The Long Road Home

Hello. My name is Sam. And I’m a commuter.

Every Monday through Friday, I make a 70-mile roundtrip to and from work. Millions of people in the United States are doing the same thing – and some have it far worse than I do. And let me be the first – and sure as hell not the last – to say: commuting is rough. A long commute definitely takes its toll mentally – a commute comes with both environmental and social costs.

Environmental because hey, 75.7% of us commuters are driving alone and polluting the air with our Hondas, Lexuses, Toyotas, and Teslas. Okay, not so much Teslas, but seriously, can someone buy me a Tesla? Black on black with Justin Timberlake a cherry on top, pretty please.

I do, JT. I really do.

I do, JT. I really do.

And like I said, there’s the social costs to think about, too. Couples that include at least one commuter are 40% more likely to break up than those lucky non-commuters. Now we can’t just rush off and blame our relationship woes on the fact that we’re stuck in traffic for an hour or so. I say an hour there because that’s the average time it takes me to go one way (either driving to work or driving home from work).

But having been a commuter since I graduated from college a couple of years ago, I have developed some helpful tips to get through my commute. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes I crumble and the commute gets the best of me, and I bang on my steering wheel screaming, “Why, God, why?!” I really should have been an actress, I know.

So for all the commuters out there, this one’s for you.

The first trick is to just breathe. No, I’m not talking Faith Hill style – there’s no “magic floating in the air” during a commute (unless maybe you have a joint next to you or something). What I’m thinking is more akin to Dory style – you know, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Well, commuters, just keep breathing, just keep breathing. I know it sounds lame and somewhat indicative to your survival, but taking deep breaths has drastically calmed me down during times where I feel like I’m going to lose it after repeatedly going from the gas to the brake (to dip-dip). Like I said, on average, it takes me around an hour to go one way – but there’s been a few times here and there – when people really can’t drive and accidents happen – that it’s taken me over two and a half hours to get into the office. I’m sure that did wonders for my work reputation. And even though I was frustrated as hell, I knew there was nothing I could do to change my situation – I was in the middle of Highway 101 with nowhere to go. My next best option was to abandon my car and run the 35 miles to work. But given my exercise habit, that probably would not have been the best idea. Stuck in heels and without a blunt, all I could do was breathe. Stay calm and breathe on, my fellow commuters.

Then there’s always the option that technology has granted to us: check your damn route. Taking Highway 101 seriously sucks, so if traffic is pretty bad, hey, here’s looking at you, 280. Yes, that route is longer in terms of mileage, but I would much rather drive 100 miles without any traffic than drive 40 sitting in some stop and go shit. Google Maps, Apple Maps, whatever tickles your pickle, floats your boat, flips your pancake – use it.

Or if you’re really hating the distance, you could always pursue the fairly obvious (but not always realistic) option of searching for a job closer to where you live. Make the transition from commuter to non-commuter – I hear it’s not a difficult one to make. But because we can’t all be like the Kardashians and release a sex tape to become rich and famous, this “tip” is usually not viable. Maybe I just put this one in here because I had to get a dig at Kim in. I absolutely adore Kourtney and Khloe, which leaves me begging the question: How on Earth is Kim related to those two hilarious goddesses? All I ever see Kim doing is eating and crying.

What do you mean, Kanye isn't the father?!

What do you mean, Kanye isn’t the father?!

Or say you encounter a day when the traffic gods have smiled upon you and there is NO TRAFFIC. You don’t know how you could have ever been this lucky, but you have. Now cherish it, relish it, bask in your glory, go buy a lottery ticket, but whatever you do, never, ever get behind a Prius. With nearly a decade of driving under my belt, I have yet to meet one decent Prius driver. I might sound like a bitch for vocalizing this, but y’all have been thinking it for years. The Priuses of the world drive in the left lane at a whopping speed of 60 miles per hour…and the speed limit where I live is 65 miles per hour. The Priuses think they own the left lane, they get carpool privileges without another driver, they are the more environmentally friendly spawn of Satan. Yes, I said it – Satan’s minions are walking the Earth in the form of Prius drivers. So do yourself a favor, avoid driving behind them if you’d like to make it home before you’re 80 years old. And Prius drivers, do the rest of us a favor, and claim your territory in the far right lane. Be gone, minions, be gone.

And remember, there are definite upsides – more like silver linings – to undergoing the daily commute. With the magic of sound, you can listen to audiobooks, music, throw some standup comedy in there and laugh maniacally at other drivers, get some NPR so you can stay informed on what’s going on in our world, spend a few extra bucks to get XM Radio and no commercials, or even sit silently and daydream…about Luke Bryan…being your husband. Wait, who does that? Obviously not me. I mean, I can’t help it if he sings about how he’s drunk on me every single day on my way to work. I’m flattered, Luke, really. But seriously, a commute is the perfect time to not only master Michael Jackson’s falsetto, but it also serves as the perfect outlet to bust a move (but for the love of God, keep your foot on the brake pedal while in traffic).

You know you want to.

You know you want to.

And lastly, if you’re having a particularly shitty day – and this goes for everyone, not just commuters – turn on some Christmas music. It’s October 11, and I actually listened to N’Sync’s Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays this morning, and I walked into the office jollier than old Saint Nick himself. Because if Christmas music can’t save you, nothing will.

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