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Monday, September 2, 2019

Life in the Slow Lane

For almost half of my career years in radio, I’ve shared the road with commuters. Although, to be fair, my hours gave me a break from the “rush hour” crowd. Starting at 4:30 a.m. and then later with a 2:00 p.m. start time in the office, the concrete jungle had far fewer animals with which to contend.

Occasionally, I would attend a ball game or have some other commitment that put me in the throes of the blood pressure building masses. I hated it. And I pitied those who had to endure this tortured life on a daily basis. A few business and personal trips to Los Angeles convinced me to stay out of that part of the world. “The 10” and “the 5” and the other California freeways ought to have their own misery index.

The Chicago Tribune informed readers recently that rush hour in Chicago is an “archaic concept.” True. A traffic engineer claims as much as a third of delays in the Windy City are now found outside the traditional peak morning and afternoon commuting times.

The study was undertaken by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. We’ve learned that Chicago now “ranks third in the nation for total hours of travel delays.” Our residents found themselves stuck on the concrete hell 73 hours in 2017. That number rose from 31 hours in 1982.

The Trib writer did the math for us, stating, “That adds up to 42 additional lost hours—more than a full work week watching someone else’s brake lights.” Not a pleasant thought.

Within the numbers there was supposedly a bright spot. Chicago wins a bit of the race to work in terms of time lost on expressways compared to several other cities. In our city, the so-called expressway trip during peak hours takes almost twice as long as it would during light traffic. Compare that to Los Angeles where the difference amounts to almost three times as long. Feel better? I didn’t think so.

I’m sure some drivers find a way to make it more palatable. Perhaps a ride sharing buddy helps the commute be more interesting. There are podcasts galore from which to select. Or radio traffic reports that let you know others are suffering with you. Maybe a few phone calls will ease the journey. At the end of the day, it’s still a lousy way to part with important hours of your life.

All things should be held in perspective, I suppose. At least we can commute in climate-controlled, comfortable seating, and acoustically-designed travel cabins. Better than stage coaches, to be sure. Or on mules, horses, camels, or being pulled on frozen surfaces by a dog sled team.

God help the driver of the big rigs who have to put up with drivers who pull in front of them and then slam on the brakes during the busiest traffic times. Or the construction workers who watch speeders carelessly ignore the “slow down” signs.

I’m hoping my days of commutes are over. For almost two decades, I’ve faced two forty-mile commutes each day to different locations. Thinking back on my own road frustrations, I’ve wondered how much life is sucked out of people who feel the stress of rush hour madness.

The writer of Ecclesiastes puts forth the proposition that “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NLT)

I doubt he had in mind a two hour daily commute in a field of exhaust.

Happy Labor Day. Enjoy your break…from the brake lights of the slow lanes of life.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Watch for a new YouTube program and podcast with Mark Elfstrand beginning soon!

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