Sunday, July 24, 2016

Simple Pleasures: driving to work in rush hour traffic

It may sound like a contradiction, but I really enjoy driving to work during evening rush hour.

On a normal weekday on which I work, Hubbs gets home at around 4:50pm.  Sometimes, I’ve made dinner and we quickly eat it before I have to gather my things.  Other times, I have everything ready so that we can talk for a few minutes about more than just the recycling that needs to be put in the alley or the dryer that needs to be started back up. 

More often, I exit in a flurry of activity, making sure I have my breast pump and its required accessories (I still pump once during a 6-11pm shift), my water bottle, coffee, purse, phone and insulated lunch bag for transporting the milk.  If I am doing well, I leave right before 5:10pm, which is about the latest departure being on time to work will allow.

I am pretty close to all of the major highways in Columbus and about half of my time driving to work is spent traveling east in bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic. 

Before I started my new schedule a few months ago, I don’t think I ever could have imagined enjoying rush hour traffic, but I have really started to appreciate it.  I used to feel trapped if I had to drive during peak hours, but now it feels more like freedom.  Here’s why:

  1. I may have a million things that I still need to do at home and a million more things may go wrong at work, but I am neither at home nor at work while driving, so I don’t worry about them.  Driving to work is like a magical transitional space in which I can exist in the present moment.  I would almost be sad to work closer home and decrease the drive, because I like existing in this space.

  1. When driving to work, I cannot do anything besides drive to work.  Not only do I not have to worry about things I left undone or still need to do, I literally cannot do anything to solve them.  The best use of time spent driving is in making sure I reach my destination safely.  This takes some concentration, but I have managed to achieve my best every day I have driven to work in rush hour.  I suppose this is a type of accomplishment; I like arriving at work alive and unharmed.

  1. In the mental space that is left over, I get to listen to the radio.  Since I don’t have a television or receive a paper, I get most of my news from the radio or from word of mouth.  I enjoy hearing about the upcoming presidential election, even when I don’t like what I am hearing.  It was interesting to hear Tim Kaine speak.  I also adored the piece on NPR recently about the Honeyguide, which is a bird that will lead people to honey.  There have only been a few times where literally the when the first word I hear is “terrorism” or “murder,” which just means that I get to switch over to classical music instead.  I can listen to important news about these subjects, but don’t like to start my drive on anything extremely depressing.

  1. I get to drink coffee while it is still warm. At home, I often brew a cup of tea or coffee and then either forget it somewhere in the house or become so absorbed in playing with the baby or cooking that I forget to drink it while it is hot.  I am not a huge fan of cold coffee.  A 45-minute drive is the perfect time frame to finish the 10 ounces or so of coconut coffee that fits in my Wonder Woman travel mug.

  1. Driving time is also quiet time that I may use to think.  Driving and listening to the radio take some mental energy, but they also spark ideas.  A story on the radio might give me an idea for a piece of creative writing, like a poem: I actually wrote a poem about a dead doe I saw day after day on the side of the road while driving to work.
The point here is that it is time all alone, in relative quiet that I can mostly control, and that this affords me some time to think.  My husband is at home watching the baby and I can use this time to enjoy the radio or silence uninterrupted.

  1. Unlike someone who would like to arrive home as soon as possible but is prevented from doing so by the evening rush hour, I do not need to arrive to work any earlier than 6.  I am in no hurry to get where I am going.  It is better to have a few minutes to put my vest on, but I am pretty adept at putting it on while walking towards the computer to clock in as well. 
I have been over 10 minutes late a few times, but those times were not in my control.  I need this job, but getting written up for tardiness does not seem likely and my late days would not really affect my overall employment at the rate I seem to accrue them.  I am not looking for a promotion, I don’t really have a career now that I work part-time and I could find something else if I had to.  This certainly puts my time frame in perspective.

  1. If I have arrived at my normal highway exit before 5:35pm, I can take the scenic route and avoid another major road.  This route is usually away from traffic and provides a steadier, slightly slower pace to my travel. There are trees and meadows to see and these views are much more appealing than an endless chain of retail and fast food restaurants.

Driving to work on the weekends is not nearly as enjoyable, though the drive is smoother.  The programming on the radio is not as interesting and it is harder to leave earlier in the day (usually by 2pm) when I know we could have had more fun as a family on Hubbs’s day off.  It still can be a nice break.

Driving home from work is not too bad, either.  At night, the drive will take only 20-25 minutes, because there are fewer traffic lights to wait through and very little traffic on the highways.  On weeknights and Saturdays after closing, I listen to a daily Bible reading on the radio and then another radio program sponsored by a local church.  By the time both are over, I am parking on the street near our house.

I really think that being able to enjoy my drive to work had given me a better attitude towards work itself and has increased my quality of life.  I am glad I have found this little bit of happiness and I would love to hear about how other people make the best of their time!


  1. I can so relate to #2 from the time I had a baby/toddler in the house. I really treasured that "bubble" of being in the car as the only time of the day that it was possible to feel 'free' from work to do at home or at work. It is hard in those early years when even going in the shower or having a bathroom break is time you can barely have on your own.

    Now that we are in the (unusual) situation that I go to work with both my husband and child in the car, the drive is more about checking on homework, working out our day, arguing over the radio etc!

    I used to make the most of that solitary time in the car though with my choice of music, sometimes ebooks, chatting on Bluetooth uninterrupted with a friend...anything that was hard to do uninterrupted at home with a toddler!

    1. You've got me thinking now that there is something to be said for time in the car with others too. The husband and I have had some of our best conversations in the car together with the baby babbling himself to sleep in the backseat, because we don't often just sit together at home for as long and give ourselves nothing to do.

      Granted, these conversations didn't happen at 6:30 in the morning when we shared a car for a 10-minute commute a few years ago, but I might look differently at that time now, considering we are not able most days to have a shared family dinner time where we can talk about our day or our plans.