For a while, Morning Edition on NPR was running stories about people's commutes during, well, my commute. And each one of these stories reminded me exactly why I both hate and love my commute. In truth, I hate my commute. It's long, tedious, wastes a lot of fuel and robs me of exercise, takes me a long ways from home, and chews up precious time in my day.
I only "love" it in direct comparison to other people's commutes: no sitting in traffic for long hours while attempting to go half the distance I regularly travel, or being packed into a cattle car with other disgruntled steers. Granted, I wouldn't mind riding a train or subway, but I do appreciate having my own space and ability to haul as much crap with me as I want on a given day. So, in that respect, 40 minutes and 25 miles of mostly 55+ MPH on a relatively scenic open road and only a few annoying stop lights isn't that much to complain about.
And still, there is one odd little feature on this commute that stands out for me. I don't pass it every day, as I actually have a choice between two routes. One is slightly shorter, but usually heavier with traffic and school buses. This feature is on the slightly longer route that is generally less trafficked and with school buses heading in the opposite direction, so I do travel it most days during the school year. A little less than halfway through the route, I turn off the state highway and onto a county road. Less than a half mile after the turn is a tiny little water hole and a sign post announcing, "Little Duffy Lake."
This Little Duffy Lake is so tiny that it's likely the average traveler has never even seen it. I have no idea how many times I'd gone by before even noticing it was there. But every since I saw it for the first time, this little pond has become an unwelcome totem that portends the nature of my day ahead.
Usually the fates are better for me on days when I slip by that little piece of road without seeing the lake there. Those are the days when I suddenly glance over at a little field further on and wonder what happened to that little lake, or how I missed it. Those days fly by effortlessly and full of action and, often, productivity. On days when I do notice the lake, I know that my day ahead is going to be long and full of time for seeing details - boredom, even. If I see the lake, chances are, I'll be seeing the lake all day long.
And so, as I resume my commute tomorrow after the long holiday weekend, chances are I will be on the lookout for Little Duffy, in all it's now-frozen-over glory. And I hope I appreciate the glimpse, not because I want my day to be long and tedious, but because I should be thankful for the reminder that each moment of the day and each glimpse of a friend is something to be anticipated and savored, not just endured.