Outside of the extenuating circumstances of required travel, I have been dubbed “lucky” by others for the reason that I have essentially avoided a work commute since joining the world of employment. In fact, the longest round-trip I have undertaken up until this past week was a park-and-ride situation back in Phoenix (circa 2004). The drive itself was only about 15 – 20 minutes each way, and then I had the luxury of cracking open a book and allowing myself the next 30 minutes, each way, to get lost in the pages while someone else ensured I arrived safely to be destination. If that’s not a slice of heaven, I don’t know what is.
Now, I am one of the masses, letting time to slip away while confined to my steel cage (with the “check engine” light still illuminated 14 months later), oblivious to the victories and tragedies of those in nearby lanes. Flipping back and forth between “Team of Rivals” (On disc 24 of 36 – in the midst of the Civil War!) and NPR, I keep focused on my surroundings because driving in the Triangle is auto dodgeball. Of course, I consider myself an excellent driver. Does everyone say that? Perhaps, but I do know that my intuition (thank you ENFJ preferences) and assertive nature allow me to avoid the mistakes of (most) everyone else behind the wheel.
It does make one’s jaw drop to witness the sheer lack of awareness visible on our roads these days. When did the actual act of driving become our second or third priority? Checking texts and email, making calls, applying lipstick, eating breakfast, putting on pants – it’s like our vehicles have become our second offices, bedrooms, and even bathrooms – and we’re okay with this? We shouldn’t be, especially when staying in one’s lane seems more like a suggestion than an actual safety precaution.
One of the benefits of this longer commute has been the “me time.” One of the reasons I sought new employment was to be in an office setting to foster collaboration, better communication, and more functional relationships. But, I have forgotten how distracting it can be – I know, obvious statement, right? But when you have been in your own nook for two years, silence was my go-to partner, and frankly, she’s great for knocking out thoughtful responses and conjuring up the right words to add to a strategic plan. Now, she sits in my passenger seat to and from Raleigh (although she is often muted by All Things Considered).
The time of “decompression” is splendid – even on the morning of my second day where an accident on the Interstate added an additional 45 minutes to the journey. On that day, I felt a strong sense of camaraderie among my fellow commuters. Alas, we were all in the same position: needing to be somewhere, likely 20 minutes ago, and with zero control on changing our situation. The strange sense of kinship during that stop and go period took me by surprise, but I want to relish more moments like that. Frankly, it’s too easy to continue to always identify what makes them different…or bad drivers.
First week of commuting in the books. First week on the new job: exciting, exhausting. Moving into the world of environmental and political advocacy is one – similar to previously working in organ donation – that never crossed my mind as a potential career path. Fortunately, it has, and I embrace what my role in it evolves into over time.