Friday, March 4, 2011

the commuting dilemna: time? money? happiness? environment?

I rarely like speaking about my job in this type of public forum, since it's accessible to my employers, but I'm going to this time. It is not a topic of concern that I've kept secret from anyone at work.

My daily commute is 62.9 miles, about 40 minutes each way if the route is delay-free.

My morning commute is 29.8 miles. This is the shorter and cheaper route to work. It has a moderate risk of traffic delays (traffic = higher mpgs and more headaches), but is overall the more efficient route. It also saves me $3-4 daily in tolls. Because of the possible delays, I leave home 10-15 minutes earlier than I should need to so I can always be at work on time; I have a pet peeve about being late.

My afternoon commute is 33.1 miles. This is the most trouble-free route home. It has a very low risk of traffic delays, although I do drive through one town with quite a few stoplights along the way; I avoid one other town's stoplights by using other highways. I do not take my morning route home because of the high risk of traffic delays.

Time: I hate being away from the house for so long each day. I leave at 7:30a and I don't get home until 5:45p; that's 10:15 away from home, during the sunlight hours. It means Able-Bodied Boy does a lot of the outdoor work after he gets home, before sunset in spring/fall, which I feel guilty about.

Money: I make money at work, but I spend hoards of that money on gas. It's a tank each week just for work, not including weekend excursions. That comes to about 10% of my take-home pay (after taxes, healthcare, and 401k contributions) for just traveling to/from work. More as gas prices rise...

By working so far from home, but with work being closer to many of my friends, I often have to make choices like these: do I spend time with my friends after work but spend money on dinner (don't forget that diet too!) and the extra gas to get around, or do I go home where dinner is cheaper and healthier?

Environment: I hate myself for driving so much, using precious fossil fuels which we so wantonly waste, which cause wars, which don't really break down into forms that are positive - or even neutral - to our environment, and which we finally seem to grasp are not infinitely available. I hate that we live so far away from civilization, making driving quite necessary. I would love to live in a place where I can walk to the grocery or the bar, bike to work and shops, and only drive when necessary.

Happiness: I really enjoy my job. Which is good because I don't have much of a choice about it; there are not really any other jobs near where I live. If I were to see a position I qualify for - whether within my company or with a different company - which was closer to home but with less job satisfaction, I would truly be torn.

All this comes up for two reasons. One, rising gas prices due to the turmoil in the Middle East. Two, it is entirely possible that my employer will have positions available closer to home this year. If I were to apply for and be accepted into one of them, it would save me about 6 miles each way but through very heavy traffic, so it may be a wash in terms of gas usage. So I'm not too sure that it would be a step in a positive direction, at least commute-wise.

There are no easy solutions to this mess of sometimes-conflicting priorities. Moving is not an option at this point. I don't see myself becoming rich and flippant about how I spend my money, nor do I see myself caring less about the environment or wanting less time for me and Able-Bodied Boy and the life we are making for ourselves. The only somewhat-solution would be a new company in a better location, but at the risk of my job satisfaction, and 40 hours a week of misery doesn't necessary sounds like a good option either.

At this point, I don't have much hope for progress, but do you have any solutions or considerations I haven't thought of?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


1 comment:

  1. Have you ever considered any kind of self-employment / own your own business? Of course, I don't know what to suggest. If you could spend all day doing what you like most, what would it be? Is there a future business for that? GJN / JJS