There are just over 128 million commuters in the United States, another 15 million in Canada, and roughly 12 million in the UK. That’s a lot of coming and going. In the US, 3.3 million of them go at least 50 miles each way, and 32% of those travel between 75-199 miles. In the UK, meanwhile, 1.8 million Britons travel more than three hours to get to work. Sheesh. And you thought your half-hour drive sucked – it probably does.
The morning commute to work is a soul-sucking, energy-sapping torture session, and it doesn’t matter whether you drive (you have to put up with traffic), take public transport (you have to put up with people), or fly under your own power (you have to put up with villains and archenemies… because you’re obviously a superhero). Only a select and lucky few live and work within a short distance of each other. You know the type: you see them smiling and skipping down the sidewalk with a latte in one hand, proffering a chipper “Good morning to you!” to each person they encounter. It’s like a scene out of a Jimmy Stewart film or a sequence on Sesame Street. Yeah, I hate them, too.
Most of us have no choice. We live too far away from our workplace to just saunter over while enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Nope, for us, it’s nothing but gridlock, exhaust fumes, and/or sticky subway seats and poles.
Monday is Monday-er when you have to commute. The first day back after a long weekend or holiday is more first day-er. It. Sucks. Jackal. Poop.
And your mind wanders, doesn’t it? Even when you’re driving, you find yourself thinking about almost everything but what’s happening on the road in front of you (admit it).
We think about all kinds of stuff… none of it important.
1. Today Is Going to Be a Great Day!
This is how it starts, right? You make a promise/wish to yourself every morning during your commute that today is going to be a good – no, scratch that – great day. You read an article by Oprah or Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle (it doesn’t matter… they all say the same thing) that reminded you of the importance of a positive mental attitude. Something along the lines of “our thoughts create our reality”. And so… you think it. You really think it. Today will be great. Today will be great. Today will be…
2. Why Does all Morning Radio Suck So Bad?
If you’re in the car, you’re listening to the radio and trying to drown out the honking horns, screeching tires, and sounds of the perpetual construction happening on your route to work (seriously, it’s year-round and it never seems to accomplish anything). No matter what city you live in, or what station you prefer (golden oldies, adult contemporary, heavy metal, gangsta rap… I’m not here to judge), the morning drive show will suck. It’s a truism. The hosts aren’t funny – but think they’re hilarious and constantly crack up at their own jokes – and you inevitably hear more ads than music. Morning radio is the worst.
3. Everybody's a Horrible Driver
Ain’t that the truth?! Spend any time in morning rush hour traffic, and you’ll quickly come to the same conclusion. Just watch them: drivers change lanes without signaling, drivers exit the freeway by cutting across five lanes at the last possible moment, drivers follow right on your bumper until you get out of their way, drivers put on their makeup while cruising along at 93km/h, drivers honk their horns for no f*cking reason, drivers eat breakfast in the car, and on and on. How did these people ever get their license?!
4. Stay Green, Stay Green, Stay Green...
We’ve all done this as though concentrating hard enough and repeating it in our heads (or out loud) fast enough will make it happen. You can see the green light from way far back and as you get closer, you know it’s about to change. So, you focus on it like a monk with his prayer beads. You speed up and stare at the green light. If it works, and you make it through, you’re convinced you have magical powers. If you don’t make the light, you know you need to try harder tomorrow.
5. Damn F*cking Traffic! Drive! Move!
Rage will eventually set in. No matter how nice, and sweet, and lovely you are in “real” life, rush hour traffic will turn you into a swearing, cursing, pulsating temple of fury. You’ll scream at cars, drivers, stop lights, and traffic cones. You’ll punch the passenger seat and dashboard. You’ll flip off elderly grandmothers in the fast lane as you pass them on the right.
