Breaking up with my commute

My daily commute. I took this photo in 2011 because I missed the super light traffic during Carmageddon.
My daily commute on the 110 freeway in Los Angeles. I took this photo in 2011 because I missed the super light traffic during Carmageddon.

If my commute were a person, we’d be in a common law marriage.

We’ve driven together for nine years, about 120,000 miles and countless hours. But now our marriage of inconvenience is coming to an end. It wasn’t my idea (the organization where I worked went out of business) but I fully support this decision. I’ve sacrificed a lot of my life for this relationship — up to three hours a day, five days a week to be exact. And I’m not sure what I’ve gotten in return except continual testing of my patience, sciatica and a dirty car littered with crumbs from my moveable feast.

I don’t want sound bitter. It wasn’t all bad. Commuting 60 miles round trip every day from Long Beach to the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles may sound insane, but I adjusted. It was almost like having an out of body experience. I zoned out by listening to NPR and when that got boring or the stories repeated because I’d been in the car for so long, I’d listen to the radio. About a year ago ago I discovered audio books and then podcasts. I’m not sure how I survived before them, but many times on my drive home I was swept up in the history of the Tarahumara runners in Born to Run or the hilarious conversations Aisha Tyler has with comics and actors on her Girl on Guy podcast. Sometimes when I got home I’d want to stay in the car and keep listening, but that lasted all of 10 seconds because, really now, I’d been in the car for over an hour and my butt hurt. And it was best to leave part of the story for next time to give me something to look forward to.

Our starter car was a 2002 Saturn. In 2007 we moved into a brand-new Scion with a V6 engine. That was fun, although I quickly discovered that the Scion was a magnet for other bumpers. I got rear-ended twice on Western on my way to work just months after I got my shiny new car.

We survived three other fender benders and a tire that blew out late at night on the southbound 110 freeway near USC. Luckily it was the passenger side and I felt badass when I changed the tire myself. We survived a spate of freeway shootings and reveled in the emptiness of Carmageddon.

We discovered the city together and cut our own path. I’d take the 710 to the 405 to the 110, most days getting off at Manchester when traffic slowed to a crawl and taking surface streets the rest of the way because that was faster. We laughed at the other drivers who didn’t know that the second lane from the left was actually the fastest lane and lived on the edge deftly traversing three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic just at the right time to exit at Manchester, cursing ourselves if we waited too long and couldn’t get over without a mini heart attack.

My commute knew how to make me happy. No roses necessary, just traffic that was lighter than expected. And I loved the view of downtown Los Angeles from the 110 on a clear day. But boy would I get mad when traffic was backed up for no apparent reason. Summer was when we had the most fun, when all that school traffic was off the roads and every day felt like a Friday.

It was fitting that today, the last day I made that drive, traffic was terrible. On the way to work both the freeways and surface streets were congested and I felt like I caught every red light. It wasn’t any better going home. After our final work lunch, my coworker texted me when he got home. Where was I? Still on the 110 at Slauson with at least 30 minutes to go. That was good though because the last thing I needed was my commute trying to be nice and win me back. It’s time to move on and find someone new, someone shorter who won’t take up so much of my time. Instead of a long-term commute I need a casual fling. Anyone know of a place hiring in Long Beach near my home?

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