toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

December 21, 2006

enjoy your commute

Sammy is lucky to live in a beautiful city, a Mecca for tourists, so when she travels to and from work she looks at the passing scenery and pretends she’s a tourist. By turning her morning and evening commute into a tourist tour Sammy keeps her blood pressure down and survives in her job.

"The commute is the only real leisure time I have," explains Sammy, "and I make the most of it."

"People travel thousands of miles and pay heaps to visit my city and I get to see it five days a week for free and travel a mere eight miles," laughs Sammy, "so I always keep that in mind when life gets me down. But even if I didn't live in a beautiful city I'd pretend I did because it's so vitally important to start and end your working day with pleasant thoughts. God knows, you don't get a chance to have many of them while you're at work -- do you?"

"I travel by bus so it's easy for me to imagine I'm on a luxury tourist bus, and even though the driver is not giving a running commentary during the trip I am nevertheless forming one in my brain for my own pleasure and sanity."

Sammy has figured out that it is better to catch an early morning bus and an early evening bus not only to avoid the crowds but also to avoid having to stand up for the entire trip, and for about half an hour every morning and evening for five days a week she focuses all of her energy on the sights she sees during her commute.

"My kids are old enough to get themselves to and from school," says Sammy, "so I don’t have to worry about them when I leave home early. I can relax and enjoy the trip."

Sammy always takes a window seat on the side of the bus where the views are better, and when she’s settled she blots out entirely the fact that she is on her way to work or returning home from an 8-hour slog to face more work in the form of household chores.

Being a single working mother is no fun, but Sammy tries to make the best of her life, and for this brief period in the morning and evening she becomes a German or a Japanese tourist seeing her city for the very first time. No, she doesn’t carry a camera to work. She doesn’t need to. She knows every street and every building on her commute. They are etched onto her memory banks.

"I have been doing this commute for three years now," says Sammy, "but I never fail to spot something new. It may be a face in a window of an apartment block -- at last I know who lives on the top floor!"

It may be a building being erected or renovated.

"I am always pleased to watch the progress of construction work over the months," says Sammy. "I've seen countless old buildings being torn down and replaced, and in some areas the whole streetscape has been changed."

It may be a familiar face in a passing vehicle or an interesting looking pedestrian.

It may be an unexpected traffic jam. A crash. A chase. A fire.

It may be a new ship in the bay. A rusty old container from Panama. A luxury liner from Miami. A tanker from the Gulf. Or just a kid out on the water testing his sailing skills.

It may be a sky-writer drawing "Marry Me Mandy" in puffs of smoke in the sky.

It may be a colorful air-balloon hovering over the city, or a noisy news helicopter reporting on traffic.
"I marvel at every sight I sees and I lock these visual treasures in my head all day so that when I am feeling low in my fluorescent lit workplace with nothing but a colorful screen saver of a desert island to remind me of the world outside, I can unlock the mental photograph album of my commute to make me feel better."

"It’s my secret job survival strategy," laughs Sammy, "and I recommend it to anyone stuck in a lousy job. If you don't keep yourself alive inside -- and happy with the world -- you won't last long in any job."

Sammy says that were it not for her present job, she would never have gotten to know so well the route into the city and the city itself.

"Most workers commute away from the city into the industrial suburbs," says Sammy. "Cities are mostly showcases for tourists, right? Well, I'm very lucky in that every morning and evening I can be a tourist on a luxury tourist bus and the city embraces me with open arms."

"I get to see the city as it wakes up in the morning to blue skies, blacks skies or no sky at all -- just a heavy mist obscuring everything -- and I get to see the city as it comes to life at night with bright lights, flashing lights, bawdy lights and strobe lights."

As she mostly spends her lunchtime indoors, she rarely see her city during the day so it is these early morning and early evening pictures that shine brightly in her mind.

"I really enjoy my commute to and from work," confides Sammy. "It helps me get out of bed in the morning to face another day at work. It buoys my spirits, it keeps me sane."

"When everyone else at work is down in the dumps, snapping and snarling, I have a secret strategy that keeps me smiling all day long -- and my boss likes that!"

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