In my big industry days, I was very fortunate. I never had a commute much longer than forty minutes. That wasn’t all that uncommon at my first two places of employment back East because few New Englanders will put up with a long commute. However, here is California, it wasn’t uncommon to come across people with commutes of more than ninety minutes. Sometimes, that was because they chose to live in the ultra-suburbs of Greater L.A., where the home prices were two-thirds of what they were in town. The commute was acceptable at first until more and more people decided they wanted to do the same and the freeways into the city became bumper to bumper during rush hour. Others chose to live at the beach and pay the commuter-price for the privilege. Sometimes, that perfect job was on the other side of the city with a drive that took forty minutes at night but two hours in broad daylight. For roughly ten years, while I was doing my graduate work at USC, I had an hour and a half commute to class twice a week. That was enough to convince me that no job was worth over an hour on the road. So, now, I’m retired or semi-retired, depending upon when you look in on my office. My commute? Left at the foot of the bed, through the bedroom door, forty feet down the hall, slight left into my office. Total time, forty seconds, if I stop to pet Mister P, our Siamese cat. Delightful. Of course, during busy times, it makes it a little too easy to go back to work at odd hours but I don’t have many of those times these days.
For a week and a half, the message panel on the dashboard of my aging Acura TL has been telling me that it wanted to be serviced soon and the drive to my Men’s Retreat in Santa Barbara this weekend pushed it over the edge. Soon became NOW!!! So today I was up early, headed to the Acura dealer and out among the commuters. The dealer is just across the 91 Freeway about two and a half miles from our house, but Weir Canyon Road is the one practical egress from most of Anaheim Hills. Downhill all the way and three lanes wide, the morning traffic would frighten even the most experienced driver from Le Mans. And after fifteen years of hallway commutes, I’d forgotten the fundamental driving techniques for the morning commute. On my left, a Kia was executing the Pedal-to-the-Metal-Then-Brake strategy, while behind me, a Mercedes was trying out Get-the-Car-in-Front-of-You-to-Speed-Up-by-Tailgating. It wasn’t working, so the driver switched to Change-Lanes-Without-Looking, giving me a Get out of the way, you old fart look as he went by. A Jetta up ahead was changing lanes erratically, executing the Any-Lane-is Better-Than-the-One-I’m-In strategy, and at least one BMW tried to slip by in the shoulder until a Lexus noticed and moved enough to the right to block its way.
There are three traffic lights on the way down the hill, and, of course, I was delighted to find myself among the same cadre of cars at each, in spite of my diminished commuting skills. And as the Kia and the Jetta, the Mercedes, the BMW and Lexus jockeyed to be first to the freeway on-ramp, I zipped by on my way to the Acura dealer. And here I sit, blogging away in the dealer’s office area, while they are likely still trying to knock a few seconds off their commute by driving like idiots. And tomorrow, I’ll be back to my hallway commute. There are days that getting older definitely doesn’t suck.