45 minutes in. 45 minutes out. That’s an hour and a half a day. Monday to Friday, that’s 7.5 hours. A full office day with a 30 minute lunch break, missing from my life, every week, week in week out. Not being productive, but not resting or playing either. Just sitting.
My commute is not the worst – some people spend even more time trapped inside their tin cans, being processed at a snail’s pace through concrete channels.
They might be listening to music, or get their daily dose of sensationalist shock and awe on talk radio. They may be looking at pipes belch fossil toxins into the air around them.
I find a gridlocked highway the single most depressing place on earth – and there are those who do it, willingly, all the time. It is a monumental waste of time. It costs in fuel and vehicle maintenance. The pollution alone is spectacularly silly.
Surely there has to be a better way to live?
I get that some jobs require you to be present. People who really work for a living – that is, those that build things or dig trenches or farm or mine, have to be on site. But, bizarrely, these workers often rely on public transport.
The commutes I’m talking about are the really stupid commutes. Office workers, people who essentially look at screens all day, driving in, single file and one per vehicle, all so they can go to the fancy metro areas where they can flash their status around. Sandton in Johannesburg. Manhattan. LA (all of it). London’s City. Why? Why do I need to drive in, wasting time and money and the sanctity of my soul – to go do something in a massively overpriced building that I could do at home, or in a coffee shop – or anywhere I can open up a laptop?
What is the attraction?
The daily commute of office types is the most obscenely wasteful and pointless exercise ever to have disgraced our species – and yet it is the norm, in most places around the world.
It makes absolutely no sense. And yet is the near universal standard.
In South Africa in particular, you see desperately upper middle class types flock to Sandton in their masses. They come from all directions, sometimes from 50 miles or more away. The husband and the wive will both leave for work, in separate cars, drive on the N1 (God be with you), congested, to sit on Grayston Drive for anywhere between 1-3 hours, every weekday morning and every weekday evening.
So they could get to an office and waste time in meetings about meetings…
What for? Why? Isn’t it incredibly wasteful? Isn’t it monumentally stupid?
Worse… I think of the low paid guys and gals that have to make their way to the glitzy Mordor (allegedly ‘Africa’s Richest Blocks of Concrete’) – having to spend half their paychecks, sometimes even more, so they can get to work from their township homes.
I have very little sympathy for the people in their luxury German automobiles. But the security guards, the cleaners, the actual people – having to get up at 4, to catch a series of links, sometimes on notoriously crap public transport, or life threatening ‘minibus taxis’.
I’m not being a Google-campus New Age Hippy to pose the question: Is this really the best use of time and resources?
Surely we can conceive of a better model than wasting an office day (at least) per week stuck, like cattle lining up for the abattoir?
If there is a Hell – it would look like Sandton Drive at 16:30 in the afternoon.
WHY? To meet the demands of ‘bosses’ that are themselves stuck, and that in cars owned by the banks?
Yes, I’m ranting. But surely there are others that hate the congestion as much as I do. Surely it is pointless to travel to Prime Real Estate to do what I could do literally anywhere? Is it so that everyone can see me? Is it to convince people that I work for a living? Do I undertake this daily duet of pointless activity so that no one on the team panics, or so that I can be engaged in meetings (another pointless activity)?
It seems a ridiculous state of affairs on every front – and yet it persists. Why – I could not tell you. Maybe some of you can tell me…
Many thanks to Mikechie Esparagoza for his absolutely terrifying image.