Already you’re thinking I’m crazy because what is there to like about getting up early and jumping on a train everyday? It can be dirty, germy, crowded and the T during the summer months, well you kind of have to be there. So really, what is there to like? Well, LOTS!
Let me begin by saying that some of my favorite childhood memories are of times with my grandmother hopping on the Green Line in Brookline Village and heading off for an adventure. I can remember her pulling out an old change purse (this is long before the days of the Charlie Card) and counting out 1 token and 15 cents for our trip into Town. Shopping, museums, The Nutcracker, you name it and we did it. Now as an adult, I get the same butterflies during my morning commute.
After living in Vermont for 12 years, city life was something I craved. When my husband and I moved our family to Massachusetts 3 years ago, there was no question in my mind that Boston was where I wanted to work. Living 33 miles outside of the city and having to commute was nothing new for me, I lived 30 miles outside of Burlington, VT and had to drive at least a half an hour to reach many things. The difference between there and here-the MBTA. Sure, it has its faults and the winter months present challenges and unpredictability, but, my travel time is my ME time. It’s the time when I can write, read, listen to music, unwind, and think. I have read more books this year than I have in the last 5 years, I never have to drive in poor weather conditions, and I’d like to think my carbon footprint has been drastically reduced due to the fact that most days I drive my car a total of 5 miles.
During the winter months it’s hard to appreciate how good a morning walk is for me, but during the rest of the year, I couldn’t love walking through Boston more! Weather and temperature permitting, my typical route is from Back Bay to Beacon Hill. I could take the T and this time of year I do, but when the snow is gone why would I when I have access to the Boston Public Gardens and the cobblestone sidewalks of Charles Street? There is something to be said for taking a city stroll when all is quiet and calm; it puts you in the perfect state of mind for tackling a crazy day or for relieving the stress at the end of one. I love that I can leave the chaos of the working world behind because I am too busy admiring the beautiful swans and willows or window-shopping on Newbury. It feels like a luxury to arrive at home refreshed, inspired and ready to spend the evening with my family.
With all that said, it doesn’t always go as planned and even my sunny disposition can be crushed by a weather delay or switch problem. The reality is that commuting has some downsides. Taking a train at 5:35am in the winter is not ideal, waiting around in the evenings when I want to be home because the commuter runs on a less frequent schedule can be maddening. I am also at the mercy of not only the commuter rail schedule, but the T as well. Two to three minutes can make all the difference in the world and believe me, missing a train by 1 minute at the end of the day is kind of a nightmare. I have been late to work, stuck on the track, stuck in Boston, and God forbid you are any one of these things without access to food and water while you wait! These experiences, however, are the exception, not the rule. Over the course of my commuter years I have become better about preparing myself so that even if there is an unexpected bump I have snacks, water, my MacBook and iPhone at the ready. I can catch up on news on all my favorite sites, pay bills, answer emails, watch movie trailers, text with friends, even sleep! The other day I checked in with two different family members, paid a bill and set up a play-date. By the time I made it home, I felt like I accomplished a few things and could actually arrive home and be present.
In order to keep organized and maximize my time, I use a wonderful app called Embark for train schedules and up to the minute delays and cancelations. You can also follow them on Twitter at @MBTA and @MBTA_CR. I pay for parking using the Pay By Phone app so there is no more worrying about having cash and if i’m cutting it close, it’s great to be able to park and run without worrying about getting a ticket for non-payment! I like to have at least one book sample in iBooks and I have a variety of songs to fit the mood of the moment, Mumford and Sons for inspiration and a little Jay Z when things aren’t going my way. I always have my phone charger so that I have access to the technology that has made the life of this commuter easier and more productive.
I would absolutely love to be closer to the City, but I also fear that I would lose this precious time, that as a working mom, I desperately need. I choose to look at all of the wonderful things my commute affords me and to appreciate the experiences that I longed for in my previous life as a country girl. I ask you to take a look at your day, your commute and see how you too can make the most of your time. Maybe your drive allows you to finish a cup of coffee without your ever helpful toddler sticking their hand in it, maybe you release your stress by singing Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs in the cozy comfort of your warm car. Wherever it is that you can find a silver lining or positive attribute to your daily grind, grab it and exploit it. You’ll be amazed at how it can enhance your life!