Sunday, March 18, 2007

On Commuting

I recently read this Washington Post blog entry about the benefits of a longer commute. In this world where people moan and groan about having to deal with traffic, there are those who use the time to wind down from work and relax a bit before returning home. A bit of "me time" if you will.

I never thought I would feel that way, but I found that I do. Until very recently, my commute consisted of a 10 minute (half mile) walk from our house to the local light rail station (called the "T" in Pittsburgh). I would then board and ride for about 25-30 minutes into downtown. The Wood Street T Station is across the street from my building, so it was a quick walk on the other side and I was at work. In the morning, I would commute with my wife Heather. This gave us some quality time together where we could talk about various things going on in our lives. She gets off of the T one stop before I do. It's treasured time together that I enjoy very much.

In the evening, it was a simple trip backwards. Heather works later then I do on most days, so I would be alone. However, I found that it was a great time to catch up on my reading or listen to my headphones. Sometimes, I could even take a 20 minute nap if I wanted. Again, it was treasured "me time" that I valued greatly. Plus, with two ten minute walks per day, I got at least one mile of walking in each day.

I never really thought I would miss commuting until I was staying home with Abigail during FMLA leave. I missed the time with Heather, the exercise, and simply leaving the house. It was quite cold and snowy for many weeks this winter and I simply wasn't willing to take Abigail out in it just so I could get out of the house. Now that I've started back to work, I've found that I appreciate the time outside even more.

Of course, the day that I start back to work, all hell breaks loose with the T service. A large bridge near the city, the "Palm Garden Bridge" is in pretty bad shape. So they've closed the bridge for a six month renovation. Instead of taking the T straight north into town, we have to take the T south, away from town, transfer to the other T line, and then catch the ride back north. This adds probably 10-20 minutes of commuting time in each direction, which sucks. What's worse is that can't always sit next to Heather once we're on the second T line. I've experimented with some of the buses that service our area. They're as fast as the T is as long as the weather is somewhat perfect. (Pittsburgh drivers can't drive in rainy, snowy, foggy, windy, cloudy, cold, or hot weather). I have a 50% chance of cutting 10 minutes off the T trip, but a 50% chance of making the trip 30 minutes longer then it would have been.

But things like this are only temporary; we'll be back to normal after a few short months. Then, I can go back to simply enjoying the ride, reading my book, listening to my music, preparing for my life at home.

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