20 September 2014

My new reality - not reading on trains


On my first day back to work week a really terrible thing happened. I was sitting on Metro all happy to be hunkered down with a good book, when suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, I got nauseated from the motion of the train. I know, with that build up you were expecting something way worse. But really, for a reader facing a half an hour on an underground train, this ranks up there.


Even worse, on the way home that first day, after trying and failing again to read on the train, I got to Metro Center to transfer to the Red Line only to be faced with a really crowded platform due to delayed trains. I fought my way to the end of the platform to find relief only to find no relief. And the people kept coming and coming. After waiting about five minutes and looking at my watch I began to wonder if I would make it to Lucy's doggy daycare before the 7:00 pm cut off time. I only had about 40 minutes. The nearest train was still 10 minutes away but there was no way I was going to be able to squeeze onto that one, the next one was 24 minutes away, then the journey time and walk to Happy Paws. I would never make it on time. So I went up to the street (ah, fresh air) and walked about 10 blocks to get as far out of the vehicle congestion as possible before I hailed a cab.

Through this process I began to think the unthinkable: what if I drove to work instead? I haven't car commuted in over 14 years. Even when my schedule is compatible with John's I prefer not join him on his car commute. I take Metro so I can read.

Until now.

I was truly looking forward to about 40 minutes of reading each way. And traffic in and out of DC can be truly horrific. And what can be less green than a car with a single occupant? Still, I wasn't happy with the idea of all that travel time (plus at least another 40 minutes each way in walking time to drop Lucy off, walk to Metro, walk to work and then reverse it all at the end of the day. An hour and twenty minutes each way. Two hours and forty minutes out my day with nothing but the possibility of audio books and podcasts (and who listens to podcasts?).

Could this be me? No. He is clearly on a motorway and driving on the left. Plus my commute is never really slow enough to encourage this kind of dangerous behavior.
So when I got home that night I took a good look at Google maps wondering how painful a car commute might be. Turns out, not so painful after all. I found a route to my job that is, dare I say, almost pleasant. It stays well north of the city center, it keeps me off all freeways or even highways, it is a reverse commute so all the rush hour traffic is going the other direction, and the blinding morning and evening the sun is at my back. There is even a moment on Chain Bridge where I can look down at one of the more scenic and rocky stretches of the Potomac. 

My drive averaged from 25 to 35 minutes each way. And the nature of the commute doesn't induce the normal commuting stress. I may indeed have to download an audiobook or two, but so far I have been content with loudish classical music and the occasional dip into the news.

The bottom line is, no matter how pleasant my commute, it means I won't be getting the extra reading time I predicted. At least I still have my lunch hour. Time to be anti-social.

Could this be me? No. I don't have to wear a suit or tie, I don't drink coffee, and my iPhone stays in my messenger bag while I drive.


27 comments:

  1. Poor you! I sympathise terribly - I get motion sickness in cars and buses when I try and read - and pre-Satnav I used to get into terrible trouble with my ex for not being able to map-read without reeling. My days of commuting are long over thankfully - but I could always read on trains though. Now I have a ten minute drive to work through the countryside. I hope you find a solution to using your commuting time - maybe it'll improve?

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    1. I have the same problem with map reading in the car. It is so much worse than the little upset I had on the train. I never used to have a problem on the Metro. And I am usually fine on long distance trains, they aren't as curvy.

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  2. Ugh. I just wrote a comment, and I think Google ate it. Trying again.

    I can't read on Metro at all, so I have to listen to podcasts when I ride, and even then I sometimes feel queasy and once nearly passed out. I'm kind of glad Metro isn't an option for my commute. If it were, I'm not sure what I'd do. My car commute is just about 20 minutes, and I listen to podcasts then.

    I hope you have better luck finding a quiet place for lunchtime reading than I've had lately. My office put a TV in the break room, and no matter how little I care about what's on CNN, I can never tune it out enough to concentrate on a book or even a slightly complicated magazine article. It's annoying.

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    1. Now that you mention the quiet place for lunch I am thinking I may have some trouble there. The nice weather last week made it easy, but I can see now how there might be noisier times ahead.

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  3. You must join Audible immediately. Audio books ease my commute - in fact I think it's too darned short. Try The Woman in White or Brideshead. Unabridged, natch.

