Zen and the Art of Commuting

Most modern workers spend an appreciable amount of their time commuting to and from work. Some do it in cars, others take trains or ferries, a few even fly.

On morning commutes, people are thinking and gearing up for the day ahead. More than a few are dreading the prospect of what awaits them. That's why the rate of heart attacks is higher on Monday mornings. The shock of it all is apparently too shocking for some of us. However, it's also when most people have their best ideas. We suppose that if you think a good idea on how to reorganize your department for the fifth time this year balances out a potential heart attack, you're certainly management material.

In the evening, people are tired or in a hurry to do something they haven't been able to squeeze into their busy lives - say blogging for instance. Statistically, commute times are longer in the evening than the morning. Counter-intuitive we know, but there you go. How DO more people come out than go in?

We haven't seen the statistics for heart attacks and having good ideas on the way home, but we guess both are lower. First, the relief of being released from a cubicle farm is enough to lighten the load for anyone. Second, you're out of ideas. The well probably ran dry along about 11 that morning.

The trick to overcoming the boredom and frustration of a commute is to take a Zen approach. Just sit back and relax, because you're not going anywhere fast.

We like to enjoy the view. This works if you're fortunate enough to commute in a beautiful place. Northern California has enough folded green mountains and sparkling Bay views to overwhelm all but the most jaded commuters - even if power lines, instant communities, and huge smog-belching semis sometimes mar the view.

We even find ways to make the bad things about the roadside environment look better. Have you ever looked at the gentle rise and fall of a power lines beside the highway? It's beautiful in its own sine wave kid of way. The huge latticework towers, silhouetted against the sky, even evoke strength and architectural beauty if you're open to the experience.

Counting how many cheaters drive in the HOV lanes is another of our freeway games. It's an interesting psychological exercise in how people tick. Are there characteristics about them that seem to correlate to this dishonest behavior? (Aside from being predominately men, none that we can see.) What about the kinds of cars they drive? (There do seem to be more junkers and fast cars than family sedans.) Sometimes we do the math to show that 23 cheaters times the $273 (who came up with that number?) fine equals $6279 the state could use to ease our debt crunch.

Nature even abounds. On trips across the San Francisco Bay, nature treats commuters to a never-ending display of fauna. Hundreds of bobbing grebes float next to a flock of pelicans. Funny cormorants drape themselves over the power line towers - wings outstretched like crucifixion victims - trying to catch the rays of sun.

So, you see, beauty is where you find it - even if it is from the windshield of a car crawling through the long death march home. Maybe a little highway Zen will save you from that Monday morning heart attack.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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