In the thirty five plus years that I worked in New York City, I never drove to work. It would have been foolish to do so because mass transit was so convenient. From our house in Edison N.J, I took either the train or the bus to New York. Mostly , it was the train and it was a pleasure to take my seat and open up the New York Times. Even when I had to stand, the forty minute train ride passed quickly and I arrived at the office fresh for the day’s work. I pitied the poor chaps who had to drive to work particularly if they were commuting into NYC from across the Hudson or from Long Island. Having driven to the City on weekends, I was only too aware of the bottlenecks at the Lincoln Tunnel or the Hudson Tunnel, and I couldn’t imagine having to deal with them morning and evening on a daily basis. I used to hear some of my friends gripe about driving to work and I never thought I would experience it myself. All that changed a couple of weeks ago.
More than ten years into retirement, I accepted an offer to teach part time for the summer. It would mean driving twenty miles to Edison from our house in Somerset N.J, three days a week. I was a little apprehensive about the driving part, never having done it before, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.
It really hasn’t been too bad. Quite pleasant , in fact, for the most part.
That first morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I started out early but even at 7:45 the traffic was building up. Luckily for me, I had to go in the direction opposite to the flow of traffic on Route 287. Except for two minor traffic buildups, I was able to tool along at close to the speed limit and I got to the office in 25 minutes. I was happy I was not going in the opposite direction where the traffic was stop and go. I couldn’t read my newspaper , of course, but there was the newfound pleasure of the car radio. Listening to today’s favorites and yesterdays hits made up for it. (Of course, since I get my news online these days, that option would not have been available even had I been commuting by train today.) The evening drive home was almost as good ; the traffic was a little denser and a five minute stretch of stop and go traffic but nothing to complain about. The traffic in the other direction was bumper to bumper and at times seemed like one giant parking lot. Anytime I felt impatient, I just had to look across and realize how good I had it. I must admit also that there is a sense of independence and well being in driving to work as opposed to commuting by mass transit. No waiting on crowded platforms or scrambling to get on.
I have one friend who used to drive from New Brunswick, NJ to Long Island every day It took him two and a half hours each way and he had to negotiate the heavy traffic over the Verrazano Narrows and the Long Island Expressway. He did so even when he was in his mid-sixties in all weathers , even when it had snowed heavily. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in the evenings when he had already put in a full days work and was staring at the 2 -1/2 hour commute home. I asked him once and he said that the drive passed quickly because he would listen to some audio books on the radio. I know I couldn’t have done it.
I’m fine now with driving to work but it’s because it entails only a half hour drive against the traffic flow, three days a week for the next two months. Those others I see going in the opposite direction, most of them on commutes of an hour or more , I’m glad I’m not one of them. A tip of the hat to them.