Posted by: patenttranslator | April 1, 2013

Life Is Too Short To Commute To Work

 

Last week I was picking up my wife at the airport. Because in the end she came back from Japan on a different flight, I had to fight traffic during the usual commute hours twice, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.

It was a horrific experience. A trip that usually takes about 25 minutes took almost an hour. They are building a new overpass bridge across Elisabeth River, which will now be a toll bridge. It is not clear how much the toll will be yet. Probably low at first, and then they will jack it up. I remember when the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was 1 dollar, and only in one direction, from Marin County to San Francisco. Then it was three dollars. I understand it is now six dollars, in both directions.

New tolls are being imposed everywhere, I just got a toll ticket for my son whose official address is still here from Colorado. It was also six dollars. They way they do it here is very interesting. They call it “public-private partnership”. It works like this: first, they impose a special tax on people living in the county. Then, they give a major new “infrastructure improvement project” to a private company, usually as a “no bid contract”. I am not sure how much of the tax money goes to the private company right off the bat to build a new road and bridge, but that is only the beginning of the sweetheart deal called “public-private partnership”. Once the bridge is built, the private company collects the bridge toll and shares some of the bounty with the City Hall, in perpetuity if they can get away with it.

And they can get away with just about anything these days.

This is just one typical example of American democracy at work. I wonder whether this is how they do it in other countries too.

Driving through the sections of the road that will be improved with this “public-private partnership” is a surreal, nightmarish experience. Where I used to see majestic green trees and lush meadows, I now see huge, ugly tree stumps on the left and on the right. People who bought a decade ago new houses surrounded by trees will now see and hear trucks rumbling on the new expended highway from their bedrooms. I saw a lot of “For Sale” signs on those houses. But who would want to buy them?

And where do the animals go, I wonder? With all those new roads, Walmarts, and toll bridges being built all the time, there will soon be a new endangered species called animals.

Out of curiosity, I often ask people who moved to Eastern Virginia about the traffic situation in other states. The answer is always the same: the traffic was horrible where they lived before, worse than here, whether it was in Texas or California. I don’t know how it can possibly be worse than here, but that is what they tell me.

**************

I think that freelance workers such as translators should be given a major tax break because they don’t commute to work. We are doing everybody a big favor by staying off the roads during rush hours. I stopped commuting to work 26 years ago. In San Francisco it was no big deal back in the eighties, about 20 minutes by bus or streetcar. I even got to walk to work for about 3 years when I lived on Nob Hill and worked in downtown San Francisco, although sometime I would hop on the cable car. I understand the cable cars are only for tourists now because they are so expensive and the monthly ticket they used to call “fast pass” does not work anymore on cable cars.

Public transport does not really exist in most of the United States with the exception of big cities like San Francisco or New York. In Tokyo they have excellent public transport, but it took me one and half hours to get to work, in subway trains packed with people like sardines during the rush hour. You have to start positioning yourself 2 or 3 stations closer to the exit before your stop, or you’ll never make it to the exit on time.

Now I commute to my office in my pajamas and my slippers, with a cup of hot coffee in my hand. The commute takes about one minute. The worst thing that can happen to me during this commute is that I could spill some of the coffee. But unlike traffic accidents, accidents involving coffee spilled by commuters from kitchen to home office are generally always survivable. I consider this one of the major accomplishments of my life – I no longer have to deal with the traffic during the rush hour, except maybe once every three years or so when I need to pick somebody up at the airport.

How much time would I have spent during those last 26 years on the road, alone with my thoughts in my car, had I been commuting to work like most of my neighbors? Probably quite a few months. How much money would I have wasted on gas? How many accidents would I have had during those 26 years?

According to this Swedish study, couples in which one partner commutes a long way to work (more than 45 minutes) are 40% more likely to divorce than couples who don’t have to travel so far for their jobs.

Life is too short to commute to work.

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Responses

  1. “Life is too short to commute to work.”

    I’m with you 100%! I have NEVER commuted to work in my almost 70 years of life and it seems extremely likely that I never will. One of my private pleasures has been to travel in the opposite direction – both physically and metaphorically. Stand alone on the platform opposite the seething human tide in London, Paris or even NYC, waiting to get on what will remain an empty train for the duration of my journey.
    What serendipity ).

    Like

  2. “One of my private pleasures has been to travel in the opposite direction – both physically and metaphorically.”

    Well put.

    The only way to travel in style is to travel in the opposite direction of everybody else.

    Like

  3. When I was in Germany, I commuted to work. I did not have the pain of traffic jams, because the public transportation was well developed and I took buses and the subway. Nice days in my life, I’d say.

    I did not commute to work when I was in South America. My office was beside my house and I was most of the time travelling to somewhere in other cities and other countries.

    When I came back to Taiwan and took a position in an agency, I commuted to work 3 months and quit the job. The traffic was one of the reasons I quitted the job.

    No, it isn’t for me to commute to work. I have already travelled several hundreds of thousand miles. No time to waste in a traffic jam. Working at home through the Internet is perfect for me. Even when I was travelling in Europe 2008, 2010 and 2012 each time 2 to 4 weeks, I could have done my jobs on the way in hotel rooms or at friends’.

