For a year I commuted 90 miles round trip from Broward County to Miami-Dade County, Florida. I loved my new job and loved living for free at my mom’s house. During this past year I generally spent 2-3 hours a day in traffic. These are the lessons I learned:
1. Breath. There are many things in life you can control, traffic is not one of them. When you are faced with something you can’t change, just remember to keep breathing.
2. Listen to the messages God is trying to send you. I know this sounds corny. But after you drive the same route day after day, you get to know the spots that have lots of traffic and the spots that you can coast through. One day I woke up in a bad mood, and there was this one stretch of road that I can always count on to never have any traffic. However that morning it felt like every douche bag in the world was cutting in front of me and then driving slow. This aggravated me more because there were so few cars on the road. “Why do you need to be in front of me????? Go over there!! There’s plenty of room!!” After the tenth time it happened, I realized the Universe/God/your Higher Power (whatever) was telling me to slow down. I reflected on the past week and realized all the mistakes and frustrations I had encountered were due to rushing ahead. I took it as a sign, and slowed down in every aspect of my life. Things started clicking into place.
3. Money can’t buy you happiness. To make my commute quicker, I often took the express lanes and the turnpike, both of which charge tolls. I figured my time is valuable, this commute is long, throw money at the problem! However, no amount of money spent prevented me from hitting traffic. Every day I spent at least 20 minutes of my time traveling only 3 miles. Having money is great. I love money. But it can’t solve everything and it can’t make you happy.
4. Go local! Everyone benefits when you think of the environment, especially you. Many people think going green or going local is an altruistic or long-term thinking strategy. But it’s not, when you go local and green YOU are the biggest beneficiary NOW! I realized after commuting for 8 months that I was literally setting my money on fire. I drive an SUV that is 12 years old, between the cost of gas (2 ½ tanks a week) and the tolls, I was spending $600-700 a month. Every time I turned on the engine, up in smoke went my money. Living with mom wasn’t so cheap after all! I reflected on previously living in NYC with the amazing public transportation system. I lived in Long Island because it was cheaper and commuted to Queens, I took the Long Island Rail Road every day. It seems more environmentally friendly but between the cost of the LIRR and my Metro pass, I was spending around $300 a month. You add that to my rent, and I probably could’ve afforded to live in Queens! If you also include all the time standing on a freezing cold train platform waiting, commuting really was a waste of non-renewable resources (my time, fuel, the environment, etc).
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate! And do, so promptly. If you commute to work long enough you’ll eventually encounter a major that accident that will have your 1 hour commute, turn into a 2 hour nightmare. Most of the time when this occurs the driver won’t call in to work until it’s close to the time they were supposed to start. For example, Mary starts work at 9am, she finds her self stuck behind a major accident at 8:30am, she probably won’t make that call into work until 8:50am. Bad move! I know that calling in late feels like you’re admitting you did something wrong, even though you did everything right. No one likes being wrong, so we all hope the accident will clear up quickly, so we wait before calling our colleagues. But really, the best move is to call the moment you sense something out of the ordinary has happened on the road. That way your team can prep themselves and come up with Plans B and C in case you do come in later than expected. The moment you know something is wrong, is the moment they should know something is wrong. Hording information can really mess up everyone’s day.
6. I am important. If you’re like me, you probably go to work everyday unless you are on death’s doorstep. I’ve gone to work with fevers, I’ve gone to work with stomachaches, I’ve gone to work with injuries. However, when you have a long commute doing those things can be extremely uncomfortable, and even extremely dangerous. One time I was running a fever and I went to work anyway, I did my full day of work, and then promptly fell asleep on the road several times on my way back home. It was the most nerve-racking experience. I was fighting sleep with all my might, the road felt never-ending. Till this day I thank God and modern engineering for the rumble strips that are on the side of the highway. I could’ve died or killed someone. And all for what?!? To give some corporation eight hours of my blood sweat and tears? Now, when I’m sick I stay home. I choose to take care of me and my body instead of taking care of someone else’s profit margin. After all, if I become disabled, die, or am incarcerated, all they’ll do is replace me. Never put someone else above you!
7. Be grateful. It was a Saturday morning and I was running an hour late on my way to a wedding. I was driving like a maniac, there were very few cars on the road so I was driving about 100mph. And then I saw the weirdest thing….across the highway was a mack truck on it’s side and on fire. It clearly had just happened since there were no fire trucks, ambulances, or police cars. It was just sitting there by itself. On fire. I slowed down and passed it, and then saw all the emergency responders barreling down the road towards the truck. And I just thought…how funny life is…I get to spend the rest of my day celebrating the union of two people’s love, and I don’t know how the driver’s day will turn out. He might be dead. All of a sudden, being late didn’t matter. Being able to show up in one piece was all that mattered. My life is beautiful, unless I destroy it. So be aware and be grateful.
I have since taken my lessons to heart and turned my 90 mile a day commute to an 8 mile a day commute. I now work and live in Miami! I haven’t lived in the middle of a city in over a decade, and it’s different. It’s noisier, everything moves faster, and it’s harder to see the stars at night. But I have regained hours of my life back. And I enjoy finding a multitude of ways to spend that extra time getting myself into trouble!