Published: Nov 15, 2016 12:00:00 PM

snowpiercer-commute.gifThe commute is a sacred American institution. Everyone's gotta work, except those who don't. Everyone's gotta leave the comfort of their homes, except those who don't. This is the undying commonality that assures all knucklhead urbanites and dust-chewing sons of the soil will have something to hate.

The telephone did not kill the commute. Email did not kill the commute. The year-3000 Jetsons-style video chat did not kill the commute. The commute will never die because it's the members-only club signifying solidarity and envy.

\\\ Commuting is shared unhappiness.

Just as you can't hack a heatbeat, you can't hack a commute. There are no shortcuts for bloodflow. We make it so.

The first job I had as an adult was a short walk from Boston's North End across the Greenway, through Fanueil Hall toward downtown and the financial district. It was simple and calm. I look back on it fondly. If I had to describe an ideal commute, it would be walking between two points in a city as each day begins and ends.

When I describe this ideal commute I enjoyed for three months to others, I notice a murderer's eye-roll in response. It doesn't matter that I made no money at that job. People would trade their firstborn for a simple commute away from the friction against another human being on their journey to a place that isn't their bed. Traffic exists for everybody. You still must kneel at the commute's dark altar.

Like chatting about the weather, you could commiserate over how much you hate your commute with your worst enemy. It's shared unhappiness.

We're all in the club. The club of stinking busses, of packed trains, of dead-silent platforms, of standstill traffic, of rain on bike helmets, of snow on your shoulders. Getting from here to there is a necessity we've all learned to live with. If you aren't in the club, well, that's when things become complicated.

\\ If you have an easy commute, you're barely human.

In America, you work from 9 AM to 5 PM. Sometimes you work more. You never work less. Technically, by law, if you are a salaried work, you are not required to be anywhere for any exact period of time, as long as you complete your "job." What is your job though?

Odds are your job is to show up and make sure the you don't make the person who hired you look like a fool. Your job is to make sure your place on the payroll is justifiable. You'd better be:

  • Hard-working, like the rest of us
  • Human, like the rest of us


If you can't demonstrate you're working hard, like the rest of us, there's gonna be a problem. If you aren't suffering the way the rest of the club has suffered for generations, commuting back and forth on roads built for perhaps one-tenth of the current American population, how can you possibly be human?

You've gotta be seen to suffer properly. It's a sign of solidarity with the rest of us. 

If you prove your worth, and fight traffic, and at least battle your commute like everyone else, well, at least you've got some grit on you and you hate life as much as the next fella or lady.

The commute is the cursed ledger we all must write into.

\ Commuting is the great American equalizer.

Within all of this institutionalized catering to the American farmer, and 9 to 5 workday horseshit, commuting remains the great American equalizer. The keenest, clearest humanity lies in the equal fatigue splashed on every face at the crack of dawn as we prepare for a long bus route, day after day. Class and race don't mean a fucking thing.

It's almost as if existing inches from different people on a giant, diesel-powered skateboard with walls lessens an irrational fear toward one another. I've been packed into thousands of subway trains and fought traffic in every type of neighborhood. Do you know I've learned? I hate and love every person I come across.

Our shared ugliness unifies. We're all idiots bought into the same tradition that we've gotta be someplace else. And all at the same time! Critical! While we can co-exist over that, we should not be satisfied. Why does shared discomfort make us more comfortable?

Somehow, we distrust people who aren't uneasy around our anxieties. Can't trust a person without a tough commute. Can't trust person who doesn't suffer like us.

If you don't hate your commute, you're un-American. That's why the commute will never die. Let's all just stay quiet about it and agree life sucks for everyone. That's a lot easier than fixing our shit.

-- Alex Crumb
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