ORW: There and back again: The joys of commuting

There’s something inherently sucky about having to drag yourself up in the early hours of the morning and plod over to the shuttle to get to class. The wait is long, the service is slow, and there’s only so long you can listen to NPR over the radio before you want to claw your eardrums out. But this type of four-wheeled aggravation takes a backseat (hah, what a pun) to the granddaddy of transportation torture: commuting.

commuting: the act of driving long periods of time, usually in a sleep-deprived or boredom-lulled state, with the not-so-well-thought-out intent of burning large amounts of gas to go from home to work and back again.

I’ve had to do quite a bit of commuting recently. This has mostly been from Anchorage to the Valley, and lemme tell you, I’m not a big fan of the whole thing. It’s the reliance on caffeine just to stay awake that gets me, the cramping up of leg muscles, and above all, the repetition. There’re only so many times I can drive past the Flats before I’m no longer fascinated by all the wonderful…flatness.

I’m in a ’05 Toyota Corolla named Linda. She and I have a mutual understanding; it’s a special relationship of trust and respect built up over the years of driving together. Many memories and miles have been shared between us, and it would take the event of a horrible, car-totaling accident or the offer to trade for an Aston Martin DB9 for me to ever let her go.

And while I love Linda very much, there are sadly times when I abuse her. I’ll crank up “What Is Love” to blaring volumes to prevent succumbing to road-induced boredom. I’ll drive her right down to E so I can squeeze in one more trip before having to pay for gas. And every now and then I’ll pound on the top of the steering wheel, the dashboard, the cup holder, muttering inventive phrases that oftentimes I’m impressed I even thought up, in my own display of road rage at the simpletons on the highway.

This is a given while commuting. You’re cooped up in a small space, you’re tired, the mountains keep screwing up the frequency on your iPod adapter…the last thing you want to deal with is traffic. Other drivers are invariably a menace. They’ve all got their own motivations and driving styles—and are about as predictable as a toddler with a hand grenade.

There are the text drivers, who, regardless of the fact they’re cruising 70-75 down the middle lane of the freeway, need to lol and rofl their way through their best friend’s drunken antics from the night before. Cell phones clamped resolutely to the top of the steering wheel, heads bobbing up and down from road to phone like a demented chicken, they’re one of the reasons those rumble strips on the side of the highway are so important.

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There’s the speed demon, whose life mission is to act out a version of “Grand Theft Auto: Seward Highway.” With a disregard for puny traffic laws, like a silverback gorilla behind the wheel, they simply seek to dominate. If they’re not veering through traffic, cutting people off and laying on the horn, things aren’t right—and this probably has something to do with too much testosterone. Or low IQ.

And the fan favorite: RV’ers. Cruising down the highway at a grand speed of 2 mph, hanging in fascination out the passenger window to snap pictures of “Oh God! Look, a bald eagle!!”—they clog up traffic worse than a serious case of indigestion. They may bring in a ton of money for our state, but good grief Charlie Brown, do they get on our nerves.

But with most things, all that can be done is endure. To put up with the long hours, the crazy drivers, the outrageous gas prices…there’s no way to avoid it when commuting. One up side: you can belt out songs at the top of your lungs and no one can judge.