I was never a fan of having a long commute to work. It doesn’t help that I have very little patience (even as a baseball player, I wasn’t a patient hitter), but the idea of spending an hour getting to and from work every day never appealed to me, regardless of the job. And while lots of us do that, or have done it – I am among them – it seems most don’t want that.
It’s a situation that at times baffles me, and I’m sure others.
In the last month or so, I have been at a couple of networking events in cities around the upper end of Interstate 495 where a number of people have espoused that they don’t want to make the long commute into Boston or Cambridge. On Friday, the first four new members who introduced themselves at one meeting all said they don’t want to do it, which garnered a few chuckles and prompted me to quip, “Are we detecting a pattern here?”
Stories abound of people who have taken long commutes to their jobs. One that the New York Times recently ran is just the latest. I remember interviewing with a company in Springfield, VA over a dozen years ago, and heard that at least one person commuted from West Virginia to work there. I was dumbfounded, wondering how anyone could do that with all the time spent behind the wheel. (And yes, had I gotten the job, I would have relocated to northern Virginia.) Another I was friends with years ago used to have a two-hour commute one way.
I haven’t always been fortunate, but generally have avoided long commutes save for when I did not have a car and was thus tied to the MBTA’s schedule. In those days, I usually spent time reading or even napping on the train (the latter, of course, is often with risk, but was not in this instance because my stop was always the last stop), so I made the most of that time. I’ve generally had commutes that were about 30-40 minutes; I once had one that was a good 45 minutes, but that was a straightforward ride that rarely encountered much traffic, so it was fine for me.
The best was when I bought my first home, because that moved me to within about 15 minutes of my job at the time, and all via back roads. The last job I had started with about a 45-60 minute commute depending on traffic, and at the end, it was a solid hour after I moved. Thank God I had podcasts to listen to on those rides, because they would have been unbearable otherwise.
A part of me really wanted something closer to home during the latter part of that job. It wasn’t so much the time driving that was primarily behind it, although that certainly was important and for the same reason it always has been. More important was time with my son at the end of the day, namely that I didn’t get much of it and often missed him if I had to run an errand on the way home. Even as a single person, I didn’t like the idea of a long commute, traffic or not, but now as a married parent, I like it even less.
Even as many of us say we don’t want a long commute, so many of us go for one. We grin and bear it. It may be that our realistic choices are limited, or at least appear to be, but I sometimes wonder if some who have these very long commutes really could get a similarly good job a lot closer to home after all. I have been close to good jobs, and even right now am located not very far away from a few good employers.
Working in the city, which is often where people have long commutes to, brings a lot of other unpleasant things with it. There is almost always traffic, especially in Boston and Cambridge (where most at the events I alluded to earlier would rather not have to go for work), and public transportation can be unreliable, not to mention that if taking a bus or train that runs sparingly, missing one could tie you up for a while. (I’ve been there.) Driving into the city also means paying big money to park, if you can even find a spot, and an alternative could be parking at an MBTA station and then taking public transit (which means the worst of both worlds: paying to park and being tied to their schedule).
In fact, I still go into Boston and Cambridge for technical and/or networking events with some frequency, and invariably I am reminded of all of these. If that happens just going into town for a few hours, what in the world will going there for a job be like?
Long commutes cost us in terms of gas money, car maintenance, possibly other money spent on transit, and most importantly, our time. While the monetary costs of commuting can eat up a lot of extra pay we get, our time is much more precious. That, at the end of the day, has to be the primary reason so many would prefer not to make a long commute to the city. And I can’t blame them, nor can my son.
It’s the kind of commute I hope I can avoid, especially after having to endure an hour-long commute recently. I can only imagine having a commute like that of the people featured in the NY Times and other publications.