HOW TO HANDLE 
LOUSY COMMUTES

   For all those who are upset and frustrated by the ridiculous traffic that has clogged Bay Area freeways for years (and is getting worse by the day), I have miraculously come up with a solution.
   For instance, take the stretch of the I-80 Eastshore Freeway that runs past Berkeley to and from the Bay Bridge. For the first time in years, I managed to fly through that miserable patch of pavement at the speed limit. It was exhilarating, and I suggest everyone try my approach at least once in their life.
   Anyone can do it. All you need to do is set your alarm for 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, jump in your car and make sure you're through the five lanes of Hell before, say, 6 a.m. I managed to do just that the other day, and I've been bragging about it ever since.
   Remember, it must be a Sunday. DO NOT try this on a weekday. It's not the same. A few weeks ago, I had an early morning weekday flight out of Oakland and hit the Eastshore at 5:30 a.m. It was gridlock.
   "WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?" I vented to my associate in the passenger seat, who was barely awake as we inched along. "There can't be that many stockbrokers in this world."
   Apparently, I live in a proverbial bubble. West Coast stockbrokers aren't the only ones who get to their workplace at ungodly hours. While I'm snoozing away, a secret world is clogging the freeways, getting to work before my eyes even think about opening. What most of them do at that hour is beyond my comprehension.
   Or maybe they're just trying to beat the commute traffic. A noble idea, but it isn't working anymore. The sun isn't close to being up, and cars are flooding the freeways. I found it fascinating. It didn't used to be that way.
   Commutes are becoming absolutely horrendous. Someone in my company commutes from Pittsburg (California, although it might as well be Pennsylvania) to our offices in San Francisco. He came in the other day, bleary-eyed, and announced it had taken him three hours to get to work that morning.
   "That's awful," I sympathized. "How long does it usually take?"
   "On a good day---two hours," he replied. "And it doesn't matter what time I leave. I've tried 5 a.m. It still takes two hours."
   "What about going home?" I asked, cringing.
   "On a good day---two hours."
   At least four hours in the car, every day. This begs the obvious question. "What about BART?"
   "On a good day---two hours, door to door." (We're not that close to a Bart station). "And I quite often need my car for work."
   I was going to suggest a motorcycle, but then I thought about the traffic reports I listen to on KCBS every morning when I happily wake up at a civilized hour. It's mesmerizing that almost every time there is a freeway accident, it involves a motorcycle. Considering how many motorcycles I see on my morning commute, I estimate about a 50% chance of the rider arriving unscathed.
   So BART and motorcycles were not an option. Neither was moving closer, which we discussed. He liked Pittsburg, where he could afford to buy a house and raise his kids, and didn't relish the thought of downsizing. He was just resigned to suffering through a horrendous commute. Every single day.
   Obviously, he's not alone. That's why the freeways are clogged at all hours. While his story is the worst commute of anyone I know, I also realize there are others far more brutal. Horror commute stories are all too common these days.
    It made me think of how I once complained, when I was in my 20's, of having virtually no commute. I lived less than a mile from my office at the time, and I'd pop into my car in the morning and be at work before I knew it. I wasn't ready for the day. I needed that quiet time in the car to make the transition from home to work.
    Since I'm not a complete knucklehead, I didn't tell my Pittsburg friend that story. After three hours in the car, he probably wasn't in the mood to hear such things. Instead, I told him to hang in there. Flying cars are coming soon. Until then, there's always Sunday at 5 a.m.
 

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