Commuting is the subject of the Mid-Month Status Report from Trystan, proprietress of This is CorpGoth. How timely…
Until I moved to the NoVA/DC Metro area, I drove to and from work. Southern West Virginia has no public transportation system that I’m aware of! The “city” of Beckley certainly didn’t. And for most of my working life, I lived a few miles outside of Beckley.
In Spring, summer, and for most of fall, it was a fifteen minute drive. Both the law firms and the University I worked at were in the same general area. I had my choice of routes to take to get there; I noticed though that I tended to take the exact same route in the mornings and only ever varied the way I went home – this was usually due to having to run errands on the way home.
Winter was a completely different story! The drive that took fifteen minutes on a clear, dry day could take up to forty five on slick, untreated roads. And they never treated the roads! If it started to snow/sleet after 4:00 p.m., or if school was cancelled, you might as well forget it. They weren’t going to bother. Slick roads also changed my route. Only one way home was “safe” to take, as with the others you risked winding up in a ditch, rolling over an embankment, or getting stuck behind someone in a small car who couldn’t take a hill. I had some close calls in the years I drove back and forth from my little town to Beckley, and I am damned lucky that I never lost control in a bad place, got hit/hit someone, or got stranded.
I hated driving on bad roads, even after I got a small 4-wheel drive SUV. The only winter I ever spent not freaking out about every flake of snow was the year I lived in the “city” limits and much closer to the University. I took a poorly graded, curvy secondary road to work every day, but there were no embankments and worst case scenario I was close enough to walk if I did happen to wreck.
I always kept a flashlight, blanket, extra gloves, an umbrella, a hat, and a snow broom/scraper in my vehicle. Even after I got a smart phone I insisted on having a phone book, note pad, and pens too. In West Virginia you just never knew when you’d lose your signal and have to hoof it to the closest pay phone in an emergency.
Now, I live in a city with a fantastic public transportation system. I am lucky that I can take one bus – it’s just a twenty minute ride and it even picks me up right outside my building! Which is great, because I’m used to driving in suburban/rural areas; “big city” driving isn’t for me! I usually spend the time reading or studying.
Of course, commuting by bus isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. This very morning, the bus I was on started leaking some strange fluid, and we had to evacuate. We ended up waiting for almost twenty five minutes before another bus arrived! The driver wasn’t sure what was going on or if it was safe to be near the bus, much less on it, so most of that was spend outside. Of course we would be experiencing a cold snap this week. It’s a really good thing I dressed for it today.
I’ve noticed a lot of differences now that I commute by bus rather than by car. For one thing, I dress completely differently. I have to stand outside and wait for buses now instead of going straight to my car. So I have to make sure that I’m dressed appropriately for that – I’ve had to completely give up stockings on the hot, humid days of summer and winter means wearing or carrying a hood, scarf, and gloves in case of temperature changes. Actually, I’ve learned I can’t get away with carrying a smaller bag to work at all. It has to fit pretty much every thing I need for the day – gone are the days of tossing a grocery bag, coat, and other essentials on the passenger seat! I often have my Kindle Fire, a paperback, my lunch and snacks, medicine, an umbrella or parasol, and earbuds in addition to the makeup, wallet, keys, and phone I’ve always carried stuffed into an oversized bag!
When driving I rarely had to walk very far to and from my car. If I had to run errands or go out for lunch, I drove. Now, I have to walk to and from the bus stop and to the bank, grocery store, mall, or whatever restaurant I’m meeting someone at. This is really hard on my nice shoes. My deformity causes me to wear shoes really strangely anyway; the heel cap dragging on the concrete or brick isn’t good! But I’ve taken to wearing my wedgey flip flops, hiking boots, or other “walking” shoe that’s easy to repair and keeping my nicer pumps at work.
There are pros and cons to either method of travel here in NoVA. For me, cost (bus is much cheaper given the costs of gas and parking) and the peace of mind not having to drive brings are the determining factors. I’m very lucky to not only have the option, but to live in a place where the system is as fantastic as it is!