Facing The Morning Pilgrimage

When I die and go to Hell, I will spend an eternity sitting on route 80 in bumper-to-bumper traffic, making bets to myself on how long it will take me to get to work as I slump behind an 18-wheeler and a beer-bellied plumber.

As rogue travelers, we spend a lot of time on the road, usually going somewhere cool (or cool in theory). However, I don’t think “a lot of time on the road” should translate to 30 miles and an hour and a half to work each way.

Am I the only one that sits in an obscene amount of traffic twice a day, everyday? No, I’m not – because if I did, route 80 would be empty for at least some of that strip of 30 miles. And honestly, that’s the part that really irks me. According to a 2011 Texas A&M University study, traffic congestion caused Americans to travel 5.5 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel, which adds up to 56 billion unnecessary pounds of carbon dioxide released during that year.

Hard to grasp? Yeah that’s probably because it is. Also, just so you know, this adds up to an average of 38 hours per commuter per year, according to Adam Werback in The Atlantic. Personally, I spend about 480 hours in my car each year just commuting to and from work, so this figure sounds pretty awesome to me, as well as my 100,000 mile ’02 Ford Focus.

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This picture actually gives me anxiety

In America, we go on about how we have to save the environment, about how we should recycle, drive hybrid cars, and use reusable products, which is all good advice since Americans make up for five percent of the population yet use 20 percent of the world’s energy, according to the World Population Balance. However, also in America, train station stops aren’t necessarily accessible, nor are they necessarily fairly priced, or necesssarily reliable.

Conversely, we are also constantly told we need to put more time and effort towards our personal lives; that we need to spend more time with the kids, take the retriever for a walk, have dinner with the wife. According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. Somehow, I highly doubt that every single one of those Americans chooses to work an extra ten hours each week.

What great advice! Too bad it’s totally unrealistic, especially considering there are three unemployed people competing for every position, says Fox News, which makes for slim pickings for jobs.

To top the whole thing off, many of us come home angry, frustrated, and anxiety (and back pain) ridden – just from coming home from work. Exhibit A: Today at about 8:00 pm, a 60-or-so-year-old man in a small yellow convertible car actually followed me back to my apartment complex, parked behind my car, proceeded to walk up and then bang on my windows screaming “You know what you did,” and then trying to physically open my door. Luckily, I had locked the doors, feeling like the fact this guy had been behind me and then drove into my complex for six miles or so was kind of weird. Then after he left and I went inside, I looked out the window and saw that he had come back and circled around, most likely copying down my license plate so that he could find me and kill me. True story people. If I go missing, you know why.

I’m no genius (obviously). I’m not an engineer, I don’t know the makings of how to build a highway, or how to manage traffic issues, or how to deal with energy usage in this country or any other problems that I have mentioned here. But I do know one thing for sure – something isn’t quite right, and it’s not the residents of 740 Park who are seeing the effects. It’s you.

One comment

  1. Hi Jenna,

    Thanks for liking my blog. I really relate to this piece on commuting to work. I work as a wildlife conservationist yet drive hundreds of miles for work each week. The picture of all the cars freaks me out as well. I have tried to spend one day a week when I am not driving but it isn’t easy. best of luck with your blog and all your travels

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