around in the road, while our driver exhibited his patience and understanding by holding down the horn and screaming creative obscenities. Meanwhile, our old man found his way into a seat in time to avoid being launched out the rear window, where no doubt he would have landed on another old person, since the city is apparently infested with them.
Since that incident, I worry. I sit and worry, white-knuckled from gripping the railing as I watch people board the bus. I worry about these passengers, both young and old, both quick and slow, both smelly. Yes. They never bathe, and they never, ever hold the rail.
All aboard! Let's take the train to work! Toot-toot!
Boy, that cheerful stuff takes it outta me.
The train is a popular choice for commuters, as it is fast and often goes underground, or in some cases, under large bodies of water, which is always disconcerting to me. I mean, just carrying one of those gallon jugs of water from the supermarket to my car leaves me panting and shaking with fatigue, and not just because I am pathetically weak. Water is heavy. And here I am on a train, going underneath a whole billion trillion million gallons of water. All of that weight, pressing down on the tunnel... it just seems like it will bust through the walls and flood the tube and we'll all drown or be electrocuted by the third rail or whatever. It's enough to take my mind off the huge mouth-breather that is reading the newspaper over my shoulder.
I like the train for the most part; it is probably how I get to work the most often. Someday I even hope to sit down on the train, although thus far I have not had the opportunity. The problem is this whole chivalry thing. A seat will open up, and while I am pretending to look around for a woman to offer the seat to, someone else slips in and takes it. Pretending to be a gentlemen is seriously hampering me, yet I continue to do it because I was raised to believe that if you are kind to women, sometimes they will sleep with you.
The real problem with the train, commuter-wise, is that it's on a track. So if there is some obstacle, say a broken down train or slow-moving old person on the track, everything stops. Your train, the trains behind and in front of you, all of them. And there's nothing you can do. It's not like the movie where Keanu Reeves makes the train go really fast to smash through the wall and run over Sandra Bullock (I think that's what happened in that movie anyway, but I'm not sure because I had given my seat to a woman and was then forced to sit behind someone with a large head). The point is, one little problem on the track, and you're going to be late for your temp job, which might not be a tragedy now that I think about it. On the other hand, if you're riding the bus and something is in the way, often the bus can go around it, or you can get off, or Keanu Reeves can make it somehow jump over the obstacle and onto Lawrence Fishburne.
Now, in Japan, they have something called the Bullet Train, which travels at 300 kilometers per hour, which, if I've calculated correctly, is approximately 185 stones per fluid decabushel. Pretty fast! Because of their advanced technology, those lucky Japanese commuters will reach the obstruction on the tracks much faster than we will. While our train is just pulling away from the station, they're already sitting motionless on the track, reading their newspapers backwards and experiencing the onset of claustrophobia.
And am I the only person who actually goes to work on Friday? The first four days of the week the train is packed, but on Friday it's virtually empty. Last Friday morning the entire passenger load on the train consisted of myself and a small rabbit, and even he got off at the mall.
I have the good fortune to commute by ferry if I so choose, and not a day goes by that I don't appreciate it. Well, okay, most days go by without me appreciating it, in fact, I complain about it almost constantly. But it's about the best way I know of getting to work. It's relaxing, they have coffee and donuts in the morning, a full bar in the evenings, and you can even sit up on the top deck and smoke. It's never so full that you can't find a seat, and the gentle rocking motion will help you to either catch a few extra winks or cause you to empty the contents of your stomach over the side. Also, since you are on a boat, you might also get to use the words "Poop Deck" at some point. Poop. Hee hee.
We got the news one morning that a whale had wandered into San Francisco Bay, and halfway through the commute, we all got to see it. It appeared off the starboard side of the boat, submerged, and them came up right in front of us. It was really magical. We watched in wonder as the huge, graceful creature surfaced, it's great black body glistening in the morning sunlight, and a sigh went up from the commuters as it dove again, magnificent tail sending sparkling droplets of water high into the air, and then we all smiled, feeling closer to nature, as the proud, mysterious creature was churned into bait by our propellers. Well, come on, what were we supposed to do? Slow down? We're on our way to work here. Outta the way, you ungodly giant fish!
The boat is a little expensive, but I think it's worth it. Of course, there's only maybe two boats per hour, so you really have to be on time. If you miss it, you've got a significant wait for the next one. Forget any ideas you have of running for the boat and making a spectacular jump from the gangplank onto the Poop Deck (snort!), it's not gonna happen. You're not Keanu Reeves, you know, and if you are Keanu Reeves, thanks for visiting my website. I have a great idea for a Bill & Ted sequel, by the way.
Yeah, I'm sure riding a bike to work is real healthy and environmentally friendly and all, but you bike people are in my way.
You pedestrians are in my way.
If someone ever asks you to carpool, they will say something like "Hey, do you want to carpool to work? We need a third person, and I know we live in the same area." You will notice that the tone of their voice will drop towards the end of the sentence. This is known as the Doppler Effect, and this will occur because you will be running away from them at incredible speeds.
Don't carpool. Jesus, isn't your life bad enough? I mean, you have to work with these people, do you really want to see them first thing in the morning? I know it's a lot cheaper than any of the other options, but if you carpool, you give up a lot of freedom. Chances are you won't be able smoke, stuff donuts in your face, pick your nose, dig crust out of your eye, or try to kill that damn spider with a club made from the petrified remains of a Whopper meat patty. The radio will be set to that station with the wacky morning program, the one where they do wacky things like call some lady at work and pretend to have such a heavy accent that she can't understand them (wacky!). And if you happen to work in San Francisco, you know that the carpool lane now requires at least sixteen people per vehicle. It just isn't worth it.
I have only carpooled once in the past few years, and it was with strangers. I had just missed the bus to my ferry, and a car pulled over. A lot of people these days cruise for extra passengers so they can use the diamond lane, often forcing people into their car at gunpoint.
It worked out quite well, actually, because both the driver and other passenger were incredibly attractive women, whom I hit upon in my usual fashion, by saying absolutely nothing the entire ride. I did have the foresight to say something witty and memorable when they dropped me off, which was "Thanks!" I know they're still thinking about me.
No matter how you commute, try to do it safely. Is there anything more depressing than listening to a traffic report in the morning, and hearing about a fatal crash during rush hour? You always know it was someone their way to work. On their way to a job, just like the rest of us, only this person died. Co-workers wondering if he's late, or maybe he was a temp, and they're wondering if he flaked. They'll get the news at some point or another, and they'll think I drive that same route every day. It could have been me. And it could have. So, be careful out there. Most jobs I've had aren't even worth getting up for, let alone going down for.
Did that sound dirty? Damn. I was trying to be poignant.
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