    Not only can't I read in a moving car seeing anyone else do it makes me feel sick. There are also motion sickness pills, which I give to my kids if the journey is longer than half an hour (wouldn't you know they've inherited the bane of my life). Driving and Audible is a match made in heaven.

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    1. I will definitely give audible a try, but I do find that my mind wonders really quickly when I try and listen to books. Add traffic to that and I am not sure what will happen.

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  4. Another annoying idea: language tapes and podcasts. Just re-read how long your commute is. You could be talking like a native of anywhere in no time at all! I'll shut up now...

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  5. I don't have the option of taking public transport to work, and my commute is about as long as yours. But I'm OK with it, because that's when I listen to all of my podcasts, like BOTNS and -- you guessed it -- The Readers! That may be too much of a busman's holiday for you, but I offer it as a suggestion nonetheless.

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    1. I really need to try BOTNS. Simon keeps on me about that.

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  6. I am so sorry to hear this, having 30 minutes in the bus each morning is a my way of starting the day with a good read, so I really sympathize with people who are not able to read on the bus/metro etc. I hope you will get some reading done in your lunchtime or else perhaps give the audiobooks a try?

    Kind regards,

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    1. I feel the same as you on starting the day with some reading. But given the reduced travel time I could afford to sit and read at home for 30 minutes before I left in the morning.

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  7. Oh Thomas, are you sure it wasn't a panic attack instead of motion sickness?! And it just so happens that I listen to loads of podcasts...in fact, I listen to you, you silly beggar!

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  8. INSTANT MOTION SICKNESS CURE:
    Sell the car, take Lucy out of Doggie Day Care.............Live off the profits!!!!!! Stay at home,
    snuggle with Lucy and READ!!!!!!!............Easy peasy!!!!!

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    1. When I saw the first line of your comment I thought it might be spam. :)

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  9. I am so glad your commute turned out better than expected. Don't know how you feel about Jeeves and Wooster but I love those books. And they are even more of a treat when read by Jonathan Cecil (who sounds like Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie). Give it a try.

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    1. That might be the kind of audio book that would work for me. Nice and episodic.

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  10. All three images cracked me up, especially the top one - though I couldn't see the title when I first read this post on my phone. It sounds like you found the best solution, except for the reading part. I am extremely selfish about lunch time for reading, and I don't care how anti-social it seems (and I've heard comments). I hope Lucy is adjusting well to day-care!

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    1. I almost didn't use the first photo because of the Lawrence (I'm not a big fan) but it was too good not to use. Lucy seems to be pretty happy at the end of the day.

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  11. I can only agree with all the comments about podcasts & audio books (Jonathan Cecil is wonderful reading Wodehouse & so is Ian Carmichael or Jeremy Sinden). I drive to work (about 30 mins each way) & usually listen to an audio book in the morning & the news on the way home. At lunchtime, I walk for 15-20 mins & end up at a cafe where I can read for 20 mins before walking back to work. I like to get out of the building so walking, coffee & reading is perfect. I hope you find the right commuting routine.

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    1. My lunch routine seems likely to be much like yours.

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  12. Audiobooks were my salvation back when I spent way too much time in the car each day and now I can't live without them! I'll second the suggestion to join audible... so many excellent choices from classics and literary fiction to mysteries and nonfiction.

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    1. I should join tonight so I can try it out tomorrow morning.

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  13. I was going to say join Audible at once, but I see that's already old news. Audio books have saved my life over and over again -- made for commuting whether by car or train, and if you're like most people (i.e. me) you'll start listening at all hours too. Lots of great choice -- good luck! and many congrats on the new job, by the way.

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    1. You will see in my latest post I address the audio book question. I've been trying to limit my listening to car time, but have been tempted on more than one occasion to turn it on.

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  14. Some people have told me that the more frequently you take the Metro the more you get acclimated. But I never take the Metro frequently so I have never found out if that's true. I almost always get motion sickness, so when I do take it, I usually end up just sitting still and closing my eyes. I've started being braver about driving downtown, because of the motion sickness and because the nearest station to me is Franconia-Springfield, which is a long trip from anywhere metro-connected.

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    1. I used to take Metro all the time and read on it the whole way. There was only one spot where the Red Line curves from Connecticut Ave over to Wisconsin (between Van Ness and Tenley Town) where it would sometimes bother me. But there are lots more twists and turns on the Orange/Silver out to Ballston. I find the Beltway far scarier than any driving in the city. At least in the city people are going slow enough for decent reaction times.

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