Over the last few months, I’ve been driving to work more. I still catch the bus/train on most days, but if I know we’re going to have a late finish, or if the weather is bad, or if I leave the house a bit late, then I decide to drive. Also, if I’m bringing cake/pie/fudge/whatever, it’s a lot easier to transport by car than by bus.
There were a couple of weeks around Easter that I drove to work every day. It was great – I cut down my commute time significantly, I got to work earlier and had time to enjoy tea/coffee before I started, and I often got some reading or studying done before work too (while drinking said tea/coffee). I walked with colleagues to the carpark after work, and complained with them about the lack of spaces in the lower levels. I listened to music while I was on the road, and had a chance to energise in the morning and to wind down in the evening.
After a time, though, it didn’t feel right.
The bus stop is a 10-15 minute walk from my place, and although I’m on my feet for most of the day at work, I think I missed having this twice daily walk. My body missed the incidental exercise (apart from the walk itself, there are a lot of stairs I have to take at the bus station, at the train station, and to get into the building at work).
I also felt bad about sitting in this big car (it’s not really that big, but often feels that way) all on my own, driving next to people who were also alone in their cars. I’d carpool but I don’t live near anyone I work with. Besides, everyone starts work at different times.
And let’s not get started on petrol consumption and cost…
I was also not getting a lot of reading done. Sure, sometimes I did some reading before work, when I got in early, but I’d often get in so early that I figured it was a good opportunity to study instead. On the bus/train, however, it’s harder to study/write, so I always read. And once at home, I often choose to study rather than read because I figure I should take every opportunity I can to study more (I have it all calculated so I can learn Persian in about three years).
Overall, I think the time saving is also not so significant. On a good day, I can drive to work in about 15 minutes or less (i.e. I’ll get through three or four songs on my playlist before I get to work). On a bad day, it might be half an hour before I’m parked and head in to work. When driving, I can’t check emails, can’t read, can’t study. Sometimes I recite my Persian phrases and sentences to myself, but there’s usually so much traffic weaving in and out that that takes most of my concentration.
So this drive is approximately equivalent to the time spent walking to/from the bus stop, and maybe the few minutes to wait for a bus to come. Then I read on the bus/train, or I read at work after driving in, so that part is more or less the same. The only difference is that if I’m at work, in the tea room, studying/reading, it is very possible that someone else, who has maybe come to work early to have breakfast or because there was not as much traffic as they’d expected, will also come to the tea room and start talking to me. This, of course, interrupts my reading/studying, whereas I very rarely have anyone to talk to on the bus/train.
If I’m being honest, there was a brief time when I would catch the later train because having another 15 minutes of uninterrupted reading time at the train station was more enticing than getting to work early to socialise. (This probably makes me seem like a really unsocial person, but I promise you I’m not. It was probably just the book I was reading at the time – something so compelling that I wanted to read it every minute of the day.)
After spending those two weeks around Easter driving to and from work every day, I went back to catching public transport. I also walked to and from my parents’ place (about ten minutes away) a bit more. And you know what? It felt positively invigorating to be walking out in the early morning or late evening air again, under gloriously clear skies, amongst trees and through grass. I genuinely like driving, but I suppose I must like walking better.
This more or less sums up what it felt like:
Outside is where the stories happen;
Not in a car, for that is an Inside –
An Inside that travels through the Outside,
Like a cell moving through a blood vessel.
Outside, walking slowly, noticing closely…
See the silhouettes and shadows, the shimmer and shine of lights, artificial and natural;
Feel the grass compress under your feet, and the gravel and sand crunch with every step.
Crisp early morning air, clean and filled with sunshine.
Cool late night air, exhaling soft echos of daytime.
Breathe it in, and feel that the world is alive,
And that you are alive within it –
That you are a part of it, living breathing, moving.
Not just a cell travelling through a blood vessel,
But a muscle, a limb, an organ,
Tensing, swelling, straining.