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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Car Three

If you've never experienced the joy of commuting, I salute you.

It really was not that bad when we lived in Chicago. I'd walk to the train, pick up the commuter paper, do the puzzles (maybe read the news) and suddenly, I'm there. On the ride home, maybe read a novel or baffle the kid across from me by pulling out my original Game Boy. (20 years, and still going strong.)

Driving, though, that's another beast entirely.You can't just tune the world out. You have to engage with it, and very often on Austin roads, engagement is not the most enjoyable activity. I've learned that listening to NPR takes the fight out of me and reduces the severity of my swearing by at least 60%. Plus, you know, I find out what's happening in the world, depressing as it may be. I get by.

Today's commute was almost more adventurous than normal. School is back in session, which means that traffic is back in full force. This means I have to be on the highway by time X or my time spent on the road begins an exponential climb. Yesterday, I was on the road at X-10 minutes. Smooth sailing.

Today, it was X+10, and disaster was narrowly avoided.

Not one mile down the highway, stopping and starting through the normal crush of that time of day, I was just starting to move again when I heard a rather nasty crunch to my right, followed by another crunch of lesser severity. Car three was clearly not paying attention and pummeled the back of truck two, which rolled into car one. I caught the most fleeting of glances before turning around the bend and heading down the road. If I'd been at X+15, my drive would have been 30 minutes longer, though likely not as long as that poor, distracted driver of car three.

I mean, sure, it was their fault, but I do understand, on some level, how it happens. And it didn't look like anyone was hurt, so I'm inclined to have a little sympathy. Not one of those three cars saw it coming, and their day was almost certainly a little rougher as a result.

A strained comparison, perhaps, but as the cars finally began to thin out, I thought about my morning, and how I don't remember hearing my alarm go off at all. Clearly it went off, because it was still set for the time that I needed, and clearly I shut it off because it was no longer making noise. But I have no recollection of this transaction, and as a result I was not able to get in a run this morning like I'd originally hoped. I didn't make the choice not to get up (that I recall), I just didn't. And my day was a little rougher as a result.

Somewhere deep down, we have our defaults. A friend of mine likes the saying that, "We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training." (-Archilochus) I've managed to train myself to listen to NPR and (often, not always) let the insanity of Austin traffic fade away. I had to, for the sake of my sanity and blood pressure. My new default is calm. However, I have not yet figured out how to change my default when that alarm goes off. I've tried moving the alarm, and using different songs and tones. I experimented with those alarms that make you do math, but mostly, I figure it would just annoy my wife who is still trying to sleep. 

In some way, I have to make a conscious choice (in my semi-conscious state) to get out of bed. Train myself to be aware from the moment that alarm goes off. Remind myself how good I'll feel if I get that run in. Remember that the extra 20 minutes of sleep isn't going to help all that much. And if that doesn't do it, at least I should remember this:

Car three gets to the highway at X+10.

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