(photo: stevendamron/flickr)

Most of you are aware that just about a year ago, I finally ended 28 months of unemployment and went back to work. Though I am somewhat underemployed, I am thankful to have the job and it’s not a bad place to work, quite the contrary.

There were a lot of things I missed while I was out of work. Notably the steady income and the accompanying self esteem. I missed the physical and mental activity and the challenge of the work day and even the interaction with other people. There is only so much stimulation you can get from a daily diet of the Internet, (even with sites like FDL), and daytime television. One thing I didn’t miss was the commuting games. I didn’t miss that at all.

My commute isn’t horrible. It’s usually between 15 and 20 minutes long depending on traffic. If I left the house 20 minutes later than I do, it would be a much different story. The heavy rush hour traffic can easily double my commuting time and quadruple my commuting frustration. Not that leaving early has completely eliminated that frustration but it‘s been somewhat alleviated. Not many days go by though that I don’t have to bite back a profanity or stop myself extending a middle finger. Usually it involves somebody going 15 or 20 mph slower than everybody else and it almost always turns out to be a distracted driver.

I once came into fear for my life when somebody slowly drifted into my lane and it turned out that the woman, (yep, sorry ladies, she was female), had her phone plastered to her ear and was chatting away while driving, holding a cup of coffee in her other hand while resting it on the steering wheel. I can’t think of anything important enough to risk her life, (not to mention mine), over that would require her to have to deal with it over the phone while operating a two ton vehicle at 6:30 in the morning. Then there is the surprising number of, (usually men), that I see driving while fixing their coffee or munching down a McMuffin. Come on folks! Take a few seconds to put your sugar and cream in before you leave the house or convenience store! Eat your food before you head out to work. If you don’t have enough time, you’re leaving too late.

Distracted drivers are a dime a dozen though and I’m going to tell a different story: One afternoon, coming home from work, I hit the usual congestion at a freeway, (expressway), interchange. I was driving slowly along, listening to Defektor by Greg Camp at the place where an entrance ramp joins the highway just before the exit for another highway. I let a bright yellow car merge into the lane in front of me and I immediately noticed that the back of it was fairly plastered with bumper stickers. I crept up a bit so I could read them and it turns out they were the kind of decals I would expect of  a tea party member. The “Don’t Tread on Me” snake and cannonballs, a few thinly veiled allusions to Obama’s ancestry and citizenry, you know the type.

I was still perhaps two car lengths away, traveling at about 10 or 15 mph when it happened. Mr. Teabagger stopped. Right in the freeway. No signal, no explanation, just came to a dead stop and sat there, ignoring people behind him, (and me), blowing their horns at him and coming around and shaking their fists, (and fingers), at him. I have since concluded that he must have thought I got too close to him after I let him on in front of me and, being a Tea Party member, decided that he was going to control not only my immediate future but that of all of those people behind me for literally miles. After throwing about a 30 second hissy fit, he moved on, graciously allowing everybody else to continue on their way too. I was left to reflect on the kind of person who would plaster bumper stickers all over their new model car, presumably to be read, who then gets upset and throws a tantrum when people try to read them.

So what are your commuting nightmares? Though public transportation isn’t a practical option for me, those experiences count too.  Do you avoid the juvenile garbage that is ubiquitous on morning radio and opt for music like I do? Let it out here. This is your commuting stress relief valve!

Maybe this is a little bit of a departure for PUAC but I think it’s important for everybody to slow down a bit, try to relax and be safe when on your daily commute. Remember, many of us are commuting along with you and fifteen minutes of extra sleep isn’t important enough to risk your life over by doing other things while operating a motor vehicle.

Greg Camp, “Zombies on Parade” from “Defektor” just because I was thinking about it.