It’s Thursday morning, and I’m running late for work. I scramble for my shoes, grab a banana for breakfast – don’t forget to feed the cat, oh, and remember to lock that door behind you! – I jump in my car and take off. So far so good: all the lights are green, nothing seems to be stopping me from making this the greatest late morning recovery in human history! Forget being on time, heck, I might be 10 minutes early at this rate! And then I follow the bend on to the interstate…and immediately step on my brakes.
Commuters during rush hour are estimated to spend 42 hours a year in traffic. If you have the same job for 5 years and don’t move, that’s just a little under 9 days of traffic congestion.
At this point, I realize I have two options:
The obvious lesson here is to always be prepared. Nowadays with cell phones and computers, there’s simply no excuse why I can’t just look up my workplace and find the fastest route. Often during rush hour, my phone tells me which side roads are faster at that time of day. Being prepared to identify and take the fastest route, even if it’s not the usual way, can lead to less stress about the little things in life, and subconsciously, I am more alert of my surroundings when I’m unfamiliar with the route. I notice a restaurant I’ve never seen before, a shop that looks really appealing, or maybe even a park I can take a walk in.
While making the most of a traffic scenario is one choice, perhaps I simply just need to reschedule my drive. I shouldn’t risk being late to work anyways, so maybe it’s probably time I suck it up and avoid traffic by leaving an hour earlier than usual. My work has flexible scheduling, so coming in early is never an issue. For some, work-flexibility is challenging. Could you leave early and spend that hour accomplishing hard-to-find-time-for goals you may have near or around your workplace? Need time to read that book? Interested in joining a gym? Need to do research on a job that understands the importance of flexible schedules? All of these you could make happen with an extra hour on hand.
Well, if you’ve stayed with me this far, it’s been about 4 minutes – and I’m still stuck in traffic. At this rate, being early has gone out the window and being on time is not looking so hot either. I need to accept the fact that I’m going to be late, but I also need to accept the fact that a change needs to be made not only in my work route but in my life route. I can’t keep accepting traffic and tardiness as an answer… or else I won’t be dealing with either for much longer.
Hypothetical job termination aside, it’s also important for my well-being: I don’t like traffic congestions, and I won’t accept traffic congestions. 42 hours a year is an incredible amount of time to be stuck next to semi-trucks sporting wheel spikes. I deserve better. So does everyone else in this jam. But it starts with us.
If we all choose to avoid normalcy and embrace change, even when it feels like a gamble, what’s possible? Reaching our destinations in a timely – and slightly self-improved – manner. It just might influence you to make changes elsewhere in your lifestyle.
And hey, if everyone chooses to find different routes, then some of us can maybe choose to use the interstate again!