The long commute
For about 5 years now my office has been located in any of New England’s fine states from as far North as the Canadian border and as far south as the extremities of Connecticut. My job takes me to where the wind turbine is being installed, where the distribution facility is being built, where the new school is going to be, and to any other imaginable commercial or residential project that we happen to land. First thing means 7AM, and I’m usually there for that. I’ve probably seen more sunrises than you. I’ve probably have most of the northeast’s Dunkin Donuts mapped out in my head and can tell you what exits have the best gas prices. I’m somewhat in awe of this knowledge and how my brain has tattooed into its memory bank, but I guess it makes sense with the amount of traveling that I’ve logged in. This past year has rolled over about 34K on my odometer alone. I did a lot of flying for work this summer so it would have been undoubtedly higher if not for one particular project up in the northern most corner of Maine.
What does all this driving do to a person? It makes me a little jealous when I hear how close others commute to work is. Sometimes. Actually it rarely does if I’m being honest. For the most part, it makes road trips a hell of a lot more tame than they previously would have been. All the sudden driving 4 hours to get home for a visit is comparable to my commute on Wednesday. One particular job would have me rise at 2:30AM to get to my destination in Vermont by 6:30. At this time of day you are driving with a different breed of people. Most of them you would probably rarely encounter except for flying along side of them in this brisk pre-dawn air. Though few and far between, you felt like a brethren of some sorts, silent compadres all up at ridiculous hours of the night barreling towards your destination with your foot on the gas and the radio behind your back. I could imagine the wide eyes, clenched teeth, and white knuckles from gripping the steering wheel while being fueled with caffeine and resiliency. While I pass house after house blackened with the blanket of night and the absence of lights there was an odd feeling having some sort of privilege, part of the few that get to experience this weird part of the day before the suns faintest rays break over the horizon like a stampede of antelopes pouring into an empty valley. There was nothing but headlights on the road with the whole universe above watching us. I pictured seeing my truck from a hundred feet above winding through valleys carved by the combined efforts of thousands of years of glaciers and rivers in those green mountains and did not for a second wish I was anywhere else in the world.
This past 10 days alone has defined a new meaning for my definition of commuting. I found myself eavesdropping at a recent housewarming party on some negativity that generally encompasses the topic commuting to work. The gentlemen discussing commutes were trying to one-up the other with horror stories starting along the lines of “You think that’s a long commute?” The doldrums of driving an hour and a half on a given weekday were being portrayed as some sort of heroic hurdle jumped that took the gold metal back to the homeland. I kept to myself and didn’t offer my take on the situation, being that an hour and half drive would be one of my shortest distances traveled in the past few months. I had an oil change on Wednesday of last week. It’s Friday, and I’m due for another. I’ve averaged 300 miles a day, which is an easy week if you’re a truck driver. I filled up my tank a record 3 times in one day, something that both makes feel disgusted and amazed at the same time.
It’s amazing to me how we adapt to situations when something seemingly painful get’s put into our lives and becomes routine. I think nothing of driving for hours anymore and it’s just become part of the normalcy of life for me. If I switched jobs today and worked close to home I would bet money on some wandering anxiety being delivered daily on my doorstep like the morning paper. I need to find a promising career that lets me get away as much as I need and lets me be around as much as I want. Ideas?
Although it’s easy to pick out the negativity for these kinds of grueling and sometimes physically agonizing moments they will be fondly remembered, like an old baseball glove that doesn’t fit anymore. They (and I predict will always) bring me back to a time when I was a young man working my ass off and could handle anything thrown my way. These long solo drives were directly testing my endurance on top of the normal 8-12 hour workdays and became a sort of game to me. Can I take on more than this? Can my mind and body weather more than this? This kind of punishment should be for your younger years and you should ultimately migrate away from them as you progress in your career, or at least that’s what I’m led to believe. For now I’ll keep driving on a little longer.