The SHIFT Commute

by Cathy Filbin @catfilbin

Getting there

Whether you roll out of bed and walk to your computer, coffee in hand, or wakeup at 5:30 and are out the door by 7, somehow you get to work.  I’ve always found the commute to be a bit of a pain – it’s time, sometimes hours, you don’t get back in your day.  But I’ve learned to try and use this time to my advantage.

When I first started working at SHIFT we were in the Brighton office.  Commuting from Porter Square I realized I could take the bus and sit for 50 minutes, or I could walk and get there in an hour.  Most days I chose the walk because it gave me time to think, exercise and take in everything happening around me.  It was me time for my body and mind.  During this time I even conducted a sort of social experiment if you will.

As I walked through Harvard Square every morning I noticed a homeless man sitting outside of the CVS asking each passerby to spare a dollar.  While I wasn’t ready to spare a dollar every day, I thought what if I just say “Hi” to him?  It would show that I see him and respect him as a person; better than ignoring him every day, right?

Well I started saying “Hi” to this man every day.  At first he responded with the same phrase, “Can you spare a dollar for the homeless?”  Then after a while he grew to know me and started saying “Morning” in return.  I was happy with this – two people acknowledging each other, becoming a part of each other’s day.

After about a month or so he began asking me to “spare a dollar” again.  I felt let down – all this time he had been working to build a relationship with me just to get money out of me.  But then I thought about it and realized we’re really both doing the same thing – saying “Hi” to each other to add some value to our life.  I said “Hi” to him because I wanted to acknowledge his presence, but without having to give him a dollar every time I passed.  He said “Hi” to me in an effort to make his quota for the day.

Our relationship came to an end when SHIFT moved offices to Newton Corner.  Now our paths don’t cross every morning.  Now I walk though side streets, hop on the bus at Mount Auburn Hospital and read my latest book, Chango’s Fire, as I ride the 71 bus to the end-stop in Watertown Square.  While I am no longer conducting a social experiment of sorts, I find great personal value in the quiet of the Cambridge side streets and the ability to read undisturbed for 30 minutes.  In other words, my commute is an opportunity for me to do something just for me.

I always try – am not always successful, but try – to see my commute like this, as a journey.  So I thought it would be interesting to see what other SHIFTers’ commutes are like.  How do they spend their time?  Here’s a sampling of the answers I received (Thank you SHIFTers who contributed!).

SHIFTers’ getting there

Katie Boucher:

During my commute I typically listen to the radio loudly to drown out the external noises of the cars on Storrow Drive. I tend to switch between NPR, WFNX and Matty in the Morning. I know drastically different – I like variety and hey, it is the spice of life.

Listening to the radio is a great mind release before starting a busy day. I’d call people, but I’m not really a morning person. I’d read a book, but that would be dangerous and I definitely do space out… equally dangerous.

Since I recently changed my commute as well, from traveling straight up 93-North to heading west on Storrow Drive, I get to watch the crew teams make their way down the Charles. Crew wasn’t a big thing in the South where I grew up, so it’s interesting to watch them as I drive… I know, just as distracting as reading a book or spacing out.

Erin Albright:

My commute is a bit unpredictable, I take the 57 bus from Kenmore and that can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.  This of course makes scheduling a little difficult, though I have found getting into the office EARLY makes the commute shorter (go figure).  I ALWAYS have my iPod on and have, since the move, created numerous playlists that suit different commuting moods.  I consider it to be the most EPIC of FAILS to have a dead iPod during my commute.  I also use the time to check the news, Facebook and Twitter on my blackberry.  I like to catch-up on all the things I can’t always be on top of during the day.  Thank God for technology.

Laura Christo:

My commute is about 20 minutes in the car, but made even longer because I don’t have a parking spot near my apartment so my commute really starts when I walk my dog the half or full mile to wherever I parked my car the night before, throw her in the car, and drive us both back to my apartment so I can finish getting ready. If I’m really lucky, my boyfriend will go get the car in the morning (like today!) if he’s taking Sasha for a walk.

Then I always, always call my mom, either on the drive in or the drive out. I also listen to NPR religiously to try to get pitch ideas (nerd alert!).

Mike Fearon:

When I’m not limousine ridin’ or jet flyin’, I can be found behind the wheel of a luxurious 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Every morning I tune into Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub. It’s a sports talk show, but the guys balance a lot of pop culture, entertainment and sports that make me happy on my ride to the office. I really believe that a successful day starts with drinking a 22-ounce NOS energy drink and having a good laugh at last night’s drunken Bruins recap. I buy the NOS and T&R bring the laughs.

Afternoons also involve The Sports Hub, maybe some music from one of my favorite mix tapes and, believe it or not, creative brainstorming. Some of my most successful/off-the-wall ideas have been dreamed up during my ride home. The evening commute also serves as a decompression chamber that slowly eliminates the day’s stresses and preps me for a relaxing night – it also keeps me from succumbing to the bends.

Yeah my commute is bad, but things like T&R, 80s hair metal, 90s gangster rap and being alone with my thoughts help me survive the long and lonesome road.

Justine Massiello:

Since moving to NJ and working out of the SHIFT NYC office my commute has drastically changed. I used to live in Brighton so my commute was a breeze! Now I get up at 5:30, workout, shower and I’m out the door no later than 7a.m. My fiancé drives me to the train station and I take about an hour train ride to NY Penn Station. Depending on how tired I am the commuting activities can vary. For the first 15 minutes I usually eat a granola bar and wake up. Then I’ll check everyone’s Facebook see if there is anything pressing I’ve missed since I went to sleep, then I’ll check out Twitter to see what stories people are chatting about which usually leads me to reading for about 20 minutes or so. Right now I’m reading a really good book so that takes up a lot of my time. Once I get to Penn Station it’s like a circus. People are so aggressive!  I’ll normally walk to the office which is about a 20 min walk, but I love it because I get to see all things New York!

The commute home I normally take the subway back to Penn station where I get off at 34th Street in Herald Square which is right where Macys is!  I get to walk by Macys, Sephora, Sworski, and H&M everyday, it’s dangerous!  Once I get to Penn Station is when I start my main commuting activity, people watching. These people are unreal, they act like they are NEVER going to get home, and the train they are boarding is the last train on earth. It’s hilarious.

How do you get there?

How do you spend your commute?  Is it valuable or lost time in your day?  We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading.

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