Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sometimes 35 miles just isn't local enough

I spend about 2.5 hours each day to make my 70-mile round trip commute from Tacoma to Seattle. I've been doing it for the past 4 years and 2 months.

12.5 hours per week x 48 weeks per year x 4.25 years = 2550 hours
2550 hours = 106.25 days = 3.42 months

It pains me to do that math and see that in the past 4+ years, I have spent over 3 entire months on a bus.

That time has not been altogether unproductive or entirely unpleasant, mind you.

I have read lots of books. Because I religiously take the full northbound commute to read the newspaper thoroughly, I probably know more about world news now than at any other point in my life.

I've gotten comfortable with public transit in Seattle. Google maps has an option to get directions by bus, which I've started to use recently. I've rolled my eyes at the college kids taking home massive loads of stinky laundry and myself been the annoying person with weird packages. In the past 4 years I've transported chicks (twice!), 5 cases of canning jars I'd bought in Seattle on lunch break from Craigslist, eggs, plants, cases of wine, piles of files, and empty laundry baskets.

One time I was returning a co-worker's paella pan. It fell off the seat on a bumpy stretch of the freeway with a terrifying CRASH!!! It scared the crapola out of everyone, driver included, because they thought the bus had run over something or someone.
Me: [blush] "Ha haa. Um... so sorry! You can go back to sleep now!" [sheepish grin and embarassed wave]
Them: [...if looks could kill...]

I learned to knit on the bus. This is what Seattle looks like for me on many mornings. My fellow commuters taught me the basics. A woman my husband has since dubbed The Uber Knitter gave me pointers, tips, patterns, and careful critiques: "well, you could keep going like this but I don't think that you're going to be happy with the finished project". My knitting projects progressed from crooked scarves to more complicated projects like fingerless gloves for my brother and baby attire for my many fertile friends.

And what friends I've made on the bus! Our commuter bus makes no stops for 30 miles, making us each other's captive audience. We spend more waking hours with each another than anyone else, save co-workers and possibly spouses. I have met kind, funny, generous, and patient people (and some massive jerks, but to heck with them). These commuters create a small community of "Bus Buddies". Some of the relationships are - pardon the pun - "transitory", while others will be life-long.

In fact, next week we're having a gathering to celebrate with a bus buddy who has found a new job close to her home. Congrats, Cheryl!


On November 5 I got a gut-wrenching call from my boss, asking me to join her in a conference room in another building. I knew something terrible was about to happen. That's where people get let go.

Thankfully, I wasn't fired. I was, however, reduced to 50% time. I still had a job and full benefits but the paychecks were going to start to really hurt. Commuting to Seattle for 20 hours a week, while not exactly peachy for 40 hours/week, no longer made sense.

About the ensuing 5 months I have this to say: searching for a job is disheartening and networking is hard work. Networking is also the best way to get a new job (thanks, Paula and Julia!).

Fastforward to today. I have been offered a job that is a mere 3.5 miles from home, 90% less than my current commute. I haven't yet accepted it - the salary negotiations haven't been completed - but I'm optimistic that it'll provide both relative financial security and good professional growth opportunities.

I can't wait to get my life back. When do you think it'll hit me that this is real??


  1. Good luck with your next job! I hope it's everything you're looking for or at least a step in the right direction. We were happy to give up long commutes when we moved (back) to Seattle but plenty of people still do them - in a car, by themselves!!! Kudos for taking the bus all that time.

  2. Thanks, Carbzilla! The job is official as of today. My first day will be April 2. Can't wait to get home 15 minutes after leaving work.