6. What’s That Guy’s Problem?!
Or maybe you take public transit, smiling knowingly to yourself and pitying all the idiots stuck on the expressway. It’s a good idea: easier on the environment, easier on your wallet, and you’ll avoid most traffic bottlenecks (especially if you’re taking the subway). That’s the pro. The con? You’re surrounded by people with no buffer zone. And people can be weird, strange, odd, scary, and smelly. During every single commute, both to and from work, you will find yourself staring slack-jawed at someone and thinking “What the hell is wrong with that guy?!” It might be their clothing, behavior, appearance, or everything. It’s like some rejected episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show.
7. The Machines Have Won
The Terminator movies have taught us many things: Arnold Schwarzenegger is his generation’s finest actor, the future is not rosy or bright, time travel seems to be a relatively easy thing to do, and machines are already plotting our demise. The war against the machines will be drawn out, catastrophic, and ruinous. But while they may never be able to exterminate us (hence the series containing 267 films to date), they most certainly will be able to control us. How do I know? Because it’s already happened. And you know it, too. Everyone is staring mindlessly at their tablet, iPod, or smartphone. Those devices control our moods and behavior. They control the flow of information. They tell us what to do. Devices are our overloads, and we are just rats in a maze.
Zombies on smartphones playing Plants vs. Zombies. Sounds perverse.
8. The Zombie Apocalypse Has Already Happened
We know it’s coming (just watch virtually any recent television show or movie), but we had thought (hoped?) we had a few more good years before the zombie apocalypse arrived. Not so. Look around any morning bus, monorail, or subway car, and you’ll immediately realize you are surrounded by zombies. Dead eyes. Slow movements. Guttural grunts and moans. That’s a zombie. That person beside you? A zombie. Grab an axe, sword, or knife (only suckers go with guns… you’ll constantly be searching for ammo), hunker down somewhere safe, and wait for the new world order.
9. Hmm, Busking... I Wonder How Much They Make Each Day?
As you pass the ponytailed guitar player, the silent mime, the pint-sized violin virtuoso, and the irritating street magician/juggler, you will question your life choices. They have no boss. They have no office. They have no “fabric prison” (aka a suit). They have no set hours. And yet, people throw money at them. You’ll glance in their instrument case, hat, or cardboard box, and quickly calculate that it contains at least ten dollars! That’s not bad. You’ll crunch the numbers in your head on the ride to work, and you’ll ultimately decide that it is possible to make a decent living doing it. If only you had some kind of skill…
10. Does Showing Up Late with a Coffee in My Hand Make it Worse?
Most days, you’ll be late. Maybe you slept in, maybe you were delayed leaving the house, maybe the traffic was a special category of crappy, maybe the subway was behind schedule, or maybe all of the above. Your morning routine usually includes a quick stop at Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Second Cup, or Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! When you’re running late, though, you’ll question the appropriateness of waltzing in with that cup in your hand. You’ll briefly consider not getting your fix that morning, but then decide that’s crazy talk (because it is). Instead, you’ll either sneak in and try to avoid your boss or gulp the scalding hot liquid in the lobby before heading up to the office… you’re already late, what’s another few minutes?
11. I Need an Excuse. When’s the Last Time I Used “My Kid Threw Up”?
Or “There was a horrible accident on the 401” or “My grand uncle twice-removed passed away”? When you’re late to work, you need a convincing excuse to explain why. Your boss and colleagues demand it. Do yourself a favor and create an excuse list. Keep track of what you’ve already used, when you used it (so you can recycle and plug it back into service after an appropriate moratorium), and new candidates whenever you encounter or think of one. The zanier, the better… make it so crazy, it has to be true.
12. Tomorrow, I’m Leaving the House 30 Minutes Earlier
Ha! No. No, you’re not. Hahahaha! [Wipes tears from eyes] Good one.
Commutes suck, but there’s comfort in misery. It sucks for everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, musical preference, favorite international cuisine, least favorite member of Monty Python, vertical leap, arm span, height, weight, or hair color.
So, embrace it, but stay vigilant. The zombies and machines are among us.
What’s your least favorite part of your daily commute? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.