Commuting. It can be a quick jaunt for some or an arduous undertaking of miles and time spent traveling for others. My commute to work is long, both in miles and in time (yes, that puts me in the arduous column). An hour and a half in the morning, across almost 60 miles of Pennsylvania roads littered with potholes, school buses, stop signs, the person who skipped the Driver’s Ed class about how to drive when its raining, and the guy who thinks the posted speed limit is much to fast to be driving on a major highway. Coming home, on the surface, is no different as the same rigors of the commute line my way. But that is on the surface.
Before my wife and kids were in the picture, my commute home was more like a Grand Prix exhibition. I weaved. I sped. I used my middle finger sometimes more often than I used my turn signals. After being at work for sometimes 11 hours at a shot, I only thought about getting home as quickly as I could.
Now, home is where my family is. Home is where my dog sits perched on top of the sofa, staring out the window, anxious for my arrival. Home is where my kids greet me with hugs and ‘Hi Daddy’s!’ Home is where my wife, at times, is counting the minutes till I arrive as I am her respite for kids who forgot how to listen. What I have waiting for me at home is why I enjoy the long commute.
Dealing with co-workers, clients, my computer freezing in the middle of saving a file and trying to get that dangling pack of Tastykakes you just spent $1.25 for out of the vending machine can be stressful. In fact, work can present itself with an entire portfolio of stress. That stress mounts. That stress piles itself on to your back, hangs from your arms, drags behind you, gripped to your legs. The last thing I want to do is allow all of this to walk in the front door with me once I get home. Especially when there is a 70/30 chance the kids haven’t been listening, the dog chewed someone’s shoe (most likely mine), and my wife just burnt dinner because she was trying to handle all of it. The last thing that needs to be added to such a combustible mix (like introducing napalm to a swimming pool of gasoline) is me not ready to be Daddy or Alicia’s husband because of something that happened almost 60 miles away. Because I want and I am ready to be Daddy and Alicia’s husband.
Enter my long commute.
When I get in to my car, the front and back seat are packed. The backseat has an unhappy client, my computer that took 45 minutes to load an Excel spreadsheet, and the couple who decided to buy somewhere else buckling in. My co-workers, all asking for something different from me, are riding shotgun. It is loud and crowded in my car. So I use the long commute. I use it to molt the day off of me.
I have stopped looking for shortcuts to take. I don’t speed or dart in and out of lanes. I turn the ringer off of my phone. I’ve made peace with the guy willing to get in to a 7 car pile just so he doesn’t hit a chipmunk in the street. I have ceased pleading with deaf stoplights. I accept my commute for what and for how long it takes me. Because with each mile I drive, as I get closer to my family, my car empties a little. Soon I’m alone. The stresses that were sitting with me when I left are gone. It’s just me, the sound of the radio, and 42 texts on my ‘Silent’ phone from my wife I just realized I had.
Believe me when I tell you, I’m not trying to delay getting home. Even after a good day at work, I am excited to get home. I look forward to walking through the door and seeing my girls and kissing my wife. This is why I have stopped trying to shorten my commute. Why the stoplights all being red and the guy driving 35mph under the speed limit aren’t so rage inducing. Because the time it takes to get to my family and back to being Daddy and Alicia’s husband gives me the opportunity to shed the passengers I left work with and come home alone.