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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Some Rats Race Further Than Others

I was talking with some coworkers recently about commutes. It’s always fascinated me the lengths to which people will go to drag their ass into an office. Or for that matter, the distance they’re willing to schlep back home when they’re finally unshackled from their desks at the end of the day.

Boston’s an interesting city for commutes, because it’s possible — not recommended, mind you, but possible — to work in the city and live in any one of at least five states. I’ve known people who commute from Massachusetts (obviously), New Hampshire, and Maine. And I’ve heard the legends of hardy nomads from Connecticut and Rhode Island who make the round trip for their jobs, too. I wouldn’t be shocked if some wild-eyed dreamer was trucking in from Vermont, or maybe even New York. And Los Angeles thinks they have rush hours. Pffft.

I once decided that I’d never commute more than thirty minutes each way — and promptly spent eight months doing just that. I’ve worked with people — several people; there must be something in the water — who spend well over an hour getting to and from the office. That’s close to three hours a day driving, busing, or riding a train. Three hours! There’s nothing in the world I’d want to do for three hours a day, five days a week. Not one thing.

(Well, to be fair, there is one thing, of course.

But I have weak arches. And that much tapioca pudding would get expensive — and where would I find an inflatable Peppermint Patty doll, anyway?

Eh, never mind.)

“Of course, saying your commute ‘isn’t so bad’ is a lot like saying your proctologist ‘has soft hands’.”

Back in the day — and in Pittsburgh — I used to walk to work. Then again, so did everyone else I knew there. We were all poor, starving students, so we didn’t have a hell of a lot of choice. Most of us couldn’t afford a car. The ones that had cars couldn’t afford gas — and the few that could afford gas didn’t have the cash left over for a parking spot. And if by some miracle — like an inheritance from a rich uncle, maybe — one of us did manage all that, we’d be too busy schlepping our mooching carless friends all over town to actually drive to work. Better just to walk, and avoid the hassles.

Of course, that’s not an option in Boston. Just ask those suckers motoring in from New Hampshire and Montana and whereever else they’re coming from. Even here, close by the city, I’m six miles or so from my office. And while I probably could walk six miles — like, for a Guinness-sponsored stripper convention, maybe — I’m sure as hell not doing it for a mid-morning staff meeting. Those are never sponsored by Guinness. But they ought to be.

As it is, those six miles take twenty minutes or so to drive, which isn’t so bad. Of course, saying your commute ‘isn’t so bad’ is a lot like saying your proctologist ‘has soft hands’. It’s small comfort, and suggests that you’ve previously experienced something far worse than you’d care to mention.

In my case, that would be the hour-long trip I used to make to and from an office building just steps away from my current place of business. I actually lived closer to the area then, but had no office parking. Or rather, still on the heels of poo, starving studentdom, no cash with which to pay for office parking. There was only enough money for beer or a garage spot, but not both. I made the only logical choice. A long day of working makes a man thirsty, you know. Very, very thirsty.

So, I had to walk down our street to the subway stop, wait for a train, take it downtown, switch to another train, and ride it out to the office. All while muched and mangled in with the other umpteen thousand commuters doing roughly the same thing every morning, and every night going home. The only advantage to the trip was that I wasn’t actually driving the trains, so I could get some work done along the way. Where ‘work’ means sleeping, reading a novel, weeping softly in a corner, or panhandling for loose change. If a brother’s gonna ride the train, the least people can do is chip in to buy him a coffee and doughnut, right? That’s my theory.

I’m much happier now that I can get where I’m going in half the time, though. I don’t have all the perks — I can still read or catnap on the straightaways, of course, but if I find loose change in the car, it was mine already. Still, there’s something to be said for speedy convenience. Now if I could just find a way to ‘work’ without actually going anywhere at all — that would be sweet. And sponsored by Guinness. Oh my word, yes.

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