The Commute……………

You could see it on the faces this morning. The dreaded commute. As I sat waiting for my lane light to change from red to green this morning, I purposely looked in each car around me. I know you aren’t supposed to do that. (It’s an unwritten traffic jam rule).  I did it anyway. Not a smile to be found on the hundred or so faces I studied. In fact, the only two smiles I saw this morning was mine (I didn’t have to go to work) and what I think is a homeless guy about 60 or so walking down the side of the road in the rain with his dog. I say I think he is homeless because I see him almost every day walking on the roads with his dog and a huge plastic bag. Same clothes on too. Who knows, he might live in a mansion. He always has a big smile on his face.

I bring my kids to school three days a week. There are two High Schools within a mile apart where I drop my Daughter off. With almost two thousand kids between the two of them, and everyone trying to get to work, it gets to be a pretty good traffic jam. In fact, morning and night there is always tons of traffic here, not unlike a lot of places. Day after day the same cars, the same faces waiting in line, looking for a break. At least that’s what I think. Maybe most of them are just brain dead.

It takes me 55 minutes to make the round trip from home to both schools and back home again to drop them off. Twice a day, 1 hour 50 minutes of drive time, or 5 and 1/2 hours a week, 22 hours a month. It’s a commitment I am more than happy to do. It gives us time in the car together to talk and I enjoy it. But it got me thinking about all the time I spent in my working career. Just the 28 years in the car business, where I had to be at a specific location at a specific time every day. For those of you who don’t have this problem, then thank your lucky stars and enjoy reading about the rest of us.

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My first gig was a 45-minute commute each way. And I lived on a small island which you could only access by going over a bridge that was closed for boat traffic a lot. Sometimes I had to wait an hour or more, the longest was 4 hours. That’s an unusual situation, so I am not even going to count that time. I worked at this job for 8 years, 5 months, scheduled for 5 days a week. I worked a lot of extra days too, but not going to count that either. So for my 5 days a week, 45 minutes each way, I logged 450 minutes commuting, or 7 and 1/2 hours. In the time I was there, I worked 420 weeks, taking two weeks out for vacation each year. 420 weeks times 7 1/2 hours a week equals 3,150 hours. 3,150 hours is 131 days or over 4 months. That would be sitting in my car for 24 hours a day for over 4 months. And that is just my first job.

I won’t bore you with the math, but when I calculated the 4 dealerships I worked in, and the last one I was only 10 minutes away from for 12 years (OK, so we do get smarter as time goes by), I get a total commuting time of 6,933 hours sitting in my car over my 28 years. In real time, if you figure a working day is 8 hours, that comes out to be 866 eight hour days. 866 eight hour days figures out to be 173 forty hour weeks or 3 1/2 years. That’s right, 3 1/2 years of time I didn’t get paid for. If you make $40,000 a year, that is $140,000 of income you didn’t get by sitting in your car.

Everyone has to commute, right? If you read my “Prison Blog” you already know how I feel. No matter if you think it’s just the way it is, or my numbers suck, or you have no other choice. (Liars can figure but figures don’t lie). Many people don’t estimate the cost of commuting in what they are making. If you make $10 an hour for 8 hours a day, commute one hour total a day, then that $80 you are making a day is for 9 hours, or $8.90 an hour. And that is not considering what you spend on gas to get there. (Or the other vehicle expenses by putting miles on your car).  I know it may not seem like much or nothing you can do about it, but it’s a real fact of working which everyone needs to consider. If you do Yoga or pick your nose in your car during this time, then never mind.

I get the other side too. In a stressful life, I have looked forward to being able to get away for a few minutes or hours in my car alone. Whether it’s pulling yourself together enough to get through another day of work, or sitting in my driveway unnoticed for a few precious minutes instead of going into a difficult family situation. Maybe those 3 1/2 years were therapy for me to work the other 28. If that’s the case, then I guess it was worth it.

And for those of you who get paid while you drive, yeah, you know who you are (bus drivers, utility workers, government types) you take a special pleasure in slowing the rest of us down. You claim you have to drive careful and slow, company rules, but I secretly know you are just milking the clock. (I have been there). You can back up traffic behind you on a two-lane for miles for all I care, but when two of you get side by side on a four-lane and no one can get by you, I draw the line. And you can always tell when a company truck is driven by an owner. They are going faster than anyone else because they know time is money (to them).

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That brings me full circle back to those faces. There were basically two groups on the road at that time. Kids who were on their way to school (a lot of them drive to High School) and everyone else on their way to work. No one looked happy. And this is Maui for crying out loud. Is this the promise of a good life? The daily grind? I am as guilty as everyone else for many years.

So you think I am going to say just work from home? Ok, why don’t you just work from home? I know that isn’t really the answer for most people. It’s distracting, lonely, you lose people skills, and you are way to close to the fridge. It would be an emotionally unhealthy choice for many. One alternative is to look for something closer to home or move closer to work if the numbers work out.

The best thing is something I did for the first nine years I was in the car business. I listened to motivational and learning material on my commute. Then I got too smart and figured I didn’t need to learn anything else anymore, I knew it all. From what I can tell, there has never been and is not now a very big interest in doing this. My 3 1/2 years in the car could have been a college education, or learn a new language, or how to do anything. With all of the information out there, and with smartphones and car wifi’s, now more than any other time in history is the opportunity there to use that time for your benefit. You could even start a side gig and have time in your car to work on it.

This blog is not about answers. If you think I have any, then I know thousands of things that don’t work. At a job, relationship, life in general. What this blog is meant to be is a dialogue. My only hope is that I can affect one person a day to help ease the burden, make their life just a little bit better, save some sanity in a crazy world.  Whether it comes from me, or a comment someone sends in, doesn’t matter. I welcome your comments, and if you feel the message is good then please like and share on your social media. I know it’s a bit scary to put yourself out there and share something. Seems like everyone is looking for the angle, and bombard anyone they get their hooks into. I am not looking to sell anything (well, maybe my book) so don’t worry that I will hound anyone. And maybe, just maybe, someone out there has the answer that you have been looking for.

Tomorrow as I wait in line for the light to change, I’m going to look for a smile. And when I find it, they may be learning something new, or maybe they just saw me staring…..or just picking my nose.

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4 Replies to “The Commute……………”

  1. Another great blog Burl!!! How true about the hours spent in the car. Only if we could’ve been getting paid for that time too! My little thing is, I smile and wave at people all the time. Usually I will get a smile back! Just my way of trying to make their day a little happier! You know me!!!

    1. You are definitely the Optimist. Rare to find for sure. If someone waved at me I think I would freak……Been thinking about that Mexican gig and makes my mouth water. How about starting a catering business for meetings, weddings, football parties, city events. Or host food parties at your cute little house. Maybe contact a Mexican Restaurant in Duluth or the Cities and see if they would like another location. Ad in Craigslist or reach out on Facebook. I’m excited for you. Think five years from now. It’s going to come no matter what. Baby steps will turn into strides.

  2. I like that idea of catering too. We used to have a friend who wasn’t from our area and didn’t visit her family one Christmas. She offered to cook Christmas dinner for us in our own kitchen! It was such a relief to leave the cooking to someone else! Of course we invited her to join us, and she offered several other times too. Not that we don’t enjoy cooking but sometimes are too hectic. I bet lots of people hosting parties would appreciate it. Football parties, grad parties, summer get togethers, any special occasion. I’m ready to order some Mexican food right now just thinking about it! You don’t need a bank loan to get started on that scale. Good way to test the waters.

What do you have to say about that?