Commuting: The Road to Hell

By Maria Pianelli

I live in Staten Island, which, in theory, is the ultimate happy medium: in the shadow of Manhattan, a half hour (or less) from Jersey, a mere hour-35 drive to the mid-Hudson Valley, perfect for weekend rendezvouses.

The reality?

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Eenie

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Meanie

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Misery

By way of public transportation (train-ferry-express train-local train), it takes me an hour and a half to get to my office in Gramercy, a whomping three hours travel time per day.

As you can imagine, I’m a lot of fun at parties– evening outings with co-workers end with a Cinderella-esque dash to the ferry, frantic to get home before midnight. Ventures on Staten end similarly, usually with me sprawled on my friend’s couch.

Now you may be thinking, “Jeez, Maria, that sucks. Move to Brooklyn already,” and I assure you, this plan is fairly high on my list of priorities. Unfortunately, so are $40,000 worth of student loans. And when your parents offer you back your bedroom, rent-free, with aged pictures of Billie Joe Armstrong as your only roommate, well, you’re not in a position to pass that up.

The trade off? I spend 9 hours at work and 3 in transit. Add 6 hours of sleeping, one for showering and grooming and I’m left with 5, I repeat 5, hours a day to squeeze in the fun stuff.

Jeez.

So, how do you max out these meager offerings and make the most of a hellish commute?

Socialize: The work-life balance is rough. While balancing client calls, company meetings, never-ending emails and enough writing projects to keep me occupied for the next millennium, my phone is often forgotten, a feat unfathomable to fifteen-year-old Maria. Admittedly, I have the habit of waiting for friends to reach out to me and, when their late night texts arrive, it’s long after I’m snoring along to reruns of How I Met Your Mother. Oops. Use free blocks of time to your advantage. A twenty-five minute ferry ride is the optimal time to catch up with friends, answer Snapchats and make weekend plans. Provided you have service, dedicate one leg of your commute to conversing with your crew. It’s hard to put in proper facetime when not-so-discretely hiding Facebook at work, so schedule calls, send IMs and get properly invested. Your friends will feel the love and you won’t feel like a flake for sleeping through messages later.

Invest in a subscription to the New York Times: Odds are, the sultry sound of FOX News lulls you to sleep at night, so instead of torturing yourself to stay awake, absorb the news in the morning. I realize this sounds pretty grandpa, but seeing there’s life outside your office and truly understanding the broader scope of the world not only makes you more fun for watercooler chatter, but demonstrates that in the grand scheme of things, staying on top of your inbox isn’t all that important. Driving? Tune into NPR. No attention span? Try a daily newsletter like the Skimm. There’s the perfect serving of news for everyone and no excuse not to be educated.

Brainstorm, create, or just organize: If you’re a creative type, commuting has one saving grace. It’s called time. Those who know me know I’m a multitasker. When I’m not delving into PR, I obsess over my novel. When I’m not doing that, I’m organizing contributions for this blog. And as much as I love both of those things, sometimes its difficult to force yourself into a creative mindset later in the day after you’re fried. So don’t force it. Take inspiration and organize your thoughts as they come. Notebooks allow me to work on the go when time is limited and ideas are fresh. The monotony and lack of distraction commuting offers has given me an ideal time to copy edit my book with fresh eyes and an open mind.

If you stop thinking of commuting as time wasted, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can accomplish. Instead of dwelling on how much it sucks to lose an hour of sleep, think of how lucky you are to have extra time focusing on yourself.

And, hey, if all else fails, an extra nap never hurt anyone.

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