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Commuter Chaos - Sometimes Just Getting
to Work Is A Full-Time Job

by Joel J. Greenwald

The coroner stands shaking his head above the middle-aged hulk slumped next to a blue sports car on the fourth level of a parking garage, ignition key clutched tightly in a cold right hand. A detective stands next to him.

"So, what is it Doc? Heart attack, y'figure?" The detective chomps his stogie, satisfied that this will be an easy case to close.

"I suppose we'll find it was a heart attack. But I'll bet it was caused by acute Commuter Stress Disorder. I've been seeing more and more of it lately."

It sounds like a pretty grim scene, but I'm convinced that's how they'll find me. And to add insult to injury, I'm sure it'll only be after I've put in a full day at work. Although you probably know more about Commuter Stress Disorder than you realize, I'll review some of its more prominent features.

The day begins with the routine tedium of, naturally, bumper-to-bumper traffic. The woman in the car ahead of you readjusts her rearview mirror to facilitate the application of her mascara. The fellow in the lane to the right tosses his cigarette butt out the window and carefully extinguishes it with a delightful globule of spittle followed by the remains of his commuter coffee. 

The next hour and 25 minutes pass with the same pace as the mechanic who gets paid by the hour to work on your car and greets you at 7:30 a.m. with these words: "You want to wait for it? I'm pretty backed up."

You've just encountered today's Commuter Delay Roulette winner: an accident blocking the only lane between your home and your job; other drivers slowing to estimate the extent of the damage to the car involved in the accident that was blocking said lane; road work (or just cones blocking the lane, no workers) that's scheduled only between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., every day; a school bus, stopping each block to pick up one child at each corner between your home and the school next door to where you work; the garbage-collection trucks (regular and recyclable) collecting garbage in every town you pass through; some dufus who didn't realize that he didn't have exact change for the toll until he actually got to the tollbooth, even though he was waiting in the exact-change-only lane for the past 10 minutes.

At the parking garage, a quick wipe with a magnetic key raises the gate as though granting you a safe haven: You've just survived another morning commute! Congratulations! Now you can sit back, relax and work like a madwoman for the next eight hours before hopping in the car and doing it all over again...