I timed my commute recently and it’s 6.8 seconds, give or take a few tenths depending on whether I am traveling from the bedroom or the kitchen into my office. Yes, for the past 7+ years I have worked from home and avoided the grind of a daily commute. Now, when I venture out to a doctor appointment during rush hour, I feel like a frog that jumps into boiling water and realizes how hot it is and immediately wants to jump out! I’m just not habituated to traffic anymore. And because I have been out of the rat race for some time, when I do jump back in I realize how horrible it has become.
Oregon has the sixth worse rush-hour traffic in the nation! About 45 hours every year get wasted just sitting and waiting for cars to move. Only Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston have worse traffic. This in part is because Portland was never designed to be a big city. As 40,000 people move in each year (and have for the past decade), the roads have become ever more jammed. What makes the commute challenging is that it is unreliable and unpredictable. You never know how long it will take because of construction, accidents, weather, and other factors. A seven-mile commute may take 15 minutes or two hours!
I know on the East Coast it is quite common to commute 1-2 hours each way to work. For those who ride the train the time can be used productively, but for those who drive not so much. To reduce commute times, many leave very early in the morning and return home late in the evening. Sadly, this often means during the workweek little time is spent with family.
The image today of Grand Central Terminal, a hub for many commuters, is a reminder that life is short, time is precious, and how we spend it is a choice. I know it often feels like I don’t have options, but this is not really true! I am just fearful of change, but I also don’t want to become a cooked frog! Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and be willing to jump out of the rat race.