    As to Michal’s travelling in the opposite direction, it reminds me of the talk of Charles Elachi, the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), when he talked about the employees they have at JPL (00:15~01:30):

    “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.” Well, I guess there are some guys and gals among us who follow this Leitmotto.

    Like

    • Nice to see you Wenjer :). I think Mr. Elachi’s comment is relevant in the context in which it was used. There’s also the expression “blazing a trail” which means that you want and/or expect others to follow where you have preceded them – which could have any number of reasons but, generally speaking, those who view themselves as trailblazers anticipate that they will be appreciated for this activity – after all they didn’t set the woods on fire!
      I haven’t found the exact quote that I would have liked to but I think the source would be a Native American saying something to the effect of “tread softly so that no one will know that anyone has been here”..

      OTOH I did find this from W.B.Yeats, concluding a VERY short poem entitled ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’:
      “I have spread my dreams under your feet;
      Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

      All the Best! Michal

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    • Hi Wenjer! Nice to “see” you :). When you say “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path” that also resonates loud and clear for me. I feel more ambiguous about the trail leaving, though.. I’m sure there must be some Native American saying about NOT leaving any trace but I didn’t find it but I did find the following from W.B. Yeats which was not exactly what I was thinking about but does cover some of the ground for me.
      “I have spread my dreams under your feet;
      Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
      I had the whole very short poem a few minutes ago but was interrupted and then couldn’t find it again. Ah! Here it is:

      HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
      Enwrought with golden and silver light,
      The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
      Of night and light and the half light,
      I would spread the cloths under your feet:
      But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
      I have spread my dreams under your feet;
      Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

      W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)
      “He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven”
      from the Collected Works of W.B. Yeats

      I fear that I will stand accused of straying far from the topic!! :(.

      Like

      • AAAAARRRRGGH!! Sincere apologies for the duplication. I thought that I had deleted the first comment before writing the second one.

        Like

  4. @Wenjer

    In Europe or Japan they have public transport, so you don’t have to drive.

    Here, you have to drive everywhere. With the exception of a few big cities, public transport is mostly an afterthought, only poor people who have no car use it, and only if they have to because it is very inconvenient. If you need to transfer to a different bus line, a trip that would take 15 minutes by car will take an hour and half, which is why the buses are mostly empty.

    Americans are forced to drive. There is no easy solution because the subdivisions are far away from the downtown, and some places like Chesapeake have no downtown.

    I got used to it, and I do enjoy the fact that unlike in Europe or Japan, here you can live in a nice, big, comfortable house with a lot of space between you and other people.

    But of course, this lifestyle also has drawbacks, the main one being how wasteful it is.

    I think that the housing in this country will eventually be as compact as in most European countries, but it will probably take more than a hundred years.

    There is still plenty of space here, especially compared to Japan or even Germany.

    That means that you can live in a bigger house (if you can afford it) and have your privacy, but the flip side is that you have a long commute and you have to drive if you need to commute to work.

    Like

    • “There is still plenty of space here, especially compared to Japan or even Germany. That means that you can live in a bigger house (if you can afford it) and have your privacy, but the flip side is that you have a long commute and you have to drive if you need to commute to work.”

      That’s how Americans consume more energy than people living somewhere else. However, it is still possible to live in a bigger house or having a larger apartment to have our privacy even in the tiny Isla Formosa.

      To Michal: Thanks for Yeats’ poem! I like it very much.

      “I have spread my dreams under your feet;
      Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

      Don’t worry. At Steve’s, we are at home.

      Like

  5. We have these PPPs in Australia too now, with all the ‘commercial in confidence’ rules that go with it. Just another way the bankers have worked out to separate the taxpayer (average sucker) from his or her money and making sure that most of it goes to their bottom line rather than into government coffers. Corruption is/will be inevitable. There are services that can be provided by private enterprise (where the consumer is willing but not anxious to choose a particular supplier) and there are services that must be provided by government (where the consumer has little or no choice at all, such as using public roads). After all, nobody sits down to consider the pros and cons (prices charged) of a selection of hospitals whilst being driven to the nearest emergency department at break-neck speed! Yet, people, in the USA in particular, wonder why medical services are so expensive. Wow!

    Like

  6. We don’t really wonder why.

    We know why, at least some of us do, in spite of the 24/7 corporate propaganda.

    But there is really nothing you can do through normal democratic channels because they don’t exist anymore.

    Like

  7. […] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7GRfS7cHWM Last week I was picking up my wife at the airport. Because in the end she came back from Japan on a different flight, I had to fight traffic during the us…  […]

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  8. 26 months, Mr. patenttranslator! That’s what the total of wasted time would be over 26 years. I live in NYC and I counted it for myself some time ago. That is 2 hours on a train per day, 6 days a week: it ‘translates’ to about one month a year. I got almost shocked, how much time goes practicly nowhere, if people do nothing or sleep on a train/car. Now I got back to reading a lot as I did before, since now I don’t get on a train without a book with me

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  9. […] Why Your Writing Career is Going Nowhere 7 Ways to Summon the Courage to Say “No” Life Is Too Short To Commute To Work 50 words that will improve your writing Avoid Costly Freelance Writing Scams 9 Benefits of […]

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