The Office: Xtreme Commuting!
Peter Tatara - October 30, 2007
I work in an office. For a big company. I have over 400 co-workers. And that's just in my division. The company has international branches, too. My parents, who feared for my employability and sexuality throughout my youth, are very proud. I, being a cog in a omni-national Cthulhu am less proud and more tired. I'm up at 5 AM to catch a train and home at 8 PM if it's a good night. I spend about four hours a day traveling to and from my office, which I'm told is classified as "Xtreme Commuting." I'm not quite sure what's that xtreme, though, about sitting on my ass watching the Connecticut countryside roll by.
To help me locate the "xtreme" in my xtreme commute, I've composed the following list of things I do on a typical trip to and from my office, and because I like attention, I've published it for all of you.
1) Work. My office gave me a laptop so I could work on the train and at home on nights and weekends. Very thoughtful, no? Actually, I requested the thing, believing if I got work done during my commute I'd add an extra four hours of productivity to my day. In reality, though, this has not happened, and while I certainly use the laptop when at home, on the train, work is the least likely thing I'm doing. Why? Well, let's continue on.
2) Sleep. When I'm not working -- which is to say "most of the time" -- I'm sleeping. Sure, I get up at 5 AM to catch a train, but the moment my ass is on it, odds are, I'm back asleep, my suit coat across my chest and arms and legs curled into a fetal position. And, sadly, this is often the story for my ride home, too. Before you judge, though, note that I'm not alone in sneaking a few extra hours of sleep on my commute. Nope, from looking over my fellow business travelers, the majority nod off, too, as soon as they hit their seats.
3) Pretending to Sleep. If I'm not actually asleep, I'm likely to be pretending to sleep. Eyes shut, arms and legs bound close, I try to force myself to slip into unconsciousness, pushing, pressing, and begging my body to shut off. But, why am I only pretending to sleep? What's keeping me awake?
4) Fearing for My Future. As I've said, if I look out the window during the long trip to my office, I see the pastoral Connecticut countryside, a countryside which is dotted with the estates of rich, old, white guys, and I know my 401(k) won't ever net me a hundredth of their bank accounts. So, naturally, I start to shiver, terror and dread filling the space inside my head that should be fat with sleep. You know how sometimes late at night all your inner insecurities come out, your demons dancing around your room until you're driven in a cold sweat and come so very, very close to calling your mommy? Well, I don't have those moments any more. Nope, so tired when I get home, I pass out as soon as I touch my bed, and -- instead -- all my fears push me to panic attacks while on my way to and from work.
5) Reading. Who am I kidding, I don't read. I tell people I do, but -- honestly -- the only things I pick up are Japanese book about vampires.
6) Listening to Podcasts. When I'm awake and not considering myself failure in the shape of a man, I'm probably listening to a podcast. I tried teaching myself Mandarin earlier in the year, and things went great for about three weeks. Then, there was one lesson that I just couldn't understand. I tried it again. And again. Then, unable to grasp the thing, the inevitable panic attack followed. After that, I got in the habit of listening to Democracy Now. It's a solid hour of news I'm not going to hear anywhere else, but sometimes Amy Goodman gets too whiny and I can't listen to her show for a week. (Yes, Amy, New Orleans got screwed by the White House. It's still bad, I know, but you don't need to devote another hour to it.) I'm actually currently in one of my cooling off periods now.
7) Listening to Music. Very recently, I started listening to the soundtrack to a show called Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It's about a robot the size of a galaxy fighting another robot the size of a galaxy. The music's good, and I've been listening to seven solid days of it, but my iPod's almost out of juice and a house guest who-knows-who-he-is took my charger. He claimed it was his, but I haven't been able to find my charger since he left.
8) Writing My Novel. I'm writing a novel. Did you know that? I've never been a fan of the fantasy genre, and -- as such -- decided my first novel just had to be a fantasy. (This logic made sense at some point.) I'm about 60 pages into what will be an epic trilogy, and things are going pretty well. For the most part. I honestly haven't written anything this month because as soon as I re-read a single sentence, I fall asleep. Which is my problem with fantasy.
9) This. If I'm not working, sleeping, pretending to sleep, fearing for my future, reading, listening to podcasts, listening to music, or writing my novel, I'm writing this.
Well, what did we learn? Anything I do that "xtreme," or am I just a sad, sad man? That question, of course, is rhetorical, which means I don't care because I just got home.