I’ve lived and worked in a lot of places, all with different commutes. When I lived in New Hampshire and worked at a local stationary store, my commute was a 10 minute walk along a river. Once I saw a moose.
When I lived in L.A. I had one of the worst commutes on the 101 and the 5. If there was even just a teeny tiny fender bender traffic would be backed up for hours. During college I worked at a movie theater which was about 20 minutes from my home. If I was feeling lazy I would take the T (the Boston subway) one stop to the theatre, but mostly I just walked. I remember one night, after watching a sneak peek of Toy Story, I was so happy that I skipped the entire way back home. One summer I even had the dreaded New York commute to Greenwich everyday. That was not fun.
I also have a commute here in China and even though most things are strange and different, the commute is as typical as any other place. Luckily, I live on campus and the classrooms are only about a mile away from my apartment. So I walk, or more often, ride my bike.
My commute starts about 12 minutes before class begins. (C’mon now, no reason to arrive early.) I go downstairs to my bike which I keep under the stairs in the apartment building (where it stays dry and safe). I put my stuff in the basket, unlock the lock, and head out the door. I often see the (very friendly) cleaning lady as she prepared to mops the floors in the stairwell and we say good morning. (Or she says something and I say good morning. She’s a local person and I have never been able to understand her Chinese.)
I then head on out of my driveway (looking both way but not stopping) and join the flow of traffic headed towards class. With almost all of the 20,000 students and 4,000 teachers going to classes as the same time, it can feel a bit like we are all little ants, marching together to bring back that tasty morsel of food.
I pass by “Dunkin Donuts” (really the cafeterias snack stand) on my way and see everyone picking up their “coffee and donuts” (soy milk and fried bread things with pickled vegetables, or rice porridge). Then I bike down the street careful to pay attention. Nobody really pays much attention to each other on the road, so you constantly have to avoid cars, swerve around groups of people, and pray that the guy in a scooter doesn’t cut you off. It can be an adventure.
At one point, if I’m right on time, the street is so filled I can’t even bike. I have to put my feet down and sort of walk/push my bike until I get to a more open spot and I can pedal again. Then again, if I’m running late the road is virtually empty. The amount of students on the street is a more accurate gauge of time then my watch sometimes.
Then when I finally get to the classroom I have to navigate my way through the parking garage. Filled with bikes (and only two or three cars) they garage is a windy maze of trying to squeeze you and your bike to an open spot. For some reason I prefer the spot on the far side of the garage, which means I usually curse the dozens of bikes that block my way. I mean really, would leaving an open path be so hard people?! And yeah, so many bikes are packed in at time that I have seen aÂ hilariousÂ domino affect when one isÂ accidentallyÂ knocked over.
Then I lock my bike back up, take my stuff from the basket and pray that my bike will still be there when I get back. I have an inability to hold an umbrella while I bike, so on rainy days I walk. But otherwise this is my daily commute.