Sunrise on the way to work (before the time change)
For seven years, I lived within walking distance of my place of employment. When we moved to Fresno, and again when I was hired to work out in the middle of the desert, we rented the closest house or apartment to my job that we could find at a reasonable price. Although I didn’t walk to work due to health problems, the duration of my morning drive was typically two to three minutes door to door. I now realize just how spoiled I was!
It would be an understatement to say that becoming a commuter has constituted a bit of a change. Instead of living around the corner from work, I now spend a significant portion of my waking hours on the 70, the 99 and the 5. (If you’re not from California, you may find it strange that we place the word “the” before our road names. And don’t call them “route numbers.” Those are freeways, pardner.)
On weekdays, my alarm goes off at the ungodly hour of 3:45 a.m. To ensure arrival at work prior to my scheduled starting time of 8:00, I have to be out the door no later than 6:45. This gives me three hours to get ready. Now, that may seem crazy to you, but I am not what you would, by any stretch of the imagination, consider normal (at least not in the morning). I am so sluggish in the morning that it takes me forever to get going. I am by nature a night person. I enjoy going to bed at about the time the sun rises. Mornings are just not my thing. After nearly a year of unemployment, however, flexibility has become the name of the game. I am more than willing to make whatever adjustments are necessary to bring home a paycheck and keep the bills current.
Typically, the drive into downtown Sacramento takes 40 to 45 minutes during the morning rush. It’s only a matter of 36 miles. When the traffic gets gnarly, however, all bets are off. The trip can take an hour and a half. You simply have to leave early because you never know what nightmare you may encounter en route. A few weeks ago, for example, there was the Monday morning when a driver decided it might be a good idea to make an illegal U-turn through the median strip while traffic whizzed by at 70 miles per hour. The poor man paid for that error in judgment with his life. Between the emergency response vehicles, the wreckers hauling away mangled vehicles and the looky-loos, traffic came to a dead stop. By chance, we happened to leave early that day and I managed to (barely) make it to work on time.
I say “we” because I am extraordinarily blessed to have my wife drive me to work every day. There is simply no parking to be had in downtown Sacramento unless you pay the monthly fee to leave your car in a garage or lot. Many employees take the bus or the light rail to work, and the nearest stop is only a few blocks away. When walking is a challenge bordering on impossibility, however, you’re pretty much out of luck (unless you arrive at 5 a.m. to grab a space on the street where you can use your handicapped parking permit). So my wife drives me to work in the morning, drives home and then makes the same round trip all over again in the afternoon. That’s 144 miles that we put on our car every day, Monday through Friday. At this rate, we are going to kill our high mileage vehicle in short order.
So far, we have had to replace the front brakes, replace two of the belts, have the tires realigned and change the oil twice. That’s in less than two month’s time.
And that’s not to mention the wear and tear on my wife. Her devotion is just one of the hundreds of reasons that she is so precious to me. I thank her regularly and profusely, but there are some gifts for which even hundreds of sincere expressions of thanks are inadequate.
Come pay day, of course, both of us are thankful.
NoCal road warriors, over and out.