I will award my entire net worth, my entire life savings, of roughly fifteen cents, to the person who invents a viable means of time travel! If I had more, I’d happily award more! What can I say? I have two kids in college.
The idea of time travel has been intoxicating for, well, most of time. Some quantum physicists insist we are already time traveling, but just aren’t smart enough to realize it. I’m talking about practical time travel, more like the “Back to the Future” style. Step into a DeLorean, poke a few buttons, and travel through time. I wouldn’t want to go back, necessarily, and do things over. Though the chance to do so is very attractive. I would like to employ this technology on a daily basis to, simply, get more out of my day.
I have spent most of my life living in the suburbs. I grew up in a small suburb in the northern part of the the San Francisco bay area. For most of my childhood, my dad owned a bicycle shop in a neighboring, north bay community and he spent precisely 36 minutes commuting to work in the morning, and another 36 minutes commuting home in the evening. I am no stranger to commuting, as I worked for him during high school and on weekends and vacations during most of college.
When I went to college, I moved to a much larger metropolitan area. Initially, I lived close to the campus, but, working for my dad on the weekends, with the bike shop nearly two hours away, I became one of those crazy, California commuters of lore. Ever since college, I have lived in one suburb or another, for most of my adult life. Work always required some form of commute. In a large metropolitan area, commuting often involves freeway driving and/or surface street driving. My nemesis was the traffic signal. Every time I got stopped at a traffic signal I’d be exasperated. I often wondered just how much of my life was spent sitting at red lights. Knowing me, I probably have a spreadsheet somewhere where I’ve tried to quantify it and even extrapolate it out over the estimated number of years I planned to continue working.
For a time, we lived in the country, on a ranch, about forty miles outside of town. My commute to town took just over an hour, as the first five miles or so were very poorly maintained dirt roads. To be more clear, dust roads in the summer and mud roads in the winter. This period of life coincided with my kids’ high school years, with all sorts of sports and extra curricular activities. It was not uncommon for me to make two, and sometimes even three, round trips to and from town in a day. Five or six days a week. It was during this time of my life that I drove in excess of 3,000 miles per month. Fortunately, I was the proud owner of an old, road weary Honda Accord. It happily bounced down the dirt roads, hugged the corners of the twisting, winding country roads, and sped effortlessly down the highway for 351,000 miles before requiring any attention.
Now, my commute is altogether different. I am a “remote” employee, meaning I do not have an office provided by the company. My office is my home. But, the nature of my job requires me to be away from my office a great deal of the time. I provide training to accounting professionals on software and related instruction. I perform this training, primarily, in person. Some of the training is provided online, which means my commute is about ten feet. But, when I train in person, significant travel is necessary. My territory is the U.S., meaning I am now spending a significant portion of my time driving to and from the airport, sitting in the airport, or sitting on an airplane.
To say I’ve spent a great deal of time traveling would be an understatement. Time travel would have prevented such a great loss. Or would it? Resigned to the fact that a significant portion of each day, for a significant portion of my life is spent in travel, I have made an effort to put that time to good use. When I drive, I often listen to motivational speakers. Occasionally, I listen to audiobooks. This time can also be put to use in working towards goals, for example, last year I set a personal goal to improve my ability to sing. I have an audio program for practicing and this is something I can do while driving. This year, I aim to improve my fluency in French, another thing I can do on the road. Often, though, I will listen to music and just think. Driving, for me, is often coffee time, too. Nothing like some alone time and a big cup of coffee to undertake some very effective brainstorming! Many good ideas have been hatched while sitting at a stop light or speeding down the highway.
My time in airports I tend to enjoy, yes enjoy, watching people. I love people watching and find it inspirational in writing. I have my little routine when it comes to airports. I am a proponent of arriving super early and having ample time for a cup of coffee and a light breakfast for my early morning departures, or a glass of wine and a light dinner for my evening departures. I hate rushing through the airport in a panic, and have, in fact, only ever done so once, and not out of poor planning, but from the unimaginable horror that is Atlanta’s highway system at commute time.
People often ask me how I can stand to fly so often. I just deal with it, again, putting the time to the best possible use. My super bright, chipper, glass-half-full, optimistic outlook is this; when I am on an airplane, no one can bother me. My phone is off, I don’t have to answer anyone or do anything, I am untouchable! I can focus on reading, or writing, or meditating, and on the rare occasion, sleep. This is the closest I get, a lot of the time, to “me time” and I take full advantage of it!
Time is an extremely valuable resource. It is not a renewable resource, once it has passed, it is gone forever. We cannot recycle time, we cannot bank time. Every fleeting second is here once, ever, and then gone. I think wasting time is a travesty, and that includes time that is seemingly wasted in commute and travel. It is, still, when all is said and done, time, precious, precious time. And like the time we may be squandering by sitting for hours watching television indiscriminately, or aimlessly surfing the net, or playing video games for hours upon hours upon hours, time spent commuting can be put to better use if we just get creative and make a little effort, because, I don’t think practical time travel is something we will be seeing any time soon. And, for the record, even if we do see time travel developed for practical purposes in our lifetime, I know that I, personally, will sit back and wait for that technology to mature quite a bit before jumping into the DeLorean! Malfunctions could be more than just a little annoying!