Commuting: Is the train an extension of the office or the home?

With packing books–those most treasured and frustratingly heavy of possessions–smaller thus lighter boxes are the way to go: you won’t regret the extra trips from the moving truck to the new apartment when your back is still functioning the next day. This I learned 11 months ago when we moved to San Francisco. I also learned not to mail books through the United States Postal Service uninsured, but that is another, very tragic, story.

On Friday, June 5, after a week of packing up our San Francisco apartment, I road my bike to work for the last time. It was an uneventful ride. I honestly don’t even remember it. But yesterday Rachel and I biked from our new place in Berkeley to the famous Berkeley Bowl, a grocery store that really does deserve all the hype it gets, and after a week of commuting by Bay Area Rapid Transit I realized I am already nostalgic for my twice-daily 15-minute fix of weaving in an out of traffic, dodging potholes and pedestrians with my cycling brethren.

But, that is all I miss. Our new apartment is beautiful and sun drenched, with built in bookcases, screens in the windows, and ceiling fans. The immediate area is green and peaceful. A 15-minute walk puts us in the middle a vibrant cultural hub. We are happy. The cats are happy. For the first time in 11 months, we have a home we are thrilled to come home to.

mapI do not feel far away from work. Or maybe I do, but I don’t feel detached from it even though a bay now divides us. Hopefully that feeling won’t change; a number of colleagues live over here, and it does not seem to be a problem. That said, it was odd walking by Berkeley Rep and Aurora Theatre Co. knowing that I still had 80% of my journey  before reaching my office. But in Chicago, I enjoyed my commute. Didn’t I? Or is that a myth I’ve bought into because most commuters (non-driving commuters, that is) swear by their commutes like Catholics swear by confession? Regardless, what once was a fifteen-minute trip that required no bus schedule nor depended on anyone other than myself and my gears is now a 10 minute walk+a 26 minute ride+a 7 minute walk, and that’s only if I time it perfectly and the train’s on time.

It’s a change. And what to do with my new 52 minutes of passive travel is a decision: is this work time or is this “me” time? Do I try to maintain the same hours in the office and use these 52 minutes to read the newspaper or The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (which I bought years ago but never read)? Or do I clock this almost-hour and use it to reread Ayckbourn’s Round and Round the Garden for next season, or any of the 40+ scripts that are on my shelf that I thought I would have time to read in June and July only to find out that, deadlines or no, a publications department is never truly dark.

So far: The Elegant Universe far 5, Ayckbourn 1. But as I struggle to wrap my mind around relativity and that speed alters time because the speed of light is ALWAYS the same EVEN IF it’s origin was ALREADY moving  (what the what!) . . . working on the train is sounding more and more relaxing.

One thought on “Commuting: Is the train an extension of the office or the home?

  1. Speaking from the Chicago commuter contingent, I find that I alternate use of my commute. Sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s “leisure reading,” sometimes it’s the RadioLab podcast, sometimes it’s getting all moony-eyed about the new boy and looking out the window listening to the Weepies. It’s nice to have variety.

    Also – we owe each other a phone call